White Sox world champs playoff hopes over
The New Zealand White Sox's hopes of making the women's world softball championship playoffs are over after a 6-5 loss to Italy in Canada today.
New Zealand fought back pluckily from a 5-0 deficit to tie the score at 5-5. But they walked in the winning run with bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning at Whitehorse, Yukon.
New Zealand, who have a two-win four-loss record, are now in fifth-equal place in section B with Chinese Taipei. Italy (3-3) are fourth behind Japan, Canada and Australia.
Even if the White Sox beat Chinese Taipei tomorrow and Italy lose to Canada, they would miss out on the fourth qualifying spot under International Softball Federation rules because of today's defeat to the Italians.
Chinese-Taipei can, however qualify, if they beat the White Sox and Canada complete an expected victory over Italy because they beat the European team earlier in the tournament.
The omens weren't good for the White Sox after a horror first inning.
Italy batted through their order and scored four runs, including a three-run home run by Andrea Silvia Montanari.
Starting pitcher Taylor Paige-Stewart issued a first-up walk and then hitting a batter. The Kiwis recovered to turn a double play by middle infielders Ellie Cooper and Danica Ferriso.
But Montanari's big blast gave Italy a 3-0 and New Zealand's relief pitcher Michal Tangaroa walked in a run to make it 4-0.
Things looked grim when Montanari collected her fourth RBI (run batted in) to score Sandra Bosdachini. But Cooper and catcher Melanie Gettins averted further collateral damage by combining for a slick double play at home plate and first base with bases loaded.
The White Sox rallied in the top of the third inning, scoring two runs off three safe hits.
Krysta Hoani led off with a base-hit up the middle and Ferriso beat out an infield single on a hit to shortstop.
Ellie Cooper forced an error at shortstop, allowing Hoani to score. Ferriso followed her home on Taylor Paige-Stewart's centrefield drive.
The Kiwis had a big inning in the top of the fifth with top batter Te Reo Powhiri Matautia and Cooper cracking back-to-back hits. Paige-Stewart slammed a stand-up double to the rightfield corner to score Matautia and Cooper crossed home plate on Lara Andrew's sacrifice fly.
Cooper batted in the tying run in the top of the sixth after Gettins led off with a safe hit. New Zealand seemed set to score when Paige-Stewart struck a shot towards the left-centrefield fence but Montanari completed the catch.
Tangaroa recovered from her shaky start to shut out Italy for the final four innings. She showed particular poise to take the final out of the sixth inning off her own pitching, leaving Italy's potential go-ahead run stranded at third base.
But Tangaroa was replaced by Megan Farrell in the bottom of the seventh with New Zealand needing three outs to force a tiebreaker.
Italy's lead-off batter Alice Fiorio made base on an infield error by Ferriso and stole second base. Farrell struck out the next batter but Italy managed to load the bases, aided in part by a Kiwi call to intentionally walk power hitter Montanari.
A tight, tense game ended on an anti-climactic note when Priscilla Brandi kept her cool in the batter's box to pick a walk, allowing Fiorio to stroll home for the winning run.
New Zealand outbatted Italy seven safe hits to six with Cooper collecting two from four out-bats. But they made three errors to Italy's two.
- © Fairfax NZ News