New Zealand's Diamondblacks struck out spectacularly in their final Australian tour match before an ambitious World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament debut in Taipei, as the Canberra Cavalry strolled to an emphatic 17-0 victory at The Fort last night.
For the first time in their six-match tour the Diamondblacks failed to register a run while their pitching depth was exposed during a chastening experience which emphasised the task they face when taking on favourites Chinese-Taipei, Thailand and the Philippines from Thursday.
The 28-man squad embarks on the long journey to Taipei City today via Sydney and Beijing, giving the personnel and coaching staff plenty of scope to reflect on the meekest performance of their brief existence.
With the three-game series all square another close contest was anticipated - instead the mercy rule could have been invoked at the bottom of the fifth when the Cavalry had 14 runs on the board.
Even the Cavalry's supporters had thinned out before the last rites were administered at the top of the ninth when Marko Lezaic became the final Diamondblacks batter to trudge towards the dugout.
New Zealand used five pitchers in a forlorn attempt to contain Cavalry's array of heavy hitters - Sam Bishop, the last man on the mound, kept the home side scoreless in their last two visits to the plate though in reality a rearranged batting line-up was going through the motions to hasten the Kiwis demise.
The Cavalry were not as forgiving after they built an already impregnable 6-0 lead at the bottom of the fourth - a blitz that saw starting pitcher Andrew Marck spared further punishment.
Encouragingly New Zealand loaded the bases in their next turn at bat but key slugger Boss Moanaroa and lead-off man Daniel Lamb-Hunt were unable to bring their teammates home as starting pitcher Robert Dickmann held his nerve.
The Diamondblacks never threatened to score from that point; their Australian Baseball League opponents ran amok.
Riki Paewai, the third pitcher summoned after Nick Dawson's run-free cameo in the fourth surprisingly came to an end, walked the first batter he faced - an ominous sign before he surrendered five quick-fire runs.
Adam Buschini's thump to left field brought home Kody Hightower and Antonio Callaway to propel the Cavalry into double figures and his replacement John Lee fared little better.
Impressive during the Kiwis 8-5 triumph in game one of the series on Thursday, Lee watched helplessly as KC Hobson dispatched Lee's first offering over the right field fence, a meaty blow that enabled the batter to trail Jeremy Barnes and Buschini over home plate.
All up six of the 13 Cavalry batters that featured in the fifth were walked to first base, an inexcusably high ratio that conributed to the eight-run spree.
The Australians, who out-hit the Diamondblacks 15-7, added three more runs at the bottom of the six before Bishop was able to salvage a modicum of respectability.
Since arriving in Sydney last week for a two-game series against the Sydney Blue Sox - lost by a combined score line of 22-5 - and a 14-1 romp over a club side, Baseball New Zealand has emphasised the outcomes were of secondary importance as they gauge the strengths of a roster that only assembled on October 25.
However, with Chinese-Taipei, the world's No 8-ranked nation, looming in round one there will be genuine concern the team could suffer an even heavier defeat as they showcase New Zealand baseball on the world stage for the first time.
- © Fairfax NZ News