Hobbling Heinie Shannon was hailed as a hero after pitching the Black Sox to a 2-1 win over Argentina at the World Softball Championships tonight.
Three-time gold medallist Thomas Makea smashed a home run for the Black Sox but it was southpaw Shannon who stole the show as the Black Sox avenged Monday's defeat to Canada.
"You don't use the word heroic very often in softball, but I thought that was quite a heroic performance out there by Heinie Shannon,'' coach Eddie Kohlhase said. "Unbelievable really..."
Shannon admitted he was in a fair bit of pain from a small tear in his calf.
"But it was my turn to pitch and playing for the Sox you don't take a backward step to nobody. Even though I was sore, there's no excuses at this level.''
Shannon grimaced with pain every time he landed his lead foot but he was still determined to go the distance. But he was replaced in the seventh inning after giving up two back-to-back hits and a run.
Kiwi closer Nik Hayes said the Black Sox bullpen could tell Shannon didn't want to come out.
"I didn't take off my jersey because I thought Heinie was going to tell Chubb [pitching coach Chubb Tangaroa]
to bugger off back to the dugout.''
Shannon missed Monday night's loss to Canada and was spared the severe case of whiplash his pitching pals suffered as Canada crashed a colossal 17 safe hits.
The veteran left-hander may have limped gingerly on to and off the diamond each inning but there was nothing wrong with his left arm, or his mindset.
The 37-year-old showed he meant business from the outset, striking out the first two batters in the first inning and all three men he faced in the second with a heady mix of pitches, including judicious change-ups.
The Black Sox batters gave their wounded hurler a buffer in the second inning. Donny Hale made base on an error, advanced to third on Ben Enoka's sacrifice and scored on Wayne Laulu's single-base shot to leftfield.
It was Laulu's second consecutive hit after a successful cameo against Canada as a pinch hitter. The big Wellington outfielder justified his promotion to the starting lineup.
Ben Enoka got on with a blooper hit in the fourth frame but Argentina pulled off a great double play to take sacrifice bunter Laulu at first base and fire the ball over to third to tag a sliding Enoka.
Argentina threatened to tie the game in the top of the fifth after Francisco Sabate drew a walk and Nicolas Bittor blasted a hit to the right-centrefield gap. Enoka bobbled the ball and Santiago Carril, running for Sabate, broke to home plate.
But Enoka unleashed a powerful throw for Paddy Shannon to tag out the flying Argentine.
Makea showed his composure and class to hammer a full-count homer in the bottom of the fifth and double the Kiwis' lead.
But Argentina pulled back a run in the top of the seventh inning when Bruno Motroni doubled to leftfield and scored on Manuel Godoy's RBI single.
But Nukunuku effected his second double play with the Black Sox successfully appealing an Argentine runner had illegally evaded his tag between first and second base. Closer Nik Hayes struck out the last batter.
The Black Sox and Canada are now joint leaders in Pool B after Japan upset the Canadians 4-1 with a sixth inning runs flurry.
They trailed 1-0 after five frames but Yohei Ono slugged a single to score Jun Taniguchi and Tomoki Shimada and pinch hitter Kenji Nakumara jacked a two-run home run.
Canada were held to two hits - both by Matthieu Roy - by some canny Japanese pitching.
The Canadians will still gain the top seeding because they beat New Zealand.
Australia is now the only unbeaten team at the tournament after a 5-0 victory over their closest Pool A rivals Venezuela with all the scoring action coming in the final two innings.
World number one pitcher Adam Folkard struck out 15 Venezuelan batters but Australia got a big break when a double play by the South Americans was ruled out due to an illegal pitch with the game still scoreless in the sixth inning.
Australia's lead runner Mick Tanner scored from third base and the floodgates began to open.
The illegal pitch ruling was made on Venezuela's relief pitcher Juan Colombo, who was facing his first batter.
It appeared to affect his confidence as he offered up five runs after starter Erick Alvares had held Australia scoreless.
Day 5 results: Pool A: Australia 5 Venezuela 0, Czech Republic 6 Samoa 2, USA 10 Indonesia 0, Great Britain 2 South Africa 0. Standings: Australia 5 wins-0 losses, Venezuela 4-1, Samoa, Czech Republic 3-2, USA, Great Britain 2-3, South Africa 1-3, Indonesia 0-5.
Pool B: Colombia 5 Mexico 0. Japan 4 Canada 1.Netherlands 8 Philippines 4, New Zealand 2 Argentina 0. Standings: Canada, New Zealand 4-1, Argentina, Japan, Colombia 3-2, Mexico 2-3, Netherlands 1-4, Philippines 0-5.
Will Shane Cameron beat Kali Meehan on Saturday?