Kallan Compain cracks four-run homer in Black Sox make the world softball final after best comeback in history
Rookie catcher Kallan Compain smashed the most important home run of his career to inspire the New Zealand Black Sox to their 10th consecutive world softball championships final after a dramatic comeback against champions Canada.
The Black Sox - now assured of at least a silver medal - won 12-11 after trailing 9-2 in a rain-marred match at Whitehorse in Canada on Sunday (NZT)
The comeback - arguably the greatest in Black Sox history - meant the six-time world champions automatically advanced to Monday's final. They will have to wait to see who they will play with Canada set to meet Australia to decide the second finalist.
One of the worst innings in New Zealand's 51-year world series involvement was followed by one of the best as coach Mark Sorenson's team marched to their 10th final on the bounce since Sorenson won his first gold medal as a 16-year-old in 1984.
* Enokas star as Black Sox clinch medal
* Black Sox have shot at seventh world title
* Oh brother, one Enoka for another
* Rona wins 100th cap as Black Sox beat Denmark
* Black Sox suffer first loss
The nature of the Black Sox's victory was reminiscent of Canada's comeback in the 2015 world championships final when they fought back from 5-0 down against New Zealand to win 10-5 in Saskatoon.
Canada chose not to expose number one pitcher Sean Cleary to the Kiwis and his understudies had a tough day on the mound.
So too, in the early stages, did the Black Sox. They could barely throw a strike as they conceded seven runs in the bottom of the third frame at Whitehorse with Canada sending 12 batters to the plate for six hits. Two runners got free bases after being hit by a pitch with Sorenson using three pitchers - starter Josh Pettett, left-hander Karl Gollan and Nik Hayes.
But when play resumed after a rain delay, the Canadians suffered an even worse implosion with the Kiwis striking back in the top of the fourth with eight runs from 13 batters after six walks and four hits.
Compain led the Kiwi hit parade with a bases-loaded grand slam home run - his fourth homer of the week at his first world championships.
The 27-year-old had watched his cousins Thomas and Campbell Enoka take centre stage in the last couple of games. Campbell was on target again against Canada, hammering a two-run homer to tie the score at 2-2 following a two-run shot by Canada's Brad Ezekiel.
But Compain created headlines of his own against the world champions.
He stepped to the plate in the fourth with New Zealand needing some batting magic to restore morale. He duly delivered it - cracking the ball over the left-centrefield fence to also bring home cousin Thomas, Cole Evans and Wayne Laulu.
New Zealand continued to load the bases with Canada's relief pitcher Justin Schofield unable to exert control in the wet conditions.
Brad Rona's checked swing single brought in another run and Laulu lashed a hit to drive in two runs and turn a 9-2 deficit at the start of the inning into an improbable 10-9 lead.
Canada struck back in the bottom of the fifth to be 10-10 after Ekeziel punched a RBI with his fourth hit of the game.
But the Black Sox went ahead 12-10 in the sixth after Thomas Enoka's fourth home run at Whitehorse, and a Canadian infield error.
Nine different batters shared New Zealand's 12 safe hits with Thomas Enoka, who now has 15 RBIs for the tournament, going three from three for a perfect 1.000 average.
But the other big hero was pitcher Hayes.
The 28-year-old came on and gave up two back-to-back hits in that tumultuous third inning, but then settled into a groove, taking 10 strikeouts for five hits and two walks.
Hayes displayed great composure in challenging circumstances with Compain calling an astute game behind the plate.
Hutt Valley-based Hayes produced a huge clutch strikeout when he whiffed Ezekiel, who had already had four hits, with one out and two runners on base in the seventh and final inning of a gripping game.
In earlier results, Argentina beat Japan 5-3 and Australia were too strong for the United States 11-7, consigning the Americans to a fifth consecutive tournament without a medal.
James Todhunter slammed two home runs in Australia's 4-1 win over Argentina to qualify for the bronze medal game against Canada.
AT A GLANCE
New Zealand Black Sox 12 Canada 11. Hits: NZ 12 (Thomas Enoka three inc HR, Campbell Enoka HR, Kallan Compain HR, Nathan Nukunuku, Tyron Bartorillo, Wayne Laulu, Brad Rona, Joel Evans, Cole Evans) Canada 11 (Brad Ezekiel 4).