Japan, the highest-ranked team in the Asia Pacific Cup, showed they deserved that ranking as they completed their round games undefeated and claimed top spot in the standings.
Finishing with a 6-0 win-loss record and 44 runs scored to only two against, the Japanese have dominated the tournament so far and need to beat Chinese Taipei on Sunday to reach the final.
The other semi-final will be between Australia (5-1) and China (4-2).
The championship game, which will be telecast live on Fox Sports Channel 501, is scheduled to start at 2pm AEDST.
DAY THREE GAME REPORTS
In the most thrilling ending to a game in the tournament so far, Marta Gasparotto hit a walkoff home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Italy their first win.
New Zealand had played doggedly and went into the seventh inning needing three scoreless outs to chalk up what would have been their first win of the tournament.
But Italy had other ideas. Leadoff batter Laura Vigna breathed new life into the contest with a triple. Up stepped Gasparotto, needing only a sacrifice fly to tie the scores. She went a whole lot better than that, blasting a homer to centre field and lifting her team to victory.
It was Italy’s second home run of the game, with Priscilla Brandi having given her team the lead in the third inning with a two-run shot.
New Zealand’s best performer was left fielder Krysta Hoani, who had three hits and two RBIs.
Defence was the big difference between these two teams. Chinese Taipei committed four fielding errors, leading to four unearned runs, while Japan put up another zero in the errors column and never looked in danger of defeat.
Yamato Fujita pitched five innings for Japan, allowing only one run on five hits and one walk, with three strikeouts.
Yi Yen and Pei-Chun Lin each had two hits for Chinese Taipei.
For five innings, the All Stars found themselves behind and trying to play catch-up. Nothing seemed to work. But their persistence paid off in the sixth inning, when they piled on five runs to turn a deficit into a game-breaking lead.
Jessica Torpey walked, then Jordan Lambert reached on a sacrifice bunt error. A four-pitch walk to Stacey Webber was followed by Jessica Bahn’s bunt single, her third hit of the game, which scored Torpey. An RBI groundout by Carmelle Sorensen put the All Stars further in front, then Erin Thras padded the lead with a two-run double.
Despite blowing the lead, Italy did not give up. Marta Gasparotto doubled in the seventh inning, scoring Alessandra Rotondo. But All Star relief pitcher Sandra Holden struck out the last batter to end the threat.
Chinese pitcher Lan Wang was masterful, not allowing an earned run and striking out seven in six innings.
Jia Xu was the offensive star, whose three hits included a grand slam in the sixth inning, which ended the game.
Catcher Zoe Tolhopf was the pick of the New Zealand offence, collecting two base hits.
The Aussie Spirit had to battle hard to score runs, and failed to score multiple runs in any inning.
The Spirit got on the board in the first inning when Taylah Tsitsikronis singled to centre, scoring Leigh Godfrey.
They doubled that lead in the second inning, when Melinda Weaver singled to right, scoring Jade Wall.
Solid pitching by Su-Hua Lin kept the Spirit in check for a while, until Stacey Porter led off the fifth inning with a single and later scored on Wall’s groundout.
Every time Chinese Taipei looked like mounting a rally, Spirit pitcher Kaia Parnaby came up with the right pitch. Parnaby pitched five innings, allowing only two hits and no walks while striking out five.
Reliever Ellen Roberts was perfect through two innings, snuffing out any chance of a Chinese Taipei comeback.
Japan made sure of going undefeated through the round games and finishing on top of the standings with a comprehensive win over the All Stars.
Pitchers Miki Kozono and Misaki Katsumata combined to allow just one hit and one walk in five innings, with five strikeouts.
Right fielder Nozomi Nagasaki got Japan going with a three-run homer in the first inning. She was one of four Japanese players to have two-hit games, along with Nodoka Harada, Yuka Ichiguchi and Yamato Fujita.
Shortstop Tabitha Callander had the only hit for the All Stars.
The Aussie Spirit needed to win this game to ensure they finished second in the standings.
It was a struggle early, as China took the lead in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Ying Lu and held that 1-0 advantage for the first three innings.
But the Spirit got moving in the fourth inning. Georgia Casey led off with a walk, Melinda Weaver was hit by a pitch and Tamieka Whitefield singled to tie the score. Leigh Godfrey singled to put the Spirit in front, then Whitefield stole home to make it 3-1.
Spirit pitchers Amelia Cudicio and Ellen Roberts were both impressive. Cudicio allowed just the one hit and one run in four innings, with four strikeouts.
Roberts shut the door with three innings of scoreless relief, allowing two hits and one walk, with two strikeouts.
Standings after Day Three
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