The Aussie Spirit have earned themselves a crack at the all-powerful USA as the XVI Women’s Softball World Championship in Japan moves into the first playoff round.
The Australians finished in second place in Pool B with a 5-2 win-loss record, behind only tournament hosts Japan, who went through the seven-game pool series unbeaten.
On what should have been a rest day, the Australians lost their final pool game to Japan tonight in a game that was rescheduled because of heavy rain and the threat of a typhoon on Wednesday.
The second placing means the Aussie Spirit will play the USA, who finished on top of Pool A.
The Australia-USA matchup sets up a potential clash between the world’s best pitcher, Monica Abbott, and an Australian offence led by Stacey Porter, who has been among the world’s best hitters for more than a decade.
Finishing in the top two of their pool gives the Australians a double chance, so that if they lose to the USA they would play Mexico or Italy and would need to win to stay in medal contention.
NEXT GAME: Australia vs USA, Friday, 4.30pm AEST
Game Seven: Japan 8, Australia 1
So much for the rest day. With no play possible the previous night because of rain and threat of a typhoon, the much-anticipated Japan-Australia game was rescheduled to Thursday night in Narashino City.
Japan’s infield defence was in spectacular form, turning three double plays to end scoring threats.
Leigh Godfrey had Australia’s first hit in the first inning but was erased on an inning-ending double play.
The Australians soon found themselves with an uphill battle when Yu Yamamoto hit a three-run homer on a 1-2 pitch. It was her fourth homer of the tournament.
The top half of the second inning was almost a mirror image of the first, as Jade Wall singled but Clare Warwick hit into a double play.
After that rough first inning, Aussie Spirit starting pitcher Ellen Roberts bounced back in the second with an impressive 1-2-3 inning that included two strikeouts.
Eri Yamada led off the bottom of the third inning with a solo home run to right field, ending the night for Roberts, who was replaced by Amelia Cudicio.
In the fourth inning the Aussie Spirit loaded the bases as Japan’s starting pitcher Fujita Yamato struggled with her control.
Chelsea Forkin singled, then Fujita walked Jade Wall and Taylah Tsitsikronis to load the bases. When Carmelle Sorensen was hit by a pitch, the Australians were on the scoreboard for the first time.
Yamato was replaced by Ueno Yukiko, who struck out Stacey McManus to end the threat.
Justine Smethurst took over the pitching duties in the fourth inning. She was greeted by a two-run homer by Yamato to give Japan a 6-1 lead.
Two unearned runs in the sixth inning ended the game early.