A young Australian team has shown plenty of fight in defeating Japan and taking the Golden Homes Black Sox right to the brink during day two of the TAB Challenge Cup.
After being on the receiving end of a Black Sox clinic in their opening game of the tournament, Australia faced the Black Sox B side first off this morning.
Australia conceded two runs in the top of the third but were able to answer back with two of their own in the bottom of the fourth, however four runs from the home team proved too much to overcome and the Black Sox B team took away a 7-2 win, an identical scoreline played out in the second meeting between the teams again falling in New Zealand’s favour.
The winning game for Australia was a defensive battle with pitcher Layton Reid keeping Japan in check as he struck out 11 batters and allowed only one hit from his seven innings on the plate.
A James Purcell run in the third inning proved enough for Australia to claim a 1-0 win against Japan.
In their second match against the Golden Homes Black Sox, Australia was on the verge of crashing the party when they took the lead in the second inning following Ryan Merriman converting his double.
The Black Sox equalized in the top of the third but Merriman stepped up in the fourth belting a home-run out of the park to put Australia up 3-1 heading into the fifth.
New Zealand tipped in four runs in the top of the fifth, some errors from Australia proving costly, the Black Sox too producing some uncharacteristic errors but eventually securing a 6-5 win after quickly retiring Australia in the bottom of the 7th.
“I’ve been struggling a bit so it was good to get out there and get a couple of good hits,” said Merriman who had two of Australia’s 10 hits in the game.
“I think it’s good to come that close against New Zealand with the new guys coming through the Australian team, they stood up and played good softball, a little unlucky I guess
“I feel like if we played like we did tonight with the amount of hits we had, we can definitely take Japan again tomorrow.”
Australian coach Geoff Coultas echoed Merriman’s thoughts saying he was impressed with how the young team held their own, but ultimately let a few chances slip.
“I think we’re still developing some of these guys, we’re playing against the best team in the world and their list is pretty strong,” said Coultas.
“That was a really good outcome for us, it would’ve been nice to win that, we did have chances.
“But we got a ‘W’ today from the four games, hopefully we can back it up tomorrow and we’ll go home with a couple of wins.”
Australia take on Japan on Sunday morning at 8:30am AEDT, the final will be played between teams finishing first and second on the tournament ladder following Sunday’s regular fixtures.