Bring on USA! Spirit to face their toughest challenge

Aussie Spirit shortstop Clare Warwick makes a play against the Philippines.

Bring on USA! Spirit to face their toughest challenge

World Championship Game Four: Australia 11, Philippines 1

The Aussie Spirit are looking forward to taking on tournament favourites USA after a comprehensive win over the Philippines at the Softball World Championship in Canada.

Kaia Parnaby

Kaia Parnaby delivers a pitch agains the Philippines.

In the first game of the second round of pool play, Australia won 11-1  thanks to strong hitting throughout the lineup and another stellar outing from starting pitcher Kaia Parnaby.

Five Spirit batters had multi-hit games, helping the team score in four of the five innings. Stacey Porter’s home run in the second inning was the offensive highlight.

Parnaby, who has been the workhorse of the team, was brilliant from the start. In four innings she allowed just two hits and no walks, while striking out four and not issuing a walk. Justine Smethurst finished off Parnaby’s work with an effective final inning.

While the Philippines is not a traditional softball powerhouse, the team has produced some impressive results recently and was ultra-competitive against Australia in the World Cup in Oklahoma City only nine days ago, going down 3-2. They reached the second round in

the World Championship by beating the higher-ranked Czech Republic.

Head Coach Fabian Barlow was pleased with his team’s all-round performance. “The team brought their bats to the game today and mixed disciplined hitting with aggression to put up a positive scoreline against the Philippines,” he said.

“The pleasing part was we scored runs in four  of our five offensive innings and got strong pitching out of Kaia and Justine.”

Batting first, the Spirit got off to a near-perfect start, helped by a two-base error by the Philippines centre fielder that allowed Porter to reach base.  After Clare Warwick walked, Chelsea Forkin singled to drive in Porter and put the Australians on the board.

Jade Wall then walked to load the bases, Taylah Tsitsikronis singled and Belinda White doubled to give the Spirit a 4-0 lead.

In the second inning, Porter needed no help from an outfielder,  blasting a home run on a full count.

Justine Smethurst

Justine Smethurst pitches the final inning.

The scoring slowed down for a while after Sierra Lange was brought on to pitch, replacing starter Mary Antolihao. But in the fourth inning, the Spirit hitters cut loose again. Janice Blackman led off with a single and advanced on Porter’s single. Both scored on Forkin’s double, and Forkin scored on another double by Brenda De Blaes.

That was the end of the night for Lange, who was replaced by Annalie Benjamen. But she issued walks to Wall and Tsitsikronis before White’s sacrifice fly scored De Blaes and gave the Spirit a 9-0 lead.

Barlow swung some offensive changes in the fifth inning, and the moves added to the Spirit’s lead. After Blackman’s leadoff single, Erin Thras and Warwick also singled, before Rachel Lack’s sacrifice fly scored Blackman. Another sacrifice fly by De Blaes gave the Spirit an 11-0 lead.

Needing to restrict the Philippines to a maximum of one run to win on the runs-ahead rule, relief pitcher Smethurst did exactly what was required. She allowed one hit and an unearned run, with one strikeout, as the Spirit completed to job in five innings.

After a day off tomorrow, the Spirit face their toughest challenge of the tournament so far when they take on the USA at 1pm Thursday AEST. The following day they face China in what is likely to be another difficult game.

“We understand our next two games are against very difficult opponents and are another step up,” Barlow said.

“But we believe in ourselves and our abilities and look forward to those challenges as they arrive.”

Australia v Philippines box score

World Championship schedule

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