A bases-loaded walk by Taylah Tsitsikronis scored Chelsea Forkin to give the Aussie Spirit a dramatic victory over USA Elite in the bronze medal game of the World Cup in Oklahoma City.
The win gave Australia a 7-1 record in the tournament, the only loss being against Team USA in Game Four.
The Spirit got off to a flying start in the first inning, as Jade Wall doubled to score Chelsea Forkin for an early 1-0 lead.
That lead doubled an inning later, as Janice Blackman’s two-out single scored Georgia Blair, who had walked and advanced on Stacey McManus’s single.
USA Elite tied it up in the top of the third on a double and two singles, and the teams then traded zeroes until the fifth inning, when the speedy Blackman led off with a walk and scored on Forkin’s double, giving the Spirit a 3-2 lead.
But a home run by Madeline Jelenicki re-tied the scores in the sixth inning, setting the scene for a tense ending to the game.
Vanessa Stokes came on to pitch the seventh inning and did not allow a hit or a walk, giving her team a chance to win it in the bottom of the inning.
Stacey Porter singled with one out and advanced to third as Forkin’s grounder was misplayed. Jade Wall was intentionally walked to load the bases, giving Clare Warwick a chance to win the game. But shortstop Madilyn Nickles fielded the ground ball and threw home accurately to get Porter on a fielder’s choice.
Enter Tsitsikronis, who took three balls, then a strike, then fouled off five consecutive pitches before taking a low pitch from Paige Lowary to force in the game-winning run and give Australia third place in the 13-team tournament.
While Stokes picked up the win in relief, it was the previous two Spirit pitchers who kept their team in the game with fine performances through the early and middle innings. Starter Sandra Holden allowed two runs in 2.2 innings of work before handing over to Jocelyn Jouledev, who gave up just one run in 3.1 innings, with three strikeouts.
Japan won the World Cup for the third time in its history by beating Team USA 2-1 in the final.
The next mission for the Australians is the WBSC XV Women’s World Softball Championship in Surrey, British Columbia.