The New South Wales Firestars survived a 7th inning scare from the SA Starz to claim a hat-trick of Gilley’s Shield titles at Mirrabooka International Softball Stadium tonight.
In the perfect way to end an undefeated tournament, the classy squad won a thrilling finale 4-3.
The Starz showed no signs of being daunted by the undefeated Firestars early, Victoria McFarland belting a double that turned into a triple after an error in the field.
New South Wales pitcher Kaia Parnaby quickly took back control and removed the Starz, keeping McFarland stranded on third base.
In reply, South Australian pitcher Jailyn Ford was just as effective, striking out Stacey Porter while sharp work in the field put a quick end to the opening inning.
More first class pitching from Parnaby struck out Belinda White and Olivia MacGinley while a fly ball off Lana Kaesler’s bat meant the Starz didn’t spend too long in the dugout during the top of the 2nd inning.
Taylah Tsitsikronis, who wore a pitch from Parnaby in the 1st inning, came out firing to hit a triple in the bottom of the 2nd however was tagged out trying to take home plate. Another strikeout courtesy of Ford put the Blues back out on the diamond.
After another scoreless inning in the 3rd, Madeline Cameron broke the deadlock, converting her double into the first run of the game. In reply, the Firestars were able to square the ledger after Tahli Moore scored, who came on as a courtesy runner for Tsitsikronis, singles from Stacey McManus and Shannon Keevers helping Moore home.
Parnaby’s pitching again kept SA scoreless at the top of the 5th inning to give NSW the chance to take the lead for the first time in the final. As if on cue, Rachel Lack smacked yet another home run in the tournament to get herself and Tahli Moore across home plate.
Michelle Cox extended the lead to three runs before the end of the 5th inning, piling on the pressure to the Stars at the top of the 6th who couldn’t manage to put another run on the board. However after keeping the Firestars scoreless, gave themselves a fighting chance at the top of the 7th inning.
Parnaby was pitch-perfect dismissing White before some loose errors in the field allowed loaded bases giving the Starz a sniff of staying in the game. Porter caught a fly ball off Chelsea Robinson for two outs.
SA made a clutch play with bases loaded and a full count, Jordan Lambert hit a single sending Olivia MacGinley and Lana Kaesler across, making the scores 4-3 in favour of the Blues.
Parnaby’s class came to the fore and under immense pressure, struck out Victoria McFarland, icing the Firestars third Gilley’s Shield title in a row.
New South Wales also claim the McLaughlin Cup after finishing first on the ladder following their perfect 10-0 tournament record.
“It’s a massive year for Softball Australia and I think we’re in good stead with that standard of competition we had this week,” said New South Wales captain Stacey Porter at the presentation following the win.
“It was a rare week where everything went right for us, the girls were fantastic right until the end and we were kept on our toes right to the end.”
Attention now turns to Hawker, ACT for the 2019 Open Men’s National Softball Championship and 2019 U15 Boys’ Regional Softball Championship.
The next hit-out for Australia’s elite women softballers will be at the Asia Pacific Cup from 31 January – 3 February followed by the Summer Slam from 4-6 February, both held at Blacktown International Sportspark.
Visit softball.org.au for the current event calendar.
Sybil Turner Best Batter – Stacey Porter
Lorraine Woolley Best Pitcher – Ellen Roberts
Midge Nielson Tournament MVP – Rachel Lack
Rosemary Adey Rookie of the Year – Georgia Hood
Player of Grand Final – Rachel Lack