A sensational pitching performance by Layton Reid has lifted the Junior Steelers to victory over Japan to claim the gold medal in the XII Junior Men’s Softball World Championship in Canada.
Reid pitched a no-hitter and struck out 15 as the Junior Steelers beat the world’s top-ranked team 6-1 in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
It was a magnificent effort by the sixth-ranked Junior Steelers, who lost to Japan in the group round but came through when it mattered most, with wins in the semi-final and the gold medal game.
Ryan King and Jeremy Waters powered the Australian offence, each hitting home runs. It was one of King’s two base hits for the game.
Michael Ludkin, Dawson Summers, Jacob Donaldson and Jett Wright also hit safely.
A delighted Junior Steelers Head Coach Laing Harrow said Reid had performed brilliantly under pressure.
“He wasn’t at his best early on,” Harrow said. “There were a few walks and wild pitches. But he got to the third inning with the lead, and he settled down and did an outstanding job.”
Harrow also paid tribute to his offence, particularly Waters, who started the tournament at the top of the order but ended up batting ninth and hit home runs in both playoff games against Japan. “Early on he wasn’t hitting the ball well, but we made some adjustments in the lineup and he came up with two big home runs.”
And the pitching wasn’t all about Reid. “Layton, Shaun Lanaghan, Brad Kilpatrick and Michael Ludkin were outstanding all week,” Harrow said. “They kept the runs to a minimum and allowed our offence to go ahead and do their job.”
As might be expected when the final out was made, the Australians were overjoyed. “The boys were very excited, and it was well deserved,” Harrow said. “They worked very hard in the lead-up and were very professional throughout the whole tour.”
Harrow was also impressed by the tournament organisers and facilities. “This is one of the best world championships I’ve ever been to,” he said. “The way it was run, how the locals looked after the athletes, the volunteers … everything was top-notch.”New Zealand claimed the bronze medal, beating Canada in the first playoff game before losing to Japan.
Semi-final: Australia 4, Japan 2
After a brilliant performance against the top-ranked Japan in the semi-final, the Australians earned the right to play in the final.
Two towering home runs — one by Jeremy Waters and one by Blake Jackson, plus a magnificent pitching performance by Shaun Lanaghan, carried the Junior Steelers to a 4-2 victory.
Lanaghan often looked on the verge of being taken out of the game, but each time he made quality pitches to get out of trouble.
Junior Steelers Head Coach Laing Harrow said the coaching staff kept Lanaghan in there because he was “throwing such a great game”.”He got stronger as the game went on,” Harrow said. “That made it easier for us to decide to leave him in. The coaching staff had a solid game plan set up and he went with it.”
Harrow was not concerned about who the Junior Steelers would play in the gold medal game.
“At the end of the day we can only take care of what we can do,” he said. “We have game plans for whoever we play, so we’ll be prepared and will give it our best shot.”
- Australia (Gold)
- Japan (Silver)
- New Zealand (Bronze)
- Czech Republic
- South Africa
- Hong Kong