Australia defeat Argentina in extra innings to reach Gold Medal game

Published Sat 03 Dec 2022

The Australian supporters at Rosedale Park, Auckland were ecstatic on Saturday as the Steelers won by the exact margin needed over the previously undefeated Argentina to make the Gold Medal Game.

It took eight innings to separate Australia and Argentina, with Hayden Mathews' two RBI single in a tiebreaker inning and a fully composed shutout from Jack Besgrove proving the difference.  

The equation was simple for Australia, the task was not. In an incredibly tense affair it took a new level of poise, skill and determination as the Steelers came together and delivered like never before against the defending World Champions. 

Marshall Kronk was handed the ball to start the all-important Super Round fixture and handled it with aplomb, going five innings, striking out eight with two hits and two walks.

The third inning was pivotal in the Steelers defense. Australia caught two Argentinian baserunners to nab the first and third outs. McGovern's transfer and throw to nab Ladislao Malarczuk at second was an exquisite piece of fielding, with Brendon O'Byrne's tag the perfect complement.

At the top of the fourth inning Callum Beashel singled up the middle, and with Nick Shailes fly out to deep centre field he was in scoring position - the first opportunity of the game for the Steelers. Unfortunately for Australia, Argentina quenched that challenge and again in similar circumstances in the top of the fifth inning, doing what they have done to so many teams this World Cup. 

The momentum was building for the Steelers however, and the pressure was building on Argentina. At the top of the sixth inning and with Huemul Mata in the pitching circle the Steelers put up a single from O'Byrne, Beashel reached on error and Kronk was walked. At two-out and with bases loaded, all it would take was a safe hit to break the deadlock. Sensing danger, Argentina substituted Roman Godoy into the pitching position. The experienced and enormously talented pitcher calmed the ship, grabbed the strikeout and left the inning with the scoreboard untouched.

After Kronk walked Alan Peker in the bottom of the sixth, Steelers Coach Laing Harrow made a pitching substitute of his own. Australia would be placing all their hopes on the young shoulders of Jack Besgrove. Three strike outs later and Australia was still in the hunt.

The Steelers pushed again in the top of the seventh inning, working again to a scoring position with two out, but again Argentina repelled the attack. 

All eyes were on Besgrove, with the result on a knife's edge. The determination from the young charge was written across his face, his eyes fixed on the prize. He would sit back on the bench thirteen pitches later, having bought the Steelers an extra inning with three swinging strike outs. 

The scoreboard read 0-0 and hearts were in mouths as this amazing game went to extra innings. Having an automatic runner on second base with no outs was a luxury the Steelers hadn't been afforded at any point, and with Beashel, Nick Shailes and Marshall Kronk up to bat, the power was now in Australia's hands.

Beashel struck out, Shailes was intentionally walked and Marshall struck out swinging. Once again, the Steelers were at two-out and a runner in scoring position. The pressure mounted further on Argentina as rookie James Riley scraped a single together, loading the bases for the hot-hitting Hayden Mathews. 

Finally the floodgates opened. Mathews singled through the left side scoring Scott Patterson and Shailes, sending the Steelers-supporter-heavy crowd into raptures. With captain James Todhunter flying out for the third out, the Steelers knew the task in front of them: shut Argentina out, at all costs.

Up stepped Besgrove again. The boy from Orange, NSW had Argentina on the back foot, and before they knew it the Argentinians were at two-out. Besgrove and catcher Joshua McGovern's seven pitch two-out sequence at the bottom of the eighth inning will be replayed by supporters for years to come. It would take another seven pitches to take down Bruno Motroni, with his ground out to second baseman O'Byrne launching massive celebrations for Australia.

Australia has made the Gold Medal game for the first time since 2017. Their opponents will be Canada. The Canadians have dealt the Steelers with their only loss of the tournament, a shutout 6-0 result coming in the Opening Round. Canada were lights out in their final Super Round game against Cuba, giving up a solitary hit on their way to winning 2-0.

WBSC organisers will be thrilled at the quality and tension of the final Super Round Day, with the top three teams all finishing the second round at four wins and a loss. The tiebreaker rule is based on runs-scored-against, with the Argentinians unlucky to bow out of the tournament on their first loss.

Australia's Gold Medal game against Canada on Sunday the 4th of December starts at 2pm AEDT. 

(Image Caption: Pitcher Jack Besgrove is hugged in celebration by catcher Joshua McGovern after nailbiting win over Argentina. Image Credit: WBSC)

2B: (1) ZARA, Juan (ARG)
RBI: (2) MATHEWS, Hayden
BB: (1) SHAILES, Nick; (1) KRONK, Marshall; (1) MATHEWS, Hayden; (1) TODHUNTER, James; (1) JEMMOTT, Julian; (1) PEKER, Alan (ARG); (1) MIGLIAVACCA, Teo (ARG); (1) CARRIL, Santiago (ARG); (1) OJEDA, Gonzalo (ARG)
TB: (1) BEASHEL, Callum; (1) JAMES, Riley; (1) MATHEWS, Hayden; (2) O'BYRNE, Brendon; (1) MALARCZUK, Ladislao (ARG); (2) ZARA, Juan (ARG)
IBB: (1) SHAILES, Nick

DP: (1) MALARCZUK, Ladislao (ARG); (1) GODOY, Manuel (ARG); (1) EDER, Federico (ARG)

Base Running
CS: (1) MALARCZUK, Ladislao (ARG)
SB: (1) PEKER, Alan (ARG); (1) MIGLIAVACCA, Teo (ARG); (1) CARRIL, Santiago (ARG); (1) SCIALACOMO, Gian (ARG)