Ethan Johnston keeps New Zealand undefeated in the ISF Junior Men’s World Championship

Written by Bob on July 15th, 2014

wolfpack.johnston.177web New Zealand’s Ethan Johnston pitching in the 2013 NAFA World Series for the Kansas City Outlaws. Johnston was selected the Co-Most Valuable Pitcher of the A Division. Photo By BOB OTTO

New Zealand remains unbeaten in the world championship after surviving close game with Japan.

WHITEHORSE, YUKON, CA – Fastpitch purists fond of pitchers duels would have loved this one, and probably boasted, “good pitching will beat good hitting every time.”

Well, in this particular game, the purists would be right.

For Japan’s Okazaki Kento and New Zealand’s Ethan Johnston hooked up in a thrilling pitching match-up in the 10th ISF Junior Men’s World Championship.

But this time around, Johnston came out on top, firing a three-hitter to lead the Temperzone Black Sox to a 2-1 victory at the Pepsi Softball Center, Tuesday.

The game matched two of the tournament’s top teams.

Both came into the game undefeated. Now, with the win, New Zealand and Argentina remain unbeaten at 5-0, and will meet at 5 p.m. today, while Japan slips to 4-1 and takes on the USA at 6:30.

    HIGH-SCORING JAPAN

But if not for Johnston’s superb pitching, this game could easily have gone the other way. Japan came into the game as the highest scoring team in the 10-team tournament. In four games they had scored 52 runs, averaging an incredible 13 runs per game.

But Johnston mixed in his signature riser with a drop ball and occasional change-up to strikeout 11 and walk one.

Japan scored its lone run in the third when Taguchi Hideo doubled down the left-field line, and one out later scored on Une Ryoyu double into right-center.

    MATAKATEA’S CLUTCH

New Zealand answered right back in the fourth by stringing together three hits, with Dante Matakatea providing the game-winning runs.

With the bases loaded, Matakatea drove a Kento drop ball between the third base and shortstop hole, sending home Eruera Drage, who doubled with one out, and Te Kahui Bishop who reached first on a single to left field.

Given the lead, the right-handed Johnston buckled down setting down Japan in order in the fifth and the sixth.

    TROUBLE IN THE SEVENTH

Japan, however, didn’t surrender, and caused New Zealand and Johnston some angst in the seventh.

Kinjo Haruki opened the inning by drilling a line drive through the legs of first baseman Drage. The ball was hit so hard that Drage didn’t have a chance to make a play. A wild pitch moved Haruki to second.

Then after Johnston struck out Kento swinging at a high rise ball, Johnston hit Kajihara Kazuki putting the go-ahead run aboard.

Johnston then showed his mettle. He got the left-side swinging Hino Shunicki with an outside rise ball.

    HERE COMES THE RISER

Japan head coach, Takahaski Sugao, called a time out and sent the pinch-hitting Osaki Takanari to the plate. The left-handed hitter battled Johnston to a full-count. With the runners on the move, Johnston went back to his out pitch – the letter-high riser – and got Takanari swinging to end the game.

    TWO GREAT YOUNG PITCHERS

The win improves Johnston’s record to 3-0. He’s pitched 17 2/3 innings, allowed four earned runs on 11 hits, three walks, with 27 strikeouts for a 1.52 ERA.

But Kento has been just as impressive, with a 3-1 record, pitching 21 innings, allowing four earned runs on nine hits, seven walks, with 29 strikeouts for a 1.33 ERA.

    BATTLE OF THE UNBEATENS

With the win, New Zealand has little time to celebrate. On tap at 5 p.m. Tuesday is another big game, when the Black Sox take on Argentina, which will leave just one team in the undefeated ranks.

Japan also has a double-header on Tuesday, meeting the USA (3-2) at 6:30 p.m.

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