Australia stays alive in ISF World Softball Championship

Written by Bob on March 8th, 2013

Japan’s Tadaaki Saeki shows the hustle and determination that has helped Japan become one of the best men’s national teams in the ISF World Softball Championship.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – Win and there’s life. Lose and it’s a knock out, a punch that sends a national team home.

Australia left-hander Andrew Kirkpatrick kept his team alive by hurling a no hitter in leading the Steelers to a 4-0 victory over Japan in the second round of playoffs in the 13th ISF World Softball Championship on Saturday.

The win keeps Australia’s (1-1 playoffs, 8-1) hopes alive of defending their 2009 World Championship title.

Meanwhile, Japan finishes the tournament 6-3 overall, 1-1 in the playoffs.

Australia broke the game open in the top of the first inning on Joel Southam’s triple that scored Michael Tanner, who led off the game with a single. After an out, Zenon Winters was hit by a pitch and moved to second base on an interference call. Two errors then gave the Steelers two more runs for a 3-0 margin.

Jeff Goolagong (1-3, RBI, run) padded Australia’s lead in the sixth when he slugged a rise ball deep over the centerfield fence. Left fielder Yohei Ono got Japan out of further trouble with a diving catch in shallow left field to retire the side.

Japan mounted its biggest threat in the bottom of the sixth with one out. Kota Mera worked Kirkpatrick for a walk, bringing lead off batter, Naoaki Kawada. Kawada lined a rise ball down the third base line, but third baseman Goolagong snared it and fired over to first base to double up Mera breaking to second to end the inning.

In the seventh, Kirkpatrick retired Japan’s numbers two, three and four hitters in order.

A great play by second baseman Nick Shailes on left-side batter Hiraku Yokoyama’s slap bunt got the speedy Yokoyama as he slid headfirst into first base. Then Kirkpatrick struck out Kenji Nakamura on a high riser.

Shortstop Nick Norton really came to his pitcher’s aid when he snared a line drive off the bat of Masateru Matsuoka that was headed up the middle to end the game.

With that last out, Kirkpatrick had his no-hitter, and the Steelers continue life in the playoffs. In Saturday’s final game, Australia will take on the winner between Canada and Argentina.

Kirkpatrick was very efficient. He threw 78 pitches, 53 for strikes and 25 for balls. His no-hitter includes eight strikeouts and two walks.

Australia collected seven hits led by Michael Tanner 2-4, run; Joel Southam 1-2, RBI, run; Goolagong 1-3, RBI, run, home run; Kirkpatrick 1-2; Nick Norton 1-3, and Mark Harris 1-2.

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