Australia prevail in shakedown final ahead of Tradestaff WBSC Softball World Cup

Australia have claimed the honours in the Tradestaff International Invitational men’s softball contest in Palmerston North.

They beat Japan 4-0 in the final of the tournament involving the leading six international teams, as a lead-up for the upcoming Tradestaff WBSC Softball World Cup which begins this weekend in Auckland.

Despite battling inclement weather, which washed out the first day’s play, teams were universal in their support for the tournament, the brainchild of Softball New Zealand with support from Manawatu Softball, the Palmerston North City Council and sponsors Tradestaff.

The Golden Homes New Zealand coach Mark Sorenson was emphatic in his praise for the concept, as a shakedown before the world’s 12 best men’s teams do battle at North Harbour’s Rosedale Park starting this Saturday.

“The best thing for us is we got games. It’s the first time in three and a half years that the Golden Homes Black Sox have played another country, so any time we can do that has got to be a positive,” said Sorenson. “The Manawatu Softball Association in conjunction with Softball New Zealand did a really great job.”

With Friday washed out, the six teams played five games plus a final in two days at the world-class facilities at Palmerston North’s Colquhoun Park.

Sorenson said that the upcoming Tradestaff WBSC Softball World Cup is shaping up arguably as the most even in recent memory.

“The great thing about the Manawatu event is that nobody went through unbeaten. It is really competitive which is great. Every game is putting our guys under different pressures than what they have encountered before.

“You can also throw in USA and Venezuela who were not here, and there is more than a handful of nations who are going to legitimately compete for this title in Auckland.

“I am sure there’s not a lot of sports in the world that could say there is a handful of teams that come into a world tournament with a fair bet of competing for the title.”

The Australian combination; led by powerful displays from high profile pitchers Michael Kronk and Joshua White, began with a 3-2 win over world No 1 ranked Argentina but were soundly beaten by the Czech Republic 8-1. They bounced back with a close win over Japan, lost 6-5 in a thriller to New Zealand, but handed Canada their second loss 2-0 to earn a place in the final where they again accounted for Japan 4-0.

The Golden Homes New Zealand team took the opportunity to play several combinations over the two days, emerging from opening day with losses to Canada and Japan countered with wins over Argentina and Australia before finishing with a 3-2 loss to the impressive Czech Republic.

“I would have liked a few different performances on the diamond and a few different results,” said Sorenson of his Golden Homes New Zealand team. “We rotated the players, and just about everyone got a decent amount of game-time.

“We showed some resilience. After we got beaten twice on Saturday, we showed resilience to comeback against the current world champions in Argentina and we had a great game with them.

“We backed that on Sunday to beat Australia who went on to win the tournament final.

“The potential is there. We just need a bit more consistency in our application, that’s all.”

The six teams head to Auckland to join USA, Venezuela, Philippines, Cuba, Denmark and South Africa for the World Cup which begins on Saturday.

Teams compete in two pools over the first five days, before the top three teams in each group advance to the Super Round (and remaining six teams compete in the Placement Round).

The top two teams from the Super Round qualify for the final on 4 December, with all New Zealand games and playoff games broadcast live on Whakaata Maori, and all games of the tournament live on its digital platform MĀORI+ for Aotearoa fans.

Results from the Tradestaff International Invitational tournament are:

Canada 4 New Zealand 2, Australia 3 Argentina 2, Japan 3 Czech Republic 0, Canada 3 Argentina 0, Japan 6 New Zealand 0, Czech Republic 8 Australia 1, Canada 5 Czech Republic 1, Australia 5 Japan 4, New Zealand 3 Argentina 2, Canada 7 Japan 1, New Zealand 6 Australia 5, Argentina 8 Czech Republic 0, Czech Republic 3 New Zealand 2, Japan 6 Argentina 0, Australia 2 Canada 0. Final: Australia 4 Japan 0.

Auckland is hosting the top men’s softball event for the second time in the tournament’s 57-year history, after the WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup was also staged at Rosedale Park in 2013. The other New Zealand cities to host the event are Lower Hutt in 1976 and Christchurch in 2004.