Twenty-four hours is a long time as the teams found early on day three of the Tradestaff WBSC Softball World Cup in Auckland today.
Sunday’s constant rain brought a two-hour delay as well as some massive results with big wins to Cuba over the Czech Republic, Canada over Denmark, USA over hosts New Zealand and the dramatic late-night 5-4 win by Australia over Japan.
The fortunes were reversed in the early third-round clashes on Monday as teams battle for a top-three spot in their respective groups to earn a place in the Super Round and a chance of winning the world title.
The crucial clash came in New Zealand’s Group A where their victors from Sunday, USA, were well beaten 6-3 by hitherto winless Czech Republic, including a loss to the Black Sox on the opening day.
It leaves three teams tied on two wins – comprising USA, Cuba and Argentina – with the other three teams, including New Zealand, on one win.
It makes tonight’s late game with hosts Black Sox and Argentina pivotal for New Zealand’s chances of making it to the Super Round and the opportunity to make next Sunday’s grand final.
The other group is becoming more clear-cut with Canada and Australia unbeaten after three games, with Japan and Venezuela on one win. Japan also play tonight against winless Denmark with victory moving them to the third and final qualifying place in Group B.
The major performance on day three was a stunning 6-3 victory for the previous winless Czech Republic over USA.
Leading 1-0, booming homers over centre field put the Czechs 2-0 over the five-time champions USA, before some sloppy fielding from the Americans saw Czech Republic extend the lead.
The Czech Republic remained in the game with some stunning fielding and even a third pitching change by the Americans failed to stunt their momentum.
They pushed to lead out to an unthinkable six run lead until the Americans grabbed three late runs before they ran out of real estate.,
“We have had back-to-back days of firsts – a first win in 20 years over New Zealand and now our opponents beat us for the first time,” said US coach Ron Hackett. “That tells you a lot about what this tournament is – there is a lot of parity within the teams and a lot of great teams who have earned their way here.
“If you don’t come to the ballpark every day and do the things that you need to do, you are going to get caught. I do not think we had a poor performance – all credit to the Czechs.”
The Czech head coach Jaroslav Korcak had preached a different gospel after their 7-0 loss to Cuba.
“We stressed to them that this is a tournament where there is no time to feel sorry for ourselves and we needed to gather ourselves and put our hearts into today’s game. That is what we did. I am very proud of our team and how they managed to bounce back.”
It leaves all eyes on Japan and Denmark, and the late game with hosts New Zealand against the defending champions, Argentina.