Argentina take pole position in race to World Championship Game

Defending champions Argentina inflicted the first loss on four-time champions Canada while Australia remains in the title hunt as the three teams emerged with one round remaining in the Super Round at the Tradestaff WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup in Auckland.

Today was the second day of three games in the Super Round for the top six teams, and the Placement Round for the remaining six teams, with each playing the three teams from the other side of the draw.

Meanwhile the Golden Homes Black Sox had their first loss in the Placement Round after losing 7-4 against Japan in the night game at Rosedale Park.

The Black Sox matched an early Japan run with a homer to Reilly Makea, before the Japanese took advantage of some wayward play to push to a four-run lead. The Black Sox fought back with homers to Joel Evans and a first for Pita Rona to close to 5-4 behind. However Japan bagged two more and New Zealand could not covert chances late in the game

In the Super Round, Australia outlasted USA in a remarkable 21-run game, winning 12-9, while Cuba battled through to beat Venezuela 4-1. The remaining clash saw Argentina edge the previously unbeaten Canada 5-4.

It leaves the 2019 winners Argentina as the only unbeaten team on four wins, while Canada and Australia have three wins and one loss. The two teams for Sunday’s World Championship Final will come from this trio with Argentina taking on Australia, while Canada meets Cuba on the last day of the Super Round on Saturday.

Australia opened Friday’s Super Round action with a remarkable 12-9 victory over USA, who will now have to focus on making the bronze medal match.

The game was a roller-coaster clash of batting prowess with five lead changes. Matt Palazzo got the USA to the best of starts, hitting his first home run to give USA a 3-0 lead in the first inning, with Nic Mullins and Blaine Milheim also scoring.

Australia responded with a run to Scott Patterson, but the Americans piled on the pressure with a Blaine Milheim drive scoring Tyler Johnson and Yusef Davis to stretch USA's lead to 5-1.

The Australians went to work to tie up the game and then the two sides scored in twos as the lead changed inning by inning through to the end of the sixth with the game at 9-9.

Australia found a way to edge ahead, taking advantage of a fielding error, to score three times in the top of the seventh before Marshall Kronk was able to shut down any American challenge.

“The key was the fight in these steller boys. They never say give up, they do not care what the score is and they keep coming back. I am very pleased,” said Australian coach Laing Harrow.

“They hit the ball hard at key times and we had four home runs too. Our captain hasn’t had a lot of opportunity and he came in to hit three runs for us.

“It keeps us in with a chance to make that gold medal game. If we had dropped this one, we would have been in a lot of bother. Tomorrow we show up, we have to win another ball game but this gives us the opportunity.”

American coach Ron Hackett said his side will now focus on staying in contention for the bronze medal game.

“The goal was to come out of this with a medal – albeit a gold one – but we still have a shot for the bronze,” he said.

“The high number of runs came down to familiarity of pitches and game-planning. They know our players well and we know them. All these pitchers are high quality and so to put so many runs up for both teams is impressive and is probably due to the amount of game planning that goes in.”

The Argentina-Canada clash was a much tighter affair, with the two sides having split results at the Americas qualifier earlier in the year.

Friday results: Super Round: Australia 12 USA 9, Argentina 5 Canada 4, Cuba 4 Venezuela 1.

Points: Argentina 4 wins; Canada 3 wins 1 losses; Australia 3 wins, 1 loss; USA 1 win, 3 losses; Cuba 1 win, 3 losses, Venezuela 4 losses.

Placement Round: Czech Republic 10 South Africa 3; New Zealand Japan Philippines 8 Denmark 0.

Points: Japan 4 wins; New Zealand 3 wins; Czech Republic 3 wins, South Africa 1 win; Philippines 1 win, Denmark 0 wins.