Fourth-ranked Australia produced an outstanding performance to beat four-time winners and world No. 3 Canada 5-1 to claim the Tradestaff WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup in Auckland.
As they had done all week, the Australians got off to a fast start with two runs in the first inning, and never let the powerful Canadian team back into the contest, in front of a 2,500 strong crowd at Rosedale Park in Albany.
Earlier USA, five-time winners, claimed third place with a 2-0 victory over defending champions Argentina, to bag their first World Cup podium in over two decades.
The two finalists were the most aggressive sides, bagging 99 runs between them before the playoffs, while Canada handed Australia a 6-0 hiding in pool play, with their only loss coming at the hands of Argentina 2-0.
But Australia was always in control in the final after scoring two runs in the first inning when Most Valuable Player, Marshall Kronk powered a hit deep into foul territory with the catch taken. However Scott Patterson and Nick Shailes got home after an error with the return throw.
Two innings later Callum Beashel scored from another error but the Canadians answered back in the fifth with a run to Ryan Boland.
Australia answered back immediately with two further runs in the top of the sixth inning to shut out the Canadians, with the big 18-year-old pitcher Jack Besgrove throwing the entire seven innings for 10 strikeouts and only four hits.
“We have done it all our tour, we’ve got on the board early,” said coach Laing Harrow. “I think that sixth inning was the key. Canada scored in the fifth and we answered right back and that was critical for us. It took the wind out of their sails.
“I have to give credit. Jack (Besgrove) threw a hell of a game. It was a real battle. I thought the strike zone was a bit tight on Jack but he kept battling threw it and didn’t complain and he got the job done. It is exciting for him and he has a bright future in the game.”
Canada made it their four straight podium finish at the World Cup – their sixth in the last seven tournaments going back 18 years. Their power-game was a key, winning all six first-round games, and just dropping just one to Argentina in the Super Round before the final.
While coach John Stuart was delighted with the performance over the week, the level today was disappointing for him and the team.
“Our defence wasn’t there. We had a couple of uncharacteristic errors. Definitely our hitting wasn’t there and the pitching was average,” said Stuart.
“Australia got up early on us and we couldn’t bounce back. We had our chances but we just couldn’t produce.
“You have to take your hat off to that kid on the mound for Australia –he’s a young kid and did a great job all week. Australia has some great leadership in that team with Nick Shailes and Adam Folkard and their coaching staff is phenomenal.”
After losing two of their first three games in the Super Round, USA bounced back to claim the bronze medal, accounting for the 2019 world champions Argentina 2-0.
Both runs came in the fifth innings – a home run by Erick Ochoa and the other to star batter Blaine Milheim. The Americans were able to defend strongly led by Australian-born pitcher Bradley Kilpatrick, who was saved from workload early in the tournament, but pitched all seven innings for 13 strikeouts.
“Even after the two early losses in the tournament we always believed. Every day you come out and it is another challenge. They are all great teams. It felt like we were a great team all the time. Today Brad Kilpatrick was amazing,” said coach Ron Hackett.
“All the games we played were extremely tight, even the ones we lost. And we showed today that we can play and beat anyone in the world.”
USA had previously won five titles but today’s medal was their first in two decades, since South Africa in 2000.
For world No. 1 Argentina, who were the force of the tournament until the playoffs, it has brought an end to the reign of enigmatic coach Julio Gamarci.
“The week was amazing. The only regret I have is that I could not make them play better and that’s all on me. They couldn’t score a run for the last 15 innings. They gave everything but I could not guide them to something better.
“That is the finish for coaching the national team for me. What is ahead is my family, and to coach my kids.”
Final placings: Australia 1, Canada 2, USA 3, Argentina 4, Cuba 5, Venezuela 6, Japan 7, New Zealand 8, Czech Republic 9, Philippines 10, South Africa 11, Denmark 12.