They did it the hard way, but they got there in the end. The Aussie Spirit beat Italy 3-2 in extra innings to record their second win of the XVI Women’s Softball World Championship in Chiba, Japan.
The Italians put up a fight from start to finish, and twice were just one strike away from a surprise win.
The hard-earned victory gave the Aussie Spirit a 2-1 win loss record, leaving them in fourth place in the Pool B standings behind unbeaten teams Japan, China and Canada.
Tomorrow’s game also promises to be a hard-fought contest as the Aussie Spirit take on Canada at 3.30pm AEST.
Game Three: Aussie Spirit 3, Italy 2
Italy got off a stunning start, with a couple of solo homers in the top of the first inning. Amanda Fama led off with a homer to right and, with one out, Erika Piancastelli went deep over the centre field fence, ending the game early for Australian starting pitcher Ellen Roberts.
Italian starter Ilaria Cacciamani took a no-hitter into the fourth inning. But with two outs, she walked Clare Warwick and gave up a single to Carmelle Sorensen, the first hit of the game for Australia.
Australia got on the scoreboard in top of the fifth. Stacey Porter reached on an error, went to second on a ground-out and scored on a base hit by Leigh Godfrey.
Trailing 2-1 going into the final inning, the Aussie Spirit needed a run to stay alive.
With one out, Porter singled to become the potential tying run at first. Godfrey reached on a sacrifice bunt fielder’s choice, and with two outs, Jade Wall walked to load the bases.
Samantha Poole’s ground ball induced an error by the Italian shortstop, allowing Porter to score the tying run.
After Italy were shut down in the bottom of the seventh, the game went to extras, with Tamieka Whitefield placed on second to start the eighth. She was sacrificed to third by Taylah Tsitsikronis and scored on a sacrifice fly by Clare Warwick to give the Aussie Spirit the lead for the first time in the game.
A great defensive play by Porter eliminated Italy’s lead runner in the bottom of the inning, and two fly-outs gave the Aussie Spirit the hard-earned win.
Much of the credit for the win goes to Australia’s relief pitchers, Justine Smethurst and Kaia Parnaby. Smethurst found herself in the game much earlier than expected, coming on in the first inning and getting Australia out of trouble with 2.2 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out five.
Parnaby took over from there, striking out seven in five innings while allowing only one hit and no walks.
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Aussie Spirit World Championship schedule:
Sunday 2.30pm (3.30pm AEST): Australia vs Canada
Monday 10am: (11am AEST): Australia vs Botswana
Tuesday 6pm (7pm AEST): Australia vs Great Britain
Wednesday 7pm (8pm AEST): Australia vs Japan