Gallant Spirit fall just short in thriller against USA

There was plenty of fan support for both teams as Australia battled the USA. Picture: ASA/USA Softball

Gallant Spirit fall just short in thriller against USA

World Championship Game Five: USA 5, Australia 3

The Aussie Spirit staged a fighting comeback but just fell short against softball powerhouse USA in a thrilling game at the World Championship in Canada. 

The 5-3 defeat means the Australians must beat China tomorrow to keep their medal chances alive.

Softball fans at the field in Surrey, British Columbia were treated to a magnificent contest, featuring some of the world’s best players, as the unbeaten USA team managed to maintain their perfect tournament record.

The Spirit combined for 10 hits against the USA’s eight, but the Americans produced more power, belting two home runs.

The closeness of the game was reflected in a Tweet by USA Softball immediately after the final out: “It was a nail biter, but Team USA pulls off the 5-3 win over @SoftballOz. Great battle between two great teams.”

Australia took the early lead when Chelsea Forkin singled, advanced to third on a fielding error and scored on Jade Wall’s RBI single.

But the lead didn’t last long as the USA scored twice in the top of the second inning after series of singles and a sacrifice fly by Kelsey Stewart.

Things got worse for the Spirit in the third inning. Jocelyn Jeloudev replaced Vanessa Stokes as pitcher, only to be greeted with a home run by Valerie Arioto and, two outs later, another homer by Amanda Chidester that gave the USA a 4-1 lead.

Justine Smethurst relieved Jeloudev and held the USA on check for the next two innings. And in the bottom of the fifth the Spirit offence came to life. Forkin led off with a single, stole second and went to third on Wall’s single. Carmelle Sorensen then singled to score Forkin and make the score 4-2.

But the USA restored the three-run advantage in the top of the seventh inning when Michelle Moultrie, who had been hit by a pitch, scored on a single by Jazmyn Jackson.

It was the only run Smethurst gave up in a fine performance. She pitched 4.1 innings, allowing just two hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

Still the Spirit would not give up. Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Wall singled with one out, then scored on a double by Taylah Tsitsikronis. 

With the score now 5-3 and the potential tying run at the plate, the USA replaced pitcher Jessica Moore with Jaclyn Traina.

The tension was palpable after Sorensen walked to put runners on first and second with one out. But Traina was able to produce quality pitches when she needed them most, inducing pop-ups from Stacey McManus and Erin Thras to end the game.

Australia’s chances of progressing into medal contention will hinge on a crucial game against Chine at 12.30pm Friday AEST.

Australia v USA box score

World Championship schedule

For more pictures, see the Softball Australia Facebook page