The Aussie Spirit’s history-making debut in the National Pro Fastpitch league ended in disappointment when they lost to the Beijing Eagles in extra innings.
In a gripping NPF season opener that kept the crowd at Missouri Western University enthralled from start to finish, the Spirit took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning but couldn’t hold it.
The Eagles tied the game on an error with two outs, then went on to score five runs in the first extra inning to win 7-2.
The same teams had been scheduled to play a double header on Monday morning (AEST), but the games were rained out and rescheduled for Tuesday.
The honour of making the Spirit’s first pitch in their debut NPF game went to Amelia Cudicio, who performed brilliantly for five innings, allowing just two hits and one run on a solo shot by Liu Mengmeng, striking out three and walking none.
After three scoreless innings, the Aussie Spirit took the lead in the fourth, which Stacey McManus led off with a walk and went to second when Verity Long-Droppert reached on a fielding error. Michelle Cox also reached on an error, allowing McManus to score. Then Long-Droppert scored on a double steal to give the Aussies a 2-0 lead.
Cudicio left the game after five innings with the Spirit leading 2-1.
US pitcher Monica Perry relieved Cudicio and pitched two strong innings, allowing only the one unearned run, before it all went wrong for the Spirit in the first extra inning. Beijing piled on five runs in the top of the eighth to put the game out of reach.
Strong pitching by Angel Bunner was the key to Beijing’s success. Bunner allowed just two hits, to Tamieka Whitefield and Taylah Tsitsikronis, in eight innings, striking out two and walking two.
After the game, Aussie Spirit Assistant Coach Kerrie Porter said the players would be better for the experience.
“It’s the start of a long road of 48 games,” Porter said.
“So we need to make sure we keep everything in perspective. Keep working on our game and just come out better tomorrow night.
“We need to work on our decision making, and what we want to execute and how we’re going to do it.
“It’s going to be a battle every night, and the girls will be a lot better for it.”
This was the first of 48 NPF games for the Spirit, with their regular season ending on July 18.
Most of the Spirit games will be streamed live and free of charge on npf-tv.com, which will be accessible through the National Pro Fastpitch website.
(Note: NPF TV recommends downloading the latest browser versions of Chrome or Safari to ensure good-quality live streaming.)
The Softball Australia website and social media pages will provide links to the live streaming as they become available.
Games that are not streamed through the NPF website will be available on multiple other platforms, not through an app.
Straight after the NPF season, the Aussie Spirit will head to Japan to prepare for the XVI Women’s Softball World Championship, to be held in Chiba from August 2-12. This tournament is the first potential qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.