Steelers finish fourth at NZ Challenge Cup

The Aussie Steelers finished fourth against world-class competition in the Challenge Cup in Auckland.

Steelers finish fourth at NZ Challenge Cup

Hosts New Zealand have taken out the Challenge Cup tournament in Auckland after overpowering Argentina in the final.

The Aussie Steelers had to settle for fourth place behind NZ, Argentina and Japan in qualifying rounds.

Having lost only one game for the tournament, NZ were hot favourites going into the final against Argentina, who qualified by beating Japan earlier in the day.

The favouritism proved justified as the Kiwis ran away with the game with a six-run sixth inning to win 9-0.

James Brownlow

James Brownlow.

Game 11: Australia 6, Czech Republic 0

Having missed the playoffs, the best the Steelers could do was finish fourth. They accomplished this with a comprehensive win over the Czechs, who had beaten them the previous day.

Lewis Weldon, Mark Harris and James Brownlow all homered for the Steelers, who scored two runs in each of three innings on their way to a 6-0 win.

Harrison Peters was back to his dominant best, striking out 11 and allowing just three hits and a walk.

Game 10: Japan 7, Australia 3

Before they had even set foot in the batter’s box, the Steelers found themselves four runs down as Japan got off to a flying start.

The rest of the game was an even contest, but the Aussies could not make up the lost ground, losing 7-3.

Hayden Matthews and Lewis Weldon again powered the Australian offence with home runs.

Game 9: New Zealand 5, Australia 4

The Steelers came close to causing a major upset in this game, but the home team held on in a tight finish to win 5-4.

Lewis Weldon homered for the Aussies and Mark Harris had two hits.

Game 8: Czech Republic 11,  Australia 7

This was a must-win game for the Steelers, but they saw their playoff chances disappear in a slugfest against the Czech Republic.

Hayden Matthews had three hits, including a home run and a double, as the Aussies outhit the Czechs 11-9 but still lost 11-7.

Liam O’Leary had two hits, including a home run.

Game 7: Argentina 6, Australia 3

The Steelers led this one 2-1 after four innings, but the Argentines finished strongly, scoring five runs in the last two innings to win 6-3.

Lewis Weldon was the pick of the hitters, briefly giving the Steelers the lead with a solo home run in the fourth inning and driving in a run with a single in the seventh.

Aaron Cockman also had two hits, with one each to Hayden Mathews (double) Brendan O’Byrne, Julian Jemmott and Shaun Goffer.

Shaun Goffer

Shaun Goffer.

Game 6: Australia 4, Samoa 2

After tough games against Japan and New Zealand, the Steelers might reasonably have expected to cruise through against Samoa.

But this was no easy victory. The underdog Samoans battled hard all the way before going down 4-2.

Australia’s leadoff batter, Hayden Mathews, opened the scoring with a home run in the first inning. But any thoughts of a Steeler slugfest evaporated when Samoan pitcher Lewis Jerard restricted the Aussies to six hits and three walks, with five strikeouts.

Mathews and Shaun Goffer each had two hits, and Brendan O’Byrne and Julian Jemmott each hit doubles.

Starting pitcher Jarryd Farrell allowed just one earned run on three hits and three walks in 5.2 innings, striking out five. Harrison Peters finished the job in relief, not allowing a base runner in 1.1 innings.

Game 5: New Zealand 8, Australia 1

An inside-the-park home run by Liam O’Leary was one of the few highlights for the Aussie Steelers as they were well beaten by hosts and world No. 1 New Zealand.

O’Leary’s blast, which hit the right field foul pole and rebounded away from the fielder, tied the score at 1-1 in the second inning. But after that the New Zealand offence kicked into gear, scoring six runs in the third inning and another in the fourth to win 8-1.

New Zealand pitcher Nik Hayes was dominant, allowing just two hits and no walks, with seven strikeouts.

Game 4: Australia 1, Japan 0

The Aussie Steelers claimed a huge scalp in their Challenge Cup campaign in Auckland, beating powerhouse Japan in a hard-fought pitchers’ duel on day two of the tournament.

Lewis Weldon

Lewis Weldon.

Harrison Peters pitched a fantastic game with no margin for error as the Steelers beat the world’s second-ranked team 1-0.

Peters pitched seven strong innings, allowing just one hit and one walk, while striking out eight.

He needed to be on top of his game as three Japanese pitchers combined to allow just three hits and no walks, with 10 strikeouts.

Australia’s only run came with some Japanese assistance in the bottom of the second inning. Lewis Weldon and Brendan O’Byrne singled, and Weldon later scored after two fielding errors.

Game 3: Australia 8, Czech Republic 1

The Steelers returned to the winning list early on day two, beating the Czech Republic 8-1. Coach Laing Harrow had warned before the tournament that the Czechs would be tough opponents, and so it proved early, with no score for either team in the first two innings.

But the Aussies blew the game open in the third, scoring four runs. They added another run in the fourth and put the contest beyond doubt with three more in the sixth.

Pitcher Jarryd Farrell dominated, allowing just one run on four hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts.

Centre fielder Hayden Matthews had an outstanding game, collecting two hits including a home run, scoring three and driving in two. Mark Harris and Ryan Merriman also collected two hits each and drove in two runs.

Game 2: Argentina 9, Australia 2

In their second game, the Steelers faced much tougher opposition and came up short, losing 9-2 to Argentina. They were restricted to only two hits, singles by Mark Harris and Julian Jemmott.

Australia had no answers to Argentine pitcher Roman Godoy, who did not allow an earned run while striking out seven and issuing two walks.

Game 1: Australia 12, Samoa 3

In their opening game against Samoa, the Steelers overcame a shaky start before cruising to a 12-3 win.

Left fielder Mark Harris led the charge for the Steelers, blasting two homers and a double and driving in five runs. Centre fielder Shaun Goffer also homered.

Pitcher Harrison Peters gave up three runs in the first two innings but settled down after that, striking out eight and walking two in a complete game.