What an amazing day for the Aussie Spirit! They won both games of a Softball World Cup double-header in Oklahoma City, with each game ending in dramatic fashion.
Taylah Tsitsikronis hit two home runs – including a walkoff grand slam – and drove in five as the Spirit came from a seemingly impossible position to beat the USA Junior National team.
In the second game, Kaia Parnaby put in another strong showing, pitching a complete game as the Aussies held on for a narrow win over Puerto Rico in a game that ended with an out at home plate.
Aussie Spirit Head Coach Fabian Barlow was thrilled with the way his team bounced back after a disappointing loss the previous day.
“We have asked every player to make some form of a contribution every chance they get, be that big or small,” Barlow said. “And it was the smaller contributions such as walks or tough outs that led to Taylah’s big contribution at the end of the first game.
“Kaia was very good against Puerto Rico in really tough conditions and worked in well with our defence.
“We grew as a team today and learned from yesterday. We will need to be better again tomorrow.”
After a win against Mexico and a loss to the Philippines on the opening day of the XII Softball World Cup, the Australians now have a 3-1 win-loss record, with games against Canada, Japan and the USA to come over the weekend.
Game Three: Australia 6, US Junior National Team 5
Trailing 5-1 going into the bottom of the final inning, Australia’s task looked hopeless. That lone run had come in the fourth inning, a solo home run by Taylah Tsitsikronis that seemed to be meaningless after the US juniors padded their lead with runs in the fifth and sixth innings and went into the seventh leading 5-1.
But a three-up-three-down top of the seventh by Spirit pitcher Ellen Roberts set the scene for a dramatic bottom half. Jessica Torpey led off with a single and advanced when Jordan Lambert walked. The rally looked to have been snuffed out when US pitcher Holly Azevedo retired the next two Spirit hitters.
But that’s when things got interesting again. Leigh Godfrey walked to load the bases with two out, ending the night for Azevedo, who was replaced by Mariah Lopez. Stacey Porter then drove in a run with a four-pitch walk, setting the scene for Tsitsikronis to blast a 3-1 pitch over the centre field fence for the game-winning grand slam.
Game Four: Australia 3, Puerto Rico 2
This game was also in doubt right down to the final play. Australia took an early lead when a Taylah Tsitsikronis sacrifice fly scored Leigh Godfrey, then Clare Warwick singled to drive in Stacey Porter to give the Spirit a 2-0 lead.
After Puerto Rico tied it up in the sixth inning, the Spirit reclaimed the lead when Warwick singled and was driven in by Jessica Torpey’s base hit.
Needing a clean inning to ice the game, Parnaby got the first two outs before allowing a double to pinch hitter Alexis Gonzales. A line drive by Elicia D’Orazio sent Gonzales charging home with what would have been the tying run, but an accurate throw by Spirit left fielder Erin Thras and a brave tag by catcher Belinda White ended the game.
The win was a fitting reward for Parnaby, who struck out nine batters while walking only one, having also pitched four innings in the earlier game.