(Story & Photos by Marco Stoovelaar)
New Zealand wins Challenge Cup
ALBANY, Auckland Council (New Zealand) -
New Zealand has won the TAB Challenge Cup, thanks to a convincing 9-0 win on Sunday (February 12) in the Final against Argentina.
New Zealand lost only one game in the International Men's Softball 5-day, 6-team tournament at AWF Sports Stadium at Rosedale Park in Albany, the northern suburb of Auckland.
The stadium was the site of the 2013 World Championship Softball Men.
New Zealand is a 6-time World Champion, winning the title in 1976, 1984, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2013.
Besides host New Zealand and Argentina, the other participants were the National Teams of Australia, Czech Republic, Japan and Samoa.
All six participating countries are in the top-12 of the World Ranking List of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).
New Zealand in the world's number one, followed by Japan and Argentina.
Australia (5), the Czech Republic (8) and Samoa (12) trail the top-three.
The Czech Republic is the reigning European Champion.
Last year, it captured the title for the third consecutive time and ninth time overall.
In the Final, Josh Pettett threw a complete game for New Zealand and gave up only two basehits.
He walked the lead-off batter in the first inning, but a double play followed.
In both the third and fourth inning, Argentina stranded a runner on second base.
New Zealand opened the score in the second inning off of starter Huemul Mata, thanks to a throwing error.
The lead was doubled in the next at bat when Campbell Enoka led off with a homerun.
In the fourth inning, Martin Gonzalez became the new pitcher for Argentina and he gave up another run in the fifth.
New Zealand then rallied for six runs in the bottom of the sixth to end the game via the mercy-rule run-difference.
Jovaan Hanley led off with a walk, which led to another pitching change.
Veteran Roman Godoy took over, but saw Hanley advance on a wild pitch, then gave up a bunt-single to Alfons Oveinikovas and loaded the bases when he walked pinch-hitter Isaac Fletcher.
Campbell Enoka followed with a runscoring single and with one out, pinch-hitter Josh Harbrow added a 2-run single to lift the lead to 6-0.
With that, New Zealand needed only one more run to end the game, but they scored three more.
With two outs, Wayne Lauly hit a walk-off, 3-run homerun to make it a 9-0 score.
The opening game of the event on Wednesday (February 8) was played between two top-teams.
Japan, which is ranked in second place on the WBSC-list, played against Argentina, which is ranked third.
And it was a thriller right from the beginning with Japan winning 6-4.
The deciding play of the game was in the sixth inning.
Argentina trailed 5-4 and had the bases loaded with no outs, but the Japanese defense then showed a spectacular play.
Santiago Carril grounded to third baseman Tomonori Inove, who forced out the runner on third base, then the ball was thrown around-the-horn for a triple play!
Both Argentina and Japan played three games on the first day of the event.
Later in the day, Argentina shutout the Czech Republic 4-0 and won 9-2 vs. Australia.
Japan lost 10-5 to New Zealand, then nipped the Czechs, 3-2.
Besides winning against Japan, New Zealand also won big against Samoa, 11-1.
On the second day, Australia, the Czech Republic, New Zealand and Samoa played three games.
New Zealand added three victories, winning convincingly against Argentina (10-1), Czech Republic (7-0) and Australia (8-1).
In the game against Argentina, New Zealand led 2-0, then rallied for eight runs in the fifth inning.
Winning pitcher Penese Iosefo gave up only one basehit.
In 2009, Iosefo played in the Netherlands big league and then was the pitching-ace for Spikes.
After the season, Iosefo was named Best Pitcher and Most Valuable Player of the Dutch league.
The Australians did win their other two games on Thursday against the Czechs (8-1) and Japan (1-0).
In its third game of the day, the Czech Republic was also left empty-handed against Samoa, losing 6-5.
...Penese Iosefo in 2009...|
...when he played for Spikes...
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
In its game against Japan, the Australian Steelers scored their lone run in the second inning.
Winning pitcher Harrison Peters gave up only one basehit.
The Czechs trailed 5-0 halfway the sixth inning against Samoa, but then rallied for five runs to come alongside.
Moments later, in the seventh, 'Tanifa Samoa' re-took the lead.
Samoa had opened the score in the first inning with one out, thanks to an error.
The team added three runs in the third inning on singles by Josh Niu (one-run) and (playing coach) Mike Niu (2-run).
Samoa then lifted the lead to 5-0 in the sixth on a grounder.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Czechs suddenly rallied for five runs to come alongside.
Lukas Fiala led off with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly.
With one out and two runners on base, Patrik Kopecny hit a 3-run homerun.
Next batter Marek Maly then reached on an error and scored the tying run on a following triple by Michal Koluch.
A pitching change followed and new pitcher Lewis Jerard then eliminated the next two batters.
In the top of the seventh, Samoa re-took the lead.
Matt Moriarty led off with a single, advanced on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a 2-out single by Jerard.
In the bottom of the seventh, Jiri Korcak tripled with two outs, but he was eliminated moments later trying to score.
On Day 3, New Zealand suffered its first loss of the event when it ended up short against Japan, 2-1.
Japan scored both runs in the fifth inning off of Josh Pettett when Yusuke Morita hit a 2-run homerun with two outs.
Earlier in the day, the Black Sox had won their sixth consecutive game, beating Samoa 10-3.
Argentina played three games today and won all three, beating Japan (2-1), Australia (6-3) and the Czech Republic (8-6).
Against Japan, Argentina broke an 1-1 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning when pinch-runner Alan Peker scored on a wild pitch with one out.
The Czechs remained winless, as they also lost 5-0 today to Japan on the third day of the event.
In the game against Argentina, the Czechs took a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Moments later, Argentina answered with four runs of their own in the bottom of the first and added three more in the third at bat.
...Argentinian Roman Godoy pitched in the 2014...|
...European Super Cup in Amstelveen (Neth.)...
...for Brasschaat from Belgium...
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
On Saturday, Day 4 of the tournament, the Czech Republic recorded two victories, winning 11-7 vs. Australia and 4-2 vs. Samoa.
Against Australia, the Czechs broke an 1-1 tie with a 5-run rally with two outs in the second inning.
In this at bat, there was only one single, but five walks, three of them with the bases loaded.
The other two runs in the at bat were scored on wild pitches.
Australia narrowed the deficit to 6-4, but the Czechs added three more runs in the fifth.
Trailing 9-4, Australia again got back in the fifth and sixth inning to make it a 9-7 score, but in the seventh, the Czechs scored two more insurance runs.
Against Samoa, the Czechs broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning when Patrik Kopecny led off with an inside-the-park-homerun and an error led to the fourth run.
In between the two games, the Czechs lost 8-1 to New Zealand, which added two more victories.
New Zealand also won vs. Australia (5-4) and Argentina (8-6) to finish in first place and qualify for the Final.
There was a bench-clearing brawl in the New Zealand vs. Argentina game, which led to the ejection of and suspension for New Zealand-Manager Ben Enoka.
With that, he missed the final.
Before losing to New Zealand, Argentina shutout Samoa 7-0 to end up in a tie with Japan, which won twice on Saturday.
Japan won big against Samoa (18-0), then also outscored Australia (7-3).
By finishing in a tie for second place, Japan and Argentina qualified for the Semi-Final.
On Sunday, the desicive games were played.
The day began with the Semi-Final between Japan and Argentina.
With a 6-0 shutout-win, Argentina reached the Final, while Japan finished in third place.
At the same time, the Czech Republic won 8-7 vs. Samoa to advance to the game for fourth place.
With the loss, Samoa finished in sixth place.
Trailing 3-1, the Czechs (who were outhit 13-12) rallied for six runs in the fifth inning, highlighted by a 3-run homerun by Patrik Kopecny.
After the Czechs scored another run in the sixth, Samoa came back to 8-7, but ended up short.
In the afternoon, Australia shutout the Czech Republic 6-0 to finish in fourth place.
With the loss, the Czechs ended up in fifth place.
The tournament then ended with New Zealand recording a big 9-0 shutout-win in the Final against Argentina.