(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photo by Henk Seppen & Marco Stoovelaar)
Saskia Kosterink, Leigh Godfrey, Belinda White open Australian Softball Championship
BLACKTOWN, Greater Western Sydney, New South Wales (Australia) -
On Monday (January 2), the 70th edition of the Women's Softball Fastpitch Australian National Championship Tournament went underway at Blacktown International Sportspark in Blacktown, near Sydney.
The seven-day tournament for the Australian Championships ends coming Sunday.
Defending champion Queensland Heat opened the event with two shutout-victories on Monday.
New South Wales Firestars also won twice on the first day.
A year ago, the event was hampered by heavy rain in the first days of competition, resulting in several cancellations and re-scheduling of games.
But today, the six scheduled games could be played under fine conditions.
This year, only one Dutch player participates in the event, being Saskia Kosterink.
She again plays for Western Australia Flames.
Last year, Britt Vonk made her debut in Australia and also played in the Championship-tournament for Queensland Heat, but she is not playing in Australia this season.
A year ago, Vonk won the Championship-title with Queensland, whose Head Coach Fabian Barlow was appointed Head Coach of the Australian National Softball Team (Aussie Spirit) last Friday (December 30).
Barlow earlier was the Head Coach of the National Team during the Olympic Games of 2008 in Beijing (China).
He led the team of Queensland to the finals of the Australian Championship between 2011 and 2016.
In the team of Western Australia, Saskia Kosterink is a teammate of Leigh Godfrey.
The two also played together for Sparks Haarlem in the Dutch big league in 2013.
Godfrey, who is a former player of the Australian National Team, then was named Most Valuable Player.
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
Italian players Greta Cecchetti and Ilario Pino returned again to the Australian competition this season.
This week, Cecchetti plays for Victoria Titans after having played for ACT Diamonds a year ago.
Pino is playing again for the Diamonds, as she did last year.
Also returning to Australia this season was pitcher Monica Perry.
This week, the American righthander plays for South Australia Starz, for whom she played before.
In this squad, she again is a teammate of Australian National Team-catcher Belinda White, who last year made her debut in the Dutch Golden League, playing for DSS.
Monica Perry pitched for Terrasvogels in its Dutch Championship-season in 2013.
She also was on the roster of Terrasvogels in the next three seasons, but has not been active for the team, as she then played in the Italian Softball League.
This past off-season, Perry transfered to Oolders Omaco Sparks Haarlem to be eligible to play for the Dutch champion in the upcoming season this year.
Perry will play in Italy again this Summer.
Amongst the familiar names of the (former) Australian National Team-players besides Leigh Godfrey and Belinda White are Vanessa Stokes, Clare Warwick (both ACT Diamonds), Rachel Lack, Stacey McManus, Kaia Parnaby, Stacey Porter, Taylah Tsitsikronis (all New South Wales Firestars), Chelsea Forkin, Justine Smethurst, Erin Thras (all Queensland Heat), Chelsea Robinson (South Australia Starz) and Stacey Webber (Western Australia Flames).
Six teams participate in the National Championship Tournament, being the representing teams from New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.
The winner of the tournament wins the Gilley's Shield, the trophy for the Open Women's Australian National Championship.
The trophy is named after Mack Gilley, who was the President of the Queensland Softball Association, who organised the first interstate championship competition in 1947.
On Monday, Queensland Heat opened with a 7-0 shutout-win against Victoria Titans.
Later in afternoon, Queensland nipped South Australia Starz, 1-0.
In the opener, Queensland collected 12 basehits, including three by Janice Blackman.
Winning pitcher Justine Smethurst struckout eleven batters and gave up only one basehit.
She gave up a lead-off single to Jackie Di Siervi in the first inning, then allowed only two more batters (both walks) to reach base in the remainder of the 5-inning, mercy-rule game.
One of the umpires in the 4-man crew in this game was Czech international umpire Jan Hora.
In the second game, Queensland scored its lone run in the sixth inning off of Monica Perry, who went the distance for South Australia.
Winning pitcher Sandra Holden threw a complete game for the Heat and gave up only two basehits, which were hit by Ada Brincat-Tree and Belinda White.
Monica Perry also gave up only three basehits, two of them were registered by catcher Carmelle Sorensen.
In the sixth, Dorinda Stone reached on an error, then the bases got loaded via two walks.
After a force out at the plate, a steal-situation led to the lone run.
New South Wales Firestars nipped South Australia Starz 3-2 in its first game of the day and with that, it handed the Starz their second loss.
Stacey McManus went 3-for-4 for NSW, while veteran Stacey Porter was 2-for-2.
One of them being a 2-run homerun that gave her team a 2-0 lead in the first inning off of American pitcher Morgan Melloh.
Belinda White delivered two of the five Starz-hits, including a 2-run double that tied the score in the fourth.
A runscoring single by McManus then broke the 2-2 tie in the sixth.
...Leigh Godfrey playing for...|
...Sparks Haarlem in 2013...
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
In the evening, NSW closed the first day of competition with a 2-0 win against ACT Diamonds with the second run being scored on a triple by Stacey Porter in the sixth inning.
Czech Jan Hora was behind the plate in this game.
In its first game today, ACT Diamonds had shutout Western Australia Flames 6-0.
The Diamonds scored all their runs in the sixth inning.
In this at bat, the first two batters reached on an error, then the bases got loaded via a walk.
The rally was then opened when Italian Ilaria Pino delivered a 3-run triple.
Singles by Kylie Robson and Katherine Tye accounted for the next three runs.
The Flames collected only three hits, including one by Leigh Godfrey.
Saskia Kosterink, who played in leftfield, was 0-for-3.
In its second game, Western Australia won 4-3 against Victoria Titans.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning, Leigh Godfrey led off for the Flames with a single, stole second base and advanced on a wild pitch.
Hereafter, Jemma Freegard walked and also stole second base.
The two runners then scored when Saskia Kosterink followed with a triple to put the Flames ahead, 2-1 off of Italian starter Greta Cecchetti.
In the third inning, Kosterink delivered another runscoring triple to make it a 3-1 score.
But in the sixth inning, Victoria came alongside thanks to a 2-run homerun by Bree Wanke.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Flames decided the game in its favor.
Allanah Alvarado led off with a walk, then her pinch-runner Monique Rimmer moved on a sacrifice bunt and a flyout.
With two outs and first base open, Leigh Godfrey received an intentional walk, but hereafter Jemma Freegard delivered a walk-off single that made it a 4-3 final score.