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Updated: January 5, 2017
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Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
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Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2017 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos by Henk Seppen & Softball Australia)

Queensland, New South Wales in Semi-Final Australian Softball Championship

BLACKTOWN, Greater Western Sydney, New South Wales (Australia) - Queensland Heat and New South Wales Firestars will face each other in the Semi-Final of the 70th edition of the Women's Softball Fastpitch Australian National Championship Tournament. On Thursday (January 5), Queensland remained unbeaten and raised its record to 8-0 on Day 4 of the 7-day tournament at Blacktown International Sportspark in Blacktown, near Sydney. New South Wales also won twice and is 7-1. With that, the two teams will finish in first and second place and will meet in next Saturday's Semi-Final. On Friday-evening, the final game of the Round Robin will go between the two league-leaders to deciced first and second place.

The winner of the Semi-Final advances to the Final on Sunday. The loser gets another chance by playing the Second Semi-Final (Backdoor) against the winner of the game between the teams that will finish in third and fourth place. On Friday, all other four teams in the competition are still having a chance to reach the top-4.

Day 4 was a rainy day. After the first game was played in the afternoon, the remaining five games were postponed. Thanks to hard work by the groundscrew, it was possible to resume the schedule at 7:30 PM. All other games could be completed, but the final one ended well after midnight.

...Justine Smethurst...
(© Ph: Softball Australia)
In its first game today, Queensland Heat won only 1-0 against South Australia Starz. On Monday, Queensland won with the same score against the Starz in its first game of the tournament. Today was another interesting pitching-duel. National Team-pitcher Justine Smethurst did an outstanding job for Queensland, despite a long rain-delay. She went the distance, struckout eight batters and threw a No-Hitter. She almost threw a Perfect Game, but that ended with two outs in the seventh inning (!) when she hit Belinda White with a pitch. After White was replaced by a pinch-runner, a comeback-grounder ended the game. American Morgan Melloh started for South Australia and gave up only four hits in five innings, before being relieved, but she also walked fout batters. The lone run was scored in the fifth inning with one out and runners on first and second base, thanks to a single by Erin Thras.

In its next game, in the late evening, Queensland won 4-1 against Western Australia Flames. Queensland decided the game with a 3-run rally in the third inning. All three runs were scored on a triple by Chelsea Forkin, who scored the fourth run herself in the fifth. Western Australia was limited to four basehits, including hits by Saskia Kosterink and Leigh Godfrey.

The fourth day of competition began with an afternoon-game between ACT Diamonds and Western Australia Flames. Trailing 1-0, the Flames scored twice in the sixth inning and went on to win 2-1. In the sixth, Jemma Freegard led off with a single, advanced on a grounder, then scored when Desiree Ybarra homered. Winning pitcher Amber Johnson gave up only four hits and went the distance for the Flames. Saskia Kosterink was 0-for-3 in this game for the Flames.

...Greta Cecchetti pitching in 2014...
...for Italy during the World...
...Championship in Haarlem (Neth.)...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
After this game, the rain struck and all games were suspended. At 7:30 PM, the players returned to the field and Queensland Heat then shutout South Australia Starz, 1-0. In the next game, Victoria Titans won 3-0 against ACT Diamonds. Titans scored all runs in the fifth inning off of Vanessa Stokes, who struckout seven and went the distance for the Diamons. With one out and the bases loaded, Marina Walker delivered a runscoring single, followed by a 2-run single by Sarah Tutchener. Italian National Team-pitcher Greta Cecchetti went the distance for Victoria, struckout eight and gave up only two basehits. Cecchetti retired the first 12 batters she faced, but her Perfect Game then ended when she gave up a lead-off single to Katina Robson in the fifth inning.

New South Wales Firestars played its first game of the day at 9:30 PM and won 9-0 in a 5-inning game against South Australia Starz. NSW scored four runs in the first inning and added four more in the fourth at bat. In the first, Stacey Porter opened the score with a single, then Samantha Poole followed with a 3-run homerun. Leading 5-0, a 3-run double by Jasmine Peters highlighted the 4-run fourth inning. NSW collected 10 hits, including three by Stacey McManus.

After Queensland Heat defeated Western Australia Flames 4-1, the final game of the day was played. In this match-up, Victoria Titans faced New South Wales Firestars in a game that started shortly before midnight. NSW went on to win 5-0 to record its seventh victory. In this game, Samanta Pole was 2-for-4 with two RBI's. Starting and winning pitcher Simone Freeman struckout 10 batters and gave up two hits in the five innings she pitched. Ellen Roberts then completed the game, adding four more strikeouts.

(January 5)

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