(Story & Photos by Marco Stoovelaar)
Queensland first to reach Final Australian Softball Championship
BLACKTOWN, Greater Western Sydney, New South Wales (Australia) -
Queensland Heat became the first team to qualify for the all-deciding Final of the 70th edition of the Women's Softball Fastpitch Australian National Championship Tournament.
On Saturday-evening (January 7), Day 6 of the event, Queensland nipped New South Wales Firestars 5-4 in the Semi-Final.
NSW now will face Western Australia Flames in the Second Semi-Final (Backdoor) on Sunday.
The winner of that game becomes the second finalist.
Western Australia is the team of Dutch international Saskia Kosterink.
Saturday began with the playing of remaining three games from the Round Robin, that rained out on Friday.
The results of these games determined the final ranking and match-ups for the Play-Offs.
Before today, some things already were clear.
On Thursday, it was decided that Queensland and NSW would face each other in the Semi-Final, as both had become unreachable for the other four teams.
On Friday, South Australia Starz was eliminated and Western Australia Flames secured itself of a spot in the Play-Offs.
Also on Friday, NSW handed Queensland its first loss and with that, the teams ended up in a tie for first place.
Both teams closed the Round Robin with another win and with that, NSW finished in first place, based on the run-difference in the head-to-head games against Queensland.
In the first game, Queensland had won 2-1, but in the second game, NSW won 6-2.
Today, South Australia Starz shutout Victoria Titans 2-0 to decide the final spot for the top-4.
That spot went to ACT Diamonds.
With the win, Starz ended up in a tie with Diamonds, but as the latter had won its two head-to-head games, it reached the top-4.
In case of a win for Titans, that team would have qualified for the Play-Offs, but now the team was eliminated.
As both the Flames and Diamonds lost today's games, it meant that the Flames closed the Round Robin in third place and the Diamonds in fourth.
New South Wales Firestars shutout Western Australia Flames 1-0 in its final game fo finish in first place.
The lone run was scored in the fifth inning when Jasmine Peters homered.
Two pitchers limited Flames to only two basehits, which were both hit by Tabitha Callander.
Saskia Kosterink was 0-for-2 and was replaced by Leigh Godfrey in the fifth.
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
Queensland Heat shutout ACT Diamonds 2-0.
The team opened the score in the first inning when Alexandra Forsyth tripled with one out and scored on a following single by Erin Thras.
The second run was added in the third at bat on a basesloaded walk.
Queensland used four pitchers in this game.
With the result of this game, ACT's face was determined with the outcome of the Starz vs. Titans game.
South Australia Starz also concluded the Round Robin with a shutout, winning 2-0 against Victoria Titans.
Both runs were scored in the fourth inning.
The first was scored in a double steal-situation, then second on a sacrifice fly by Madeline Cameron.
Winning pitcher Monica Perry went the distance and gave up only four basehits.
With the result of this game, ACT became the last team to reach the top-4.
Starz and Titans will meet each other again on Sunday in the game for fifth and sixth place.
In the late afternoon, in the first Play-Off game, Western Australia Flames won 6-1 vs. ACT Diamonds to reach the Second Semi-Final.
With the loss, Diamonds was eliminated and finished the event in fourth place.
Flames opened with two runs in the first inning, thanks to a single by Desiree Ybarra and a double by Stacey Webber.
A single by Chantelle Ladner added a run in the third.
Two more were scored in the fourth.
With one out, Saskia Kosterink walked and stole second base.
With two outs and after a pitching change, she score on a single by Leigh Godfrey, who then scored herself on a double by Ybarra.
In the sixth, Kosterink led off with a single, advanced on an outfield-error, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored the sixth run for Flames on another error.
Saskia, who was the lead-off hitter, was 2-for-3, walked once and scored twice.
...2 hits, 2 runs for Flames...
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
In the evening, in the Semi-Final, Queensland Heat trailed 4-2 after four innings against New South Wales Firestars, but won 5-4 to become the first finalist.
Queensland opened the score in the top of the second inning via an error, but NSW came alongside moments later on a single by Rachel Lack.
In the third, both teams again scored once, respectively on singles by Erin Thras and Samantha Poole.
In the fourth, NSW scored two runs to take a 4-2 lead.
First, a run was scored when an error followed an infield-hit, then a single by Taylah Tsitsikronis made it 4-2.
Queensland came alongside in the fifth.
With the bases loaded and two outs, two runs were scored on a single by Jessica Torpey.
In the top of the seventh, Queensland took the lead for the third time and this time hold onto it.
Chelsea Forkin led off with a triple, then scored on a following single by Erin Thras, who was 3-for-3.