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Updated: February 13, 2017
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Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
International Softball
Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2017 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos by Henk Seppen, Fred Versluis & Marco Stoovelaar)

Japan wins International Down Under Series

BLACKTOWN, Greater Westerm Sydney, New South Wales (Australia) - The National Softball-team of Japan has won the annual International Down Under Series, which was held the past few days again in Australia. At the Blacktown International Sportspark in Blacktown, near Sydney, Japan shutout Australia 4-0 in the Final on Sunday (February 12) to remain unbeaten.

The event, which opened on Thursday (February 9), had four participating teams. Besides the National Teams of Japan and Australia, the other were the National Team of New Zealand and an All-Star Team from Australia. All teams met each other twice in the preliminary round, which was followed by the game for third place and the Final.

...Eri Yamada won the title with...
...Japan at the 2014...
...World Championship...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
Japan is ranked in first place on the World Ranking List of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC). Japan won the Gold Medal at the Olympic Games of 2008 in Beijing (China) and captured the World Championship-title in 1970, 2012 and 2014. Last year, Japan won the Silver Medal at the World Championship in Canada, which then was won by the USA. Amongst the Japanese players in this tournament were veterans Eri Yamada and Yuka Ichiguchi, who also were with the team when it won the World Championship-title in 2014 when the global event was held in Haarlem (Netherlands).

Japan registered some convincing victories in the 4-day event, including 8-0 and 10-0 shutouts against the All-Stars and 8-1 and 11-0 wins against New Zealand. The Asian squad had more difficulties with Australia, or Aussie Spirit, which is the nickname of the National Women's Team. Against Australia, Japan won only 1-0 and 2-0, before facing the team again in the Final.

Except against Japan, Australia won four times in the first round. The team won 7-0 and only 1-0 against the All-Stars, while winning 7-1 and 6-1 against New Zealand.

The All-Stars and New Zealand only won once against each other. The All-Stars won the first game with a 7-0 score, then New Zealand won 1-0 in the next match-up. In the game for third and fourth place, New Zealand nipped the All-Stars, 3-2.

The All-Stars Team was compiled of players from the Australian several (former) National Team-players, including Belinda White, Chelsea Robinson and Simone Freeman. Last year, Belinda White made her debut in the Dutch big league, playing for DSS in the Golden League.

...Katrina Nukunuku (then-Stockford) (left)...
...with Lindsey Meadows after winning...
...the Dutch Championship-title in...
...2008 with Tex Town Tigers...
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
Playing in the Australian National Team were familiar players, such as Leigh Godfrey, Stacey Porter, Chelsea Forkin, Taylah Tsitsikronis, Erin Thras, Samanta Poole, Clare Warwick, Stacey McManus, Kaia Parnaby, Rachel Lack and Janice Blackman. In the New Zealand-squad, Katrina Nukunuku was one of the players. Both Leigh Godfrey and Katrina Nukunuku played in the Dutch big league in the past. Godfrey played for Sparks Haarlem in 2013, while Nukunuku (then Katrina Stockford) won the Dutch Championship-title with Tex Town Tigers in 2008.

Pitcher Kaia Parnaby had some strong outings for Aussie Spirit. In the opener against New Zealand, she gave up only one basehit in four innings, before being relieved. The next day, she threw a complete game, 5-inning, one-hitter against the All-Stars. Veteran Stacey Porter tripled, homered, scored three runs and batted in three in this game.

In the 8-1 win against New Zealand, Japanese leftfielder Mikiko Eguchi went 3-for-3, scored three runs and batted in two.

On Saturday, Japan opened with an 11-0 shutout-win against New Zealand. Pitchers Kanna Kaifu (3 innings) and Ayaka Izumi (2 innings) not only didn't gave up runs, they also threw a combined No-Hitter. Catcher Nayu Kiyohara was 3-for-3.

Australia won its first game against the All-Stars with a 7-0 score, but the second one ended only in 1-0. Australia collected only three hits and scored the lone run in the third. With the bases loaded and one out, a grounder by Chelsea Forkin produced the lone run. Kaia Parnaby threw a 2-hitter.

New Zealand also won only 1-0 in its second game against the All-Stars. In the fourth inning, Aaria Tawha led off with a single and advanced to third base when an outfield-error followed. With two outs, she scored on a wild pitch. Losing pitcher Amelia Cudicio struckout eleven batters and gave up only one basehit.

...MVP Stacey Porter...
...On the photo, she poses with the...
...Bronze Trophy that Australia won... the 2014 World Championship... Haarlem ((Netherlands)...
(© Photo: Fred Versluis)
The games between Japan and Australia offered suspense. In the first match-up, Japan won only 1-0 and scored the lone run in the second inning off of Ellen Roberts, who gave up only three hits. Three Japanese pitchers allowed only two basehits. The lone run was scored by Natsuko Sugama, who led off with a single, then scored all the way from first base when a sacrifice bunt by Hitomi Kawabata ended in a throwing error.

In the second game, Japan won 2-0 and scored two unearned runs in the fourth inning on three errors with two outs. With two outs, Nozomi Nagasaki reached on an error, then another error followed on a force play-grounder by Hitomi Kawabata. Hereafter, Minami Sato produced a runscoring single, but when an outfield-error followed, another run was added. Australia outhit Japan, 8-3.

In the game for third place, New Zealand trailed 2-1, then scored twice in the top of the seventh to won 3-2. A single by Stefanie Smith gave New Zealand an 1-0 lead in the third inning. The All-Stars answered with two runs in the fifth, thanks to a 2-out, 2-run single by Belinda White. New Zealand turned the game its way in the seventh. The bases got loaded when Kingsley Avery walked, Ancelle Van Molendorff reached on a bunt-single and Aaria Tawha was hit by a pitch. An error on a force play-grounder by Stefanie Smith then led to the tying run and a wild pitch made it 3-2 in favor of New Zealand.

In the Final, Japan opened the score in the third inning off of starter Kaia Parnaby. Haruka Agatsuma then led off with a single and later scored on a wild pitch. In the fourth, Japan doubled its lead on a single by Minami Sato and in the fifth, two more runs were added. Singles by Eri Yamada and Mana Atsumi produced the two runs. Yukari Hamamura went the distance for Japan, struckout six and gave up only three hits. She was named Player of the Final.

Stacey Porter (Australia) was named Most Valuable Player of the event, while Ayaka Izumi (Japan) was the Best Pitcher. Chelsea Forkin (Australia) was the Best Hitter of the Down Under Series.

(February 12)

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