The New Zealand White Sox have returned from the Down Under Series softball tournament in Australia having delivered a message to world number one Japan and third ranked Australia.
The tournament, which played out over the long weekend in Blacktown, Sydney, featured four teams with the hosts fielding two balanced squads named Australia Green and Australia Gold, while New Zealand and Japan provided one team each.
New Zealand’s national women’s side, who rank eight in the world currently, may have only earned one win in their debut at the tournament, but the margins of loss in their defeats against the world number three sides in particular, were only three runs at most.
Utility player Beth Stavert says the results are a sign of how much the team has developed in recent years.
“This weekend we proved we are closing the gap with Australia,” she said.
“We proved to ourselves that we can compete with and beat some of the best players in the world. I was really proud of how the girls played.”
Their solo victory came against Australia Gold – the 1-0 triumph tasting even sweeter after Kiwi pitcher Jennifer Feret struck out captain Stacey Porter, who is currently regarded as the best batter in women’s softball.
Charlotte Pointon provided the game-winning run in the first inning, displaying her speed to earn an inside-the-park homerun after driving the ball to right field.
Japan proved they were rightfully ranked the best in the world however, going through the tournament undefeated and beating the girls in black 13-0 and 10-0 in their two games.
Outfielder Ancelle van Molendorff said the experience was the best she had to date regardless.
“There was such a positive team vibe over there.
“Everyone was playing really well and it was awesome to see all the hard work and training we’ve been doing is paying off – you can actually see it on the diamond which I think will only encourage us to work harder.”
Coach Kevin Gettins now has five months to refine his team before the World Championships in Surrey, Canada, but if results from the Down Under series are anything to go off, the White Sox will definitely be looking to improve on that current eighth world ranking.