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23 July 2012
Before the commencement of play on the final day of play at the ISF XIII Women's World Championships in Yukon, Canada, the Aussie Spirit team had already achieved success, regardless of the result of the game. After a 6th place position at the 2010 World Championships in Venenzuela, the Aussie Spirit were guaranteed a medal, courtesy of wins against China and Canada the previous day. The colour was still to be decided and it was a challenge that the Aussie Spirit girls was ready for. The team has spent the last month on the road, preparing and playing each day to give themselves the opportunity to play on the last day of the World Championship.
After the brillance of the previous day's play, the Aussie Spirit were facing their ultimate opponent, Japan, and arguably the greatest pitcher in the world, Yukiko Ueno. To give themselves a chance of World Championship glory, the Aussie Spirit would have to beat Ueno and her Japanese teammates. After a enormous fight by the Aussie Spirit throughout seven innings, they fell short of their final goal, losing to Japan 2-0 and receiving a bronze medal.
Aussie Spirit started the game with Vanessa Stokes - a great achievement for the young Indigenous South Australian whose international career only spanned a few short months. Stokes pitched the first two innings of the game, allowing four Japanese hits. Uncharacteristically, the Aussie Spirit defense committed three errors in the first innings allowing Japan to score one run. Stokes was replaced on the mound by Zara Mee, and in quick succession, Kaia Parnaby came onto the mound for the Aussie Spirit team. Parnaby held the Japanese hitters for the four innings of work, giving up five hits against the world class lineup. Japan put an assurance run on the board in the 5th innings, giving them a game winning 2-0 lead.
The Aussie Spirit girls continued to fight and persist in the batting box against Ueno, scattering four hits across seven innings. Stacey Porter, Chelsea Forkin, Jodie Bowering and Melinda Weaver each hit safely. The never say die attitude and the belief that has characterised this team over the past month came to the fore in the bottom of the 7th innings, where they got their final chance to beat the Japanese. Weaver and Forkin hit safely and De Blaes was disciplined in the box to receive a base on balls. Aussie Spirit had loaded bases with no one out and Head Coach, Kere Johanson, believed that his team could come back and beat Japan. Unfortunately for the Aussie Spirit, Ueno rose to another level and struck out the next two hitters and got a ground ball to end the Aussie Spirit threat and the game to advance to the gold medal match.
Head Coach, Kere Johanson, was very proud of his team today and while the players were disappointed with the outcome of the game, Johanson reminded us all what the Aussie Spirit team had done over the past month to give themselves the opportunity to be in that situation today. Johanson stressed how proud he is of his team that is on the rise and how much they will learn as individuals and players from this experience. 'The Aussie Spirit has been on tour for the past month, and it has been a terrific journey. To see the players be the best of friends on an off the field and achieve success is great. My biggest satisfication with this team is to see how this journey has developed them as people. All the coaching staff have been rewarded by seeing these athletes become better people all the while playing great Softball'.
Japan went on to play in the gold medal game and after 10 innings of play, were victorious against the USA 2-1. Japan had only once before won the World Championship title in 1970 when the championship was held in Osaka, Japan. Reminiscent of their performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when they won gold, Japan relied on Yukiko Ueno to shut the Americans down. Similarly to 2008, Ueno pitched every innings for her team (17 innings) today and gave the Japan the win, a fitting finale for the International Softball Federation.
Other placings 5-16 will be confirmed by ISF shortly.
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