Men’s softball No. 3 nation in the world Japan shocked the host crowd and claimed the TAB Challenge Cup 2019 with a 3-1 victory over No. 1 New Zealand in the final of the tournament. A two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning off the bat of Hikaru Matsuda provided the Japanese pitching staff enough difference to secure the title.
Both national teams had advanced to the final after crushing victories in the semifinal. New Zealand beat New Zealand B, 7-0, and Japan defeated Australia by a score of 10-2.
Australia, Japan and New Zealand are tunning up for the WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship 2019, to be held from 13-23 June, in Prague and Havlickuv Brod, Czech Republic. New Zealand is the defending world champions.
Reo Koyama, key member of the WBSC Junior Men’s Softball World Championship 2016 title for Japan, had a stellar outing in the final and claimed the win, pitching 6.33 innings with 5 hits, 1 run, 3 walks and 6 strikeouts. He kept the powerful Black Sox line up quiet for six innings before leaving the circle in the bottom of the seventh, with the score 3-1.
The game remained scoreless through five innings, but in the top of the sixth Matsuda connected a change up down in the zone and made the ball disappear over the left field fence to put Japan in front, 2-0. New Zealand’s pitcher Daniel Chapman had allowed only one hit in the first five innings, but that single mistake facing Matsuda costed him the game. Chapman went the distance for the host team allowing 4 hits and 3 runs, with 10 strikeouts.
One inning later Japan added another run, with a sacrifice fly by Yasumi Kotaro, after back to back singles by Inoue Tomonori and Yusuke Morita.
However, the always dangerous New Zealand team reacted in the bottom of the seventh. Cole Evans was hit by pitch, one out later pinch-hitter Reilly Makea singled and then Ben Enoka hit an RBI single to put his team on the scoreboard. With a two-run lead and two runners on, Hiroki Ikeda replaced Koyama in the circle. He retired Cole Evans with four pitches (fly to center field), and walked Nathan Nukunuku to load the bases. Then Jerome Raemaki stepped to the plate, but the designated hitter chased a pitch outside the strike zone, on a 2-2 count, for the final out of the tournament.
- NZL B
New Zealand’s latest Hall of Famers honoured
Jarrad Martin and Bob Leveloff, members of the WBSC World Softball Hall of Fame class of 2017, were honoured on Saturday night during the TAB Challenge Cup.
Martin, a four-time senior World Champion who captained the Black Sox’s title winning team in 2004, was given his Hall of Fame ring award during an on-diamond ceremony. After the speeches, the Blacks Sox team performed a haka to honour Martin, who represented the Black Sox between 1991 and 2013.
Leveloff was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his meritorious services as a member of New Zealand Softball council; he also served as Vice-President of the former International Softball Federation.