AUCKLAND – The world’s No. 1 ranked team, New Zealand, rediscovered their form with a disciplined 9-0 win over Argentina in the final of the WBSC-sanctioned Challenge Cup in Auckland.
The Black Sox avenged their previous defeat against Argentina from November 2016 by winning the Men’s Softball TAB Challenge Cup over the South American powerhouse.
New Zealand had qualified directly for the final after a 8-6 win over world No. 3 Argentina on Saturday night.
Argentina secured the rematch after downing Japan 6-0 earlier on Sunday, but couldn’t match a focused Black Sox team at Rosedale Park in Albany.
New Zealand delivered a vastly improved defensive effort, despite missing Ben Enoka, who was suspended after he was ejected following an all-in brawl the previous night.
The Kiwis scored the first run of the game in the second inning. Cole Evans got on base and was immediately hit home by Jovaan Hanley due to a fielding error.
Argentina tried to respond in the next inning as Santiago Carril doubled to open the inning, but they were unable to capitalise.
The Black Sox doubled their lead at their next at-bat in the third when Campbell Enoka hit a homer and put the game at 2-0.
Argentina starter Huemul Mata was relieved in the fourth inning by Martín González, who allowed consecutive hits but managed to escape the inning with no further damage.
However, in the fifth inning New Zealand scored one more, with a shot by Wayne Laulu to score Thomas Enoka.
The sixth inning allowed the hosts to end the game early with a six-run inning, including two walks, three singles and a three-run Laulu home run.
New Zealand head coach Mark Sorenson was happy with his team’s improvement over the five-day tournament as they prepare for the WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship in Canada later this year.
“We saved our best until last, and the exciting thing for me is I’ve seen what we can produce. It’s the sort of thing we’ve been working towards. We’re making progress, we’re heading in the right direction,” he said.
Argentina head coach Julio Gamarci was pleased with his side’s performance during the tournament, but said they would to work more on aspects of their game.
But he was generous about the Black Sox. “Kudos to the home team…(they were) perfect.”
The Black Sox’s only loss in the six-nation tournament was a 2-1 defeat by world No. 2 Japan on Friday, giving them an overall 9-1 record.
Pitcher Josh Pettett (6 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 5 K) delivered an impressive performance, conceding just two hits across six innings in an MVP-winning effort.
1st: New Zealand
5th: Czech Republic