Black Sox humbled by big-hitting United States in costly Softball World Cup loss

The Black Sox have suffered their first loss at the Softball World Cup after being pounded for two big home runs by the United States.

Starting pitcher Josh Pettett dished up two-RBI dingers to both Blaine Milheim and Erick Ochoca in a fateful third inning as the Americans celebrated a convincing 7-0 shutout win in Auckland on Sunday night.

Stung by the comprehensive defeat to the Americans – who they had traditionally dominated for the last 30 years – the Black Sox must now regroup before Monday night’s clash with world champions Argentina.

Black Sox coach Mark Sorenson lamented his side’s failure to score, saying: “It’s pretty tough to win when you don’t score runs.”

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Rain disrupted the game, but Sorenson said the tricky conditions weren’t an excuse and were the same for both teams.

There was certainly a sense in the Whakaata Māori Stadium stands that the stable door was belatedly locked after the horse had bolted with the pitching switch from Pettett to Pita Rona only made with the Americans holding a 5-0 lead.

But Sorenson said: “I still felt Josh had good stuff.

“It was the pitch that Ochoa hit out that wasn’t supposed to be there. We are going to have to have a look at our strategy around how we’re approaching opposition hitters because there was a little bit of confusion it seemed among the battery around what we were throwing there.

“You could jump out and get Josh out of there after the first home run, but I still believed he had it.”

Tane Mumu got one of the Black Sox's seven safe hits. (File photo).

Brett Phibbs/Photosport

Tane Mumu got one of the Black Sox’s seven safe hits. (File photo).

Catcher Te Wera Bishop also felt Pettett “definitely still had his stuff”.

“It was one of those times when hitters just turn up,” he said.

By contrast the Black Sox hitters didn’t. Ben Enoka’s home run in a 3-1 opening day win over the Czech Republic remains New Zealand’s only RBI (run batted in).

USA starter Jon Gwizdala, first reliever Javier Labanino-Caballero and Australian-born closer Brad Kilpatrick scattered seven hits while their batters took 10 off the Kiwi hurlers.

United States shortstop Cam Schiller starred with some sensational outs despite appearing to be limping for most of the game.

The Black Sox – who now have a one-win one-loss record – started well with Pettett snaring three strikeouts in the top of the first inning.

They also got back-to-back singles from Ben Enoka and Reilly Makea in the bottom of the first, but couldn’t score.

The Black Sox in a huddle.  (File photo).

Brett Phibbs/Photosport

The Black Sox in a huddle. (File photo).

But they fell behind in the second inning after Matt Palazzo drew a walk and advanced on left-handed hitter Jonathan Lynch’s opposite field single to left field.

Pettett struck out Tyler Bouley, but, with two down, Zachary Shaw singled to centerfield to score Palazzo.

After a 30-minute rain delay, the Americans came out firing in the top of the third.

Milheim smashed it over the centerfield fence with Nick Mullins on base and Ochoa stuck the ball over the right field barrier with Cameron Schiller aboard.


The Black Sox beat the Czech Republic 3-1 after a big home run by Ben Enoka at his sixth World Cup.

The Black Sox belatedly made a pitching change, yanking Pettett and bringing on Rona for his first innings on the mound at a World Cup.

He instantly conceded a single to Palazzo, but got out of the inning after catcher Bishop’s laser arm threw out Palazzo at second base and Rona struck out the next batter.

But the 5-0 deficit left the Black Sox with an ultimately unscalable mountain to climb.

Bishop’s two radar gun outs at second base were the main highlights for the Black Sox, although Rona – boosted by his hometown North Harbor crowd – toiled hard on the mound, taking nine strikeouts for five hits and two earned runs.

Sorenson felt Rona “got in a groove” in the middle stages before the last couple of runs, in the top of the seventh inning, took the last bit of fight out of the Black Sox.

Kilpatrick, the 22-year-old left-hander from Sydney, fanned three Black Sox to end the game, leaving the home side with the bases loaded.

Palazzo had three hits for the USA and Lynch and Milheim each had two.

The Black Sox-USA game started 90 minutes late after rain delayed the finish of the earlier Canada-Denmark game.

Canada helped make up some lost time by blanking the Danes 10-0 in four innings after three home runs – to Quinten Bruce, Bryan Abrey and Colin Walsh – in the bottom of the fourth.

Cuba – who had pushed champions Argentina hard in a 3-1 opening round defeat – inflicted the Czech Republic’s second loss with a 7-0 rain-interrupted whitewash. Miguel Savigne smashed a home run and a double for the Cubans and Osvaldo Perez hit a triple.

Edinson Marrero homered and Carlos Villegas tripled as Venezuela beat South Africa 12-1 in four innings.

Day 2 results

Cuba 7 Czech Republic 0 (6 innings), Canada 10 Denmark 0 (4 innings), Venezuela 12 South Africa 1 (4 innings), Argentina 6 Philippines 0, United States 7 New Zealand 0.

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