Although the South Australian Starz lost the Australian Softball Open Women's Championship semi-final game, for the Gilley's Shield, 3-2 to ACT Diamonds at Blacktown, NSW, on Saturday, there are plenty of positives for the future.
Led by Monica Perry, Vanessa Stokes and Steph Trzcinski from the circle, the Starz pitching was up to the standard of the competition, while SA's batting was the best at a series for a number of years.
In most games of the shortened series, the Starz were in winning positions, including the semi-final against the Diamonds, with the winning runs coming in the ACT's final at bat.
The SA team took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning on RBI hits from Belinda White and Madeline Cameron, while Perry was pitching a solid game.
With two triples and a pair of SA errors, the Diamonds scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth frame and then held the Starz out at the top of the seventh and final inning.
In the under 17 championships, also played at Blacktown, South Australia qualified for the finals after winning through on the back of some exciting extra inning games.
And staying to form, SA beat Victoria 7-6 in extra innings of the first semi-final, before going down to Queensland 5-0 in the penultimate game.
Against Victoria, the SA girls led 3-1 in the first inning and 4-2 going into the sixth frame, where two exciting plays at home plate eventually saved the game.
With one out and a run in, a Victorian batter hit the ball to deep left field, where Dani Perez threw to short-stop Madi Scott, who relayed the ball to Jenna Burston at third base, then catcher Faith Pickard for the out at the plate for the second out.
In an almost mirror image, the next batter hit a long ball over rightfielder Adele Wood, who gathered the ball and threw to Scott, before the ball was relayed through Perez – who was backing up – to Pickard at home for the final out of the inning.
After SA scored twice in the bottom of the sixth, Victoria came back with three runs in the seventh and final regulation frame to force the game into extra innings.
There were two out and one on in the bottom of the eighth when Pippa Adkins hit a fly ball to centrefield, which was mishandled and allowed Pickard to score the winning run.
Georgia Hood pitched the complete game for the win, and also won the tournament's batting award, as well as being named the designated player in the All Star line-up, along with another South Australian, Emily Hopkins at first base.
South Australia's under 19 champions will defend their title in Brisbane from January 17-23, for the Elinor McKenzie Shield.
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Australian Open Women Softball first semi:
SA Starz 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 - 2
ACT Diamonds 0 0 0 0 0 3 x - 3
Hits: ACT - Warwick 2, Richards, Smethurst, Robson; SA - Cameron 2, White.
WP: G. Cecchetti; LP: M. Perry.
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Australian under 17 softball first semi:
Victoria 1 0 0 1 0 1 3 0 – 6
South Australia 3 0 0 1 0 2 0 1 – 7
Hits: SA – Hood 2, Hopkins 2, Goldring, Adkins, Edwards, Burston, Perez; Victoria – Utatao 2, Wood 2, Bahn, Peters, O'Donovan, Charles, Brook.
WP: G. Hood; LP: N. Martin.
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Australian under 17 softball preliminary final:
Queensland 1 1 2 1 0 0 0 - 5
South Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0
Hits: Queensland - Kemp 2, Whitefield 2, Smith 2, Blackmore, McLeod, Waller; SA - Golding 2, Edwards, Scott.
WP: J. Wilcox; LP: G. Hood.
Photos courtesy and copyright Sam Donkin