AUCKLAND, New Zealand – The USA Softball Men’s National Team arrived in Auckland, New Zealand earlier this week to begin preparing for the International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championships the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced today. Team USA competed in three practice games after arriving and went a perfect 3-0, outscoring opponents 13-4. With the practice games behind them, the team will now turn its attention towards the first pool-play game of the tournament, a Friday evening matchup with Australia.
USA started the week with a game against a local New Zealand fastpitch team on Monday. Travis Price (Orange, Calif.) got the start in the circle and went four innings striking out four and surrendering just two hits. Despite holding their opponent scoreless through four, Team USA struggled to get much going offensively until the top of the fifth when Derrick Zechman (Watsontown, Pa.) homered to put the first run on the board.
Josh Johnson (Brooklyn, Wis.) entered the circle for Team USA in the bottom of the fifth and picked up where Price left off as he held the opponent scoreless for the remaining three innings.
USA added one more run in the sixth when Matt Palazzo (Des Moines, Iowa) scored off a Trevor Kelly (Marshall, Mich.) double. The two run advantage held through the next inning and Team USA picked up the win.
USA found themselves on the winning side again on Tuesday as they defeated the Netherlands 6-2. Johnson again picked up the win as he threw the first four innings and only surrendered one hit. Price entered in relief in the fifth to secure the win.
Palazzo and Roman Foore (Rosemount, Minn.) led the way offensively with homeruns in the first and fourth innings. Team USA also got two hits from Todd Schultz (Williamston, Mich.) en route to the win.
In their final practice game of the week, the American’s topped Argentina 5-2 on Wednesday. Both teams struggled until a Palazzo two-run homer was immediately followed by a solo shot from Frank DeGroat Jr. (Ringwood, NJ) in the bottom of the fourth gaving Team USA the 3-0 lead.
Argentina got two runs back in the top of the sixth but a two-run shot from Zechman in the bottom of the inning padded the USA lead. Johnson held strong in the top of the seventh to give Team USA its third practice game win of the week.
Following their opening game with Australia, the USA is scheduled to play six other pool-play games: Samoa on March 2, South Africa on March 3, Czech Republic on March 4, Indonesia on March 5, Venezuela on March 6 and Great Britain on March 7. The playoffs are scheduled to begin on March 8 with the finals slated for March 10.