AUCKLAND, New Zealand – A three run homer in the fifth broke a 2-2 tie between the USA Men’s National Team and South Africa in the International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championships on Sunday. The five runs proved too much for the American’s to overcome as they suffered their third loss in pool play of the tournament the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of American and USA Softball announced today.
South Africa jumped on the board first in the contest when USA starting pitcher Travis Price (Orange, Calif.) gave up a solo homerun on the first pitch of the game. But the Americans responded in the bottom half of the inning with two runs to take the lead. With two outs, third baseman Matt Palazzo (Des Moines, Iowa) found a pitch he liked and sent it screaming over the fence to tie the game at one. A double from Josh Johnson (Brooklyn, Wis.) in the next at-bat was followed by an RBI single from Derrick Zechman (Watsontown, Pa.) that gave Team USA a 2-1 advantage.
The score held until the top of the third when South Africa tied the game at on back-to-back doubles. Team USA manage runners in their third and fourth at-bats but were unable to bring them home. In all, the Americans stranded 10 runners on base throughout the game.
Gerald Muizelaar (Grand Forks, ND) entered the circle for the USA in the fourth and started well retiring the first five batters he faced. But in the top of the fifth, the right hander hit two straight batters to give South Africa runners at first and second. With two outs, Grant Olivier belted a three-run homer over the center field fence to give South Africa three more on the board.
Things were quiet for both teams until the seventh inning. Josh Johnson moved from left field to the circle to start the inning in relief of Muizelaar and held South Africa hit less.
Trailing by three and in their last at-bat, Palazzo led off the bottom of the seventh with his second solo home run of the game. Two batters later, Zechman, facing a 3-1 count, doubled which meant the USA had the tying run at the plate with just one out. But a strikeout and fly out to left field left Zechman stranded and secured the win for South Africa.
The USA Men are now 0-3 in pool play. They will next face Czech Republic (2-0) on Monday at 1:30 PM local time. Pool play will continue through March 7 when the top four teams from each pool will be seeded into a bracket scheduled for March 8-10. You can follow all of the USA Men’s National Team action at www.USASoftball.com.