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Black Sox close in on softball final

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/02/2017

The Black Sox have edged closer to a finals spot at the Challenge Cup men's softball tournament with a 5-4 win over Australia at Rosedale Park in Auckland on Saturday.

The win is New Zealand's eighth from nine matches, but they had to work hard for it after thumping Australia 8-1 in their first round robin match two days ago.

Home runs to skipper Thomas Enoka and third baseman Joshua Harbrow gave the Kiwis a sterling start, but the Australians hit back with a homer of their own to Lewis Weldon at the bottom of the second.

The Kiwis piled on three more runs at the top of the fifth to open out a 5-1 lead, Australia reducing the margin to just one after James Brownlow, Mark Harris and Brendon O'Byrne crossed.

Tight defensive work from the Black Sox infield in the seventh inning saw the Kiwis home.

Earlier, the New Zealanders downed the Czech Republic 8-1, shooting out to an early 7-1 lead but were unable to add to their tally until 19-year-old catcher Corey Timu slammed a home run at the top of the fifth to set up the mercy rule finish.

The wins over the Czech Republic and Australia come as a welcome tonic for the Black Sox, who suffered their first loss of the tournament late on Friday, pipped 2-1 by world No.2 Japan.

The hosts of the six-nation tournament lead the round-robin standings, taking a eight win-one loss record into their last game against second-placed Argentina late on Saturday.

The winner of the round robin advances directly to Sunday's final, with second and third place playing off to decide the other finalist.

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