New Zealand suffered their first loss at the Challenge Cup softball tournament, falling 2-1 to Japan in an intense encounter at Auckland's AWF Sports Stadium.

In a low-scoring affair that only offered five hits between the two teams, the difference came down to a two-run homer to Japanese left fielder Yusuke Morita in the bottom of the fifth inning.

The Black Sox fought back hard and were gifted a run in the sixth, when Japanese pitcher Yuya Yamawaki walked four hitters, allowing Cole Evans to walk home from third base.

The sixth inning was the last real opportunity the Black Sox had to score, and they will have to pick themselves up for today's games against Czech Republic and Australia.

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Pitcher Josh Pettett got his second start of the tournament and threw the entire seven innings.

The loss will be a timely one for the Black Sox who will take the positives and regroup as they continue to move towards an automatic entry into Sundays final.

In other results yesterday, they defeated Samoa (10-3) for the second time this week and Japan accounted for the Czechs 5-0, but fell to Argentina 2-1.