New Zealand will play defending champions Argentina in the first of their double life playoffs at softball's Junior World Series in Michigan today.
The Junior Black Sox who have three Hawke's Bay players - pitcher Adam Woon, utility Callum Carson and designated player Jacob Zurcher - on their roster and are coached by Hawke's Bay's four-time world champion Thomas Makea, finished pool play with four wins from five games. In their last two pool games the Kiwis walloped South Africa 16-1 in four innings yesterday and Mexico 11-1 in six innings on Wednesday.
Zurcher smashed a two-run home run in the sixth inning of the second seed's win against Mexico.
The Junior Black Sox opened the scoring in the third inning on a passed ball, a groundout by Canterbury outfielder Reilly Makea, a son of coach Makea, and an RBI single by Aucklander Jarome McKenzie.
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The Kiwis scored four runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings. Makea racked up three RBIs on two hits - a home run in the fifth and a single in the sixth.
Aucklander Daniel Chapman started on the mound for the Kiwis. During his two innings, he held Mexico hitless, conceded no runs and one walk while collecting three strikeouts.
Canterbury hurler Bailey Hamilton conceded one run, one walk and four hits while collecting five strikeouts in his four innings.
Aucklander Harrison Valk was the star with the bat against South Africa with four RBIs from three hits. Wellingtonian Sam Marley pitched the game and accumulated two strikeouts while conceding two hits and one run.
South African pitcher Dale Freemantle conceded 11 runs in his 1 innings. The Junior Black Sox were beaten by Argentina in the final of the last World Series in Canada in 2014.