Former Hawke's Bay-based short stop Hailey Breakwell will have a story to tell her children and grandchildren when she reflects on her international softball career.
A daughter of 2000 Olympic Games show jumper Peter Breakwell, Breakwell, who spent last summer based in the Bay so she could train and play alongside fellow White Sox players Melanie Gettins and Rita Hokianga, smashed a two-run homer during the Kiwis 9-2 loss to defending champions Japan at the world championships in Surrey, Canada. This was the first loss in six games at the tournament for the Kiwis who are coached by Hawke's Bay's Kevin Gettins.
Japan, who beat New Zealand 10-0 at the World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma recently, were yesterday up against a tougher Kiwi side who kept the game close until the sixth inning when the Japanese ran riot and the mercy rule came into effect.
Japan, winner of the past two world championships, scored two easy runs in the bottom of the first inning on one hit and two errors from the New Zealand infield. In the top of the fourth former United States pro league player Lara Andrews started the inning off with a safe hit to right field. Breakwell failed to sacrifice Andrews over to second base but quickly redeemed herself and some by hitting Japanese pitcher Yukari Hamamura over centre field fence to tie the ball game up at 2-all.
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In the fifth inning right fielder Misato Kawano equalled Breakwell's effort taking a high ball from pitcher Taylor-Paige Stewart deep over the centre field fence to give Japan the lead again at 3-2. The Japanese scored again through back to back hits putting the world champs out in front by two forcing head coach Gettins to bring relief pitcher Jennifer Feret-Brear onto the mound. With a runner on third, Japan crossed home plate again through an unforced throwing error by third base Andrews.
In was all Japan in the sixth inning who scored four runs off three hits to finish the game early. Although the 2008 Olympic gold medallists won comfortably the White Sox will take a lot of pride and confidence out of today's game into the final eight playoffs which start today and will see the Kiwis take on the Netherlands.
Coach Gettins is eyeing a top six finish which will put his troops into contention for a berth at the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Historic top three finishers in recent years, Australia, were knocked out of the tournament with a 2-0 loss to China yesterday.