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2017 Australian Women’s Softball National Championship: Firestars reclaim Gilley’s Shield crown

posted Feb 12, 2017, 8:11 PM by Jairy Otero

2017 Australian Women’s Softball National Championship: Firestars reclaim Gilley’s Shield crown

The New South Wales Firestars reclaimed their title as Australian women’s softball national champions as they dominated the 2017 Gilley’s Shield final over their arch-rivals Queensland Heat.

In contrast to the usual tight contests between the two powerhouse teams, the final was lopsided, with the Firestars winning 8-0 at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Softball site – Blacktown International Sportspark.

NSW and National Team pitcher Kaia Parnaby was the standout performer of the final day, throwing complete-game shutouts in both games to help her team claim the most prestigious title in Australian women’s softball.

NSW coach Kerrie Porter said her team played extremely well when it mattered most. “Collectively they did a great job,” Porter said. “Queensland are always a very tough team to beat, well coached and with talented players.

“We had to change our strategy after they beat us earlier in the week. Our players stuck to the game plan and it worked out well in the end.”

The win reversed the result of the 2016 Gilley’s Shield final, which the Heat won 3-1.

The Firestars had to overcome a dogged Western Australia 1-0 in trying conditions earlier on Sunday to even get to this year’s final.

But any fears that the tough earlier game would negatively impact NSW in the final were unfounded, as the Firestars and the Heat were scoreless through the first three innings as Parnaby and Heat starting pitcher Justine Smethurst did not allow a run.

But NSW took the lead in the top of the fourth inning. Taylah Tsitsikronis reached second on a fielding error, then Simone Freeman’s bunt advanced courtesy runner Danielle Levido to third. Jasmine Peters followed with a single, which scored Levido and gave the Firestars a 1-0 lead.

After that, the floodgates opened. Stacey McManus led off the fifth inning with a single, Stacey Porter reached on an error, then Samantha Poole drove in McManus with a single. Tsitsikronis singled to load the bases, then Porter and Poole both scored on a fielding error from a hard-hit ball by Simone Freeman. When Bianca Abrahams singled to drive in Tsitsikronis, the Firestars had a 5-0 lead.

Queensland coach Fabian Barlow brought in reliever Sandra Holden, who induced a double play and a groundout to prevent further damage, but in the sixth inning the runs continued to flow for NSW. A walk to McManus was followed by singles to Porter, Poole and Abrahams, giving the Firestars a commanding 8-0 lead.

That was more than enough for Parnaby, who finished the game with a two-hit shutout, with four strikeouts and no walks. “Kaia is fit and strong, and we had no doubts that she could do the job,” coach Porter said. “We had other pitchers warming up, but she was the one we depended on and she did a great job for us.”

The Firestars were also the best offensive team during the tournament, scoring 65 runs. Porter said the offensive performance was an example of how the whole team contributed.  “Sam Poole was outstanding all week, Stacey McManus was sensational and Stacey Porter is a class act who led the team brilliantly,” she said.

“And Tahli Moore came into the team and did the job she was asked to do all week.

“Even the guys in the dugout played their part. They did what they had to do to help the team be successful.”

Individual Award Winners
Sybil Turner Medal – Best Batter: Stacey Porter (NSW)
Lorraine Woolley Medal – Best Pitcher: Justine Smethurst (Qld)
Midge Nelson Medal – Most Valuable Player: Chelsea Forkin (Qld)
Rosemary Adey Medal – Rookie of the Year: Tahli Moore (NSW)
Player of the Grand Final: Kaia Parnaby (NSW)

All-Tournament Team
Pitcher: Justine Smethurst (Qld)
Catcher: Carmelle Sorensen (Qld)
1st Base: Simone Freeman (NSW)
2nd Base: Jordan Lambert (SA)
3rd Base: Stacey Porter (NSW)
Shortstop: Stacey McManus (NSW)
Outfielder: Chelsea Forkin (Qld)
Outfielder: Sam Poole (NSW)
Outfielder: Janice Blackman (Qld)
Designated Player: Bree Wanke (Vic)

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