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Australia jells fast to capture World Series

By SAM STANTURF
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 9, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- It took Australia less than five weeks to put together not only a team for the Women's World Series, but the team that defeated Team Japan 8-6 Sunday in the championship game at Tropicana Field.

To take the trophy from the four-team field, Australia needed the whole package: hitting, pitching and timely glovework.

A two-run double from team co-MVP Sue Fairhurst that one-hopped the wall drove in Deanne Lee and Melissa Whitaker to make the score 7-1 after two. In the bottom of the sixth, Australia got a diving catch from rightfielder Christina Kreppold that preserved a two-run lead.

Australia never lost the tempo thanks to a complete game from Ella Holien, who struck out four while walking two.

"We played as a team and really took advantage of some good opportunities," manager Chris Norrie said. "We only had a few weeks to field this team and our first game together was in the tournament opener. It's unbelievable."

Eight of nine hitters reached in the second as Australia scored seven on six hits after Japan scratched out a one-run lead.

Japan rallied in the fifth with two runs, including Rei Ueda's steal of home to bring Japan within four.

After Japan scored two more in the sixth, Kreppold's diving grab on a sinking liner off the bat of Ayumi Kataoka kept Eriko Nagano from scoring and bringing Japan within one.

"It was a great catch when that's what you needed," Fairhurst said. Her coach tagged it as a rally killer.

With a thrilling victory and world championship, Australia leaves having enjoyed the competition and dreading its inevitable return to its country's winter weather.

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