New Zealand beat Australia 6-4 in the final of the World Softball Championships in Canada to claim seventh title
New Zealand are the men's softball world champions for the fifth time in just 21 years, defeating Australia 6-4 in Monday's final (NZT).
A star turn from Joel Evans at the bottom of the sixth separated the two sides, with the Kiwi homering spectacularly beyond left field - sending himself, Joshua Harbrow, Kallan Compain and Wayne Laula home.
"To be honest it just came off the bat and it went, but going into that bat it was two out and all I was thinking was, empty head, don't think about anything, see a strike and swing. Just so happened that the ball ended up hitting my bat and going over the fence so it was awesome," Evans told Newshub.
From there, the seventh inning was a mere formality, with pitcher Nikki Hayes removing the Australians for just one run and leaving them stranded at 6-4.
The victory caps off a near-flawless tournament for the Black Sox, who regain the world title they last won on home soil in 2013.
Coach Mark Sorenson was full of pride at his charges’ performance, particularly the fight they showed in overcoming a late deficit.
"It's pretty ecstatic at the moment, the guys are rightfully proud, it was an epic final in terms of jumping ahead, falling behind, looking like we were down and out for a little bit but the character of this side is resilience, and if someone can't do it, someone else will step up and take that mantle,” said Sorensen.
“I couldn't be more proud of the way the way that they fought.
"It's just really humbling to be part of a group that never gives up, never dies."
Losing just one pool match to Venezuela, Sorenson's troops breezed through their first post-section match against Australia 6-2 and then edged hosts Canada 12-11 in a thriller to make the final.
Once there, the Australians put up a genuine fight, leading 3-2 by the end of the fifth inning and threatening an upset.
But then Evans stepped up in the sixth, with bases loaded and two strikes already against his side, and played the hero.