You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
The Sox earned their spot after a convincing overall display in the Oceania Softball Series at Albany's Rosedale Park, despite narrowly losing last night's series final to Australia 1-0.
The series functioned as a three-way playoff between New Zealand, Australia and Samoa for the two available Oceania places.
It started in inauspicious fashion for the Kiwis, losing veteran pitcher Jeremy Manley to injury before proceedings got under way. But the setback didn't bother them, with Bayley Pearson-Hoani, Nik Hayes, Heinrick Shannon and Kurt Schollum stepping out of the bullpen to pick up the slack.
With each side playing four round-robin matches, the formula for qualification was simple: win three games.
The Sox had little trouble with Samoa in their opener on Friday evening, dispatching them 4-1 after automatic home runs to Thomas Enoka, Tyron Bartorillo and Joel Evans.
But the real satisfaction came from the night's late game against Australia. New Zealand were at their clinical best against the Steelers, accumulating six unanswered runs from safe hits rather than relying on homers, as they had done against Samoa. Mark Sorenson's side knew they needed only one more win from their two round-robin games on Saturday to guarantee qualification.
And they proceeded to ease past Australia again in their first game of the day, winning 9-5, a scoreline that belied New Zealand's dominance.
A few hours later, the Sox came from behind to thump Samoa 11-4.
- Nick Edlin