United claim fifth straight soft­ball ti­tle


‘‘It's just as good as get­ting it your first time’’

Auck­land United have been crowned the city’s pre­mier men’s soft­ball cham­pi­ons for the fifth con­sec­u­tive year, beat­ing Marist 7-0 in a rain-drenched fi­nal on Satur­day.

Al­fons Oveiniko­vas hit a walk-off home run in the fifth in­ning to seal the ti­tle for United and con­firm their place as Auck­land’s most dom­i­nant club.

Flood­ing and wild weather across Auck­land had threat­ened the day’s play, and a last minute de­ci­sion to move the fi­nal from Rosedale to Ster­ling Park was the only way to en­sure the fi­nal got un­der­way.

Marist had ended United’s 2017 un­beaten record just a week and a half ear­lier, how­ever, they couldn’t repli­cate those hero­ics in wet con­di­tions as United stormed home on the back of strong of­fence and the pitch­ing of Black Sox Bay­ley Hoani.

Coach Dun­can Enoka said win­ning the ti­tle was a tes­ta­ment to his side’s work ethic through­out the sea­son.

‘‘I no­ticed a hunger in them be­fore the game,’’ Enoka said.

‘‘It was just a dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude and our prepa­ra­tion was good.

‘‘The boys were ec­static and win­ning five in a row just adds that ic­ing to the cake.’’

Enoka praised Marist for their in­cred­i­ble sea­son and said they had a great side, but fell to what was a clin­i­cal hit­ting per­for­mance from United.

De­spite the cham­pi­ons not hav­ing cap­tain Ben Enoka due to in­jury, his pres­ence was still known on the bench as he en­cour­aged the sub­sti­tutes and re­serves to be vo­cal in sup­port.

Brother Thomas, cur­rent Black Sox cap­tain, said hav­ing those play­ers con­trib­ute off the field was im­por­tant, and that ev­ery mem­ber on the team could en­joy be­ing la­belled a cham­pion.

‘‘It’s an awe­some feel­ing to get five in a row and it’s just as good as get­ting it your first time,’’ Enoka said.

‘‘A cou­ple of guys hadn’t won a ti­tle yet so it was pretty special to some of them as well.

‘‘It’s a real credit to how well we’ve been per­form­ing and how hard we’ve been work­ing over the last five years.’’

United now shift their fo­cus to the na­tional club cham­pi­onships which start in Christchurch this week.

As one of the top sides in the coun­try, United will look to progress deep into the tour­na­ment with an eye on the top prize.

‘‘I’m quite glad we had a game like that in prepa­ra­tion,’’ Dun­can Enoka said.

‘‘I’ve said to the boys they’ve set the bench­mark, now we’ve got to take that through to club na­tion­als.’’

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