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.’’