Black Sox se­cure an­other world ti­tle

The Southland Times - - SPORT - TONY SMITH

New Zealand’s Black Sox con­firmed their sta­tus as one of New Zealand’s most suc­cess­ful sport­ing teams af­ter win­ning the world men’s softball cham­pi­onship for a sev­enth time af­ter a 6-4 win over Aus­tralia in the fi­nal in Canada.

A bases-loaded grand slam home run to Joel Evans broke the fi­nal open late in the match, as the Black Sox kicked out to a 6-3 lead.

The Black Sox – play­ing in their 10th con­sec­u­tive world cham­pi­onship fi­nal – were trail­ing 3-2 in the sixth in­ning when Hutt Val­ley in­fielder Evans blasted the ball over the fence to score four runs.

Aus­tralia came back with a Nick Shailes home run in the fi­nal in­ning but the New Zealan­ders closed it out amid ju­bi­lant scenes af­ter the fi­nal out was made by the Black Sox’s Aus­tralian-born third base­man Ty­ron Bar­to­rillo.

It was a day of per­sonal tri­umphs for the Black Sox. For Evans, who hadn’t been in the start­ing lineup at the start of the week yet scored two hits in the grand fi­nal; for re­lief pitcher Nik Hayes, who came of age on the mound; and for coach Mark Soren­son who be­came the sec­ond New Zealand man to win world cham­pi­onship as a player (four times) and a coach, join­ing his for­mer team-mate Ed­die Kohlhase in that se­lect club.

Cap­tain Nathan Nukunuku and veteran slug­ger Brad Rona joined Soren­son, Jar­rad Martin and Thomas Makea as four-time cham­pi­ons at their sixth world cham­pi­onship.

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing an­other gold medal, Nukunuku, 37, learned he had been elected as an ath­letes rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the World Base­ball Softball Coun­cil, the game’s gov­ern­ing body.

If this proves his fi­nal tour­na­ment, it was a fit­ting way to go out for the Auck­land in­fielder. He and Rona, 41, will leave the Black Sox in fine heart.

Evans and brothers Thomas and Camp­bell Enoka – who both had im­por­tant hits in the fi­nal – are all in their early to mid-20s.

They have plenty of softball ahead of them, as does 28-year-old Hayes – a dou­ble gold medal­list – and start­ing pitcher Josh Pet­tett, 24, teenage short­stop Cole Evans and many squad.

Pet­tett started the fi­nal in fine fet­tle, strik­ing out five Aus­tralians in the first two in­nings while Camp­bell Enoka gave the Black Sox a 1-0 lead in the bot­tom of the first, af­ter pick­ing a walk, ad­vanc­ing on Evans’ slap sin­gle and scor­ing on a caught foul fly in left­field.

Welling­ton’s Pet­tett be­gan to fal­ter in the third when Aus­tralia struck back af­ter James Tod­hunter bat­ted in a run and An­drew Kirk­patrick scored an­other with a sac­ri­fice fly.

Ryan Sin­clair bat­ted in Ki­wi­born Liam O’Leary in the fourth frame for a 3-1 lead and Soren­son yanked Pet­tett for Hayes at the top of the fifth.

Hayes showed real com­po­sure to bear down on the Aus­tralian more of Soren­son’s hit­ters and break their mo­men­tum with a clever va­ri­ety of pitches, work­ing well with catcher Kal­lan Com­pain.

New Zealand closed the gap to 3-2 af­ter Camp­bell Enoka dou­bled in the fifth in­ning and scored and the game came alive in the sixth with one swing of Joel Evans’ trusty bat fol­low­ing sin­gles by Laulu and pinch hit­ter Josh Har­brow.

Hayes struck out two hit­ters in the top of the sev­enth and was in a full count cat-and-mouse duel with Shailes, one of the world’s top hit­ters, be­fore the Aus­tralian veteran drove the ball out of the park.

It didn’t mat­ter though be­cause Kirk­patrick grounded out for the fi­nal out and the New Zealan­ders were world cham­pi­ons for a sev­enth time.

PHOTO: PHOTOSPORT

Black Sox coach Mark Soren­son has be­come the sec­ond New Zealand man to win world cham­pi­onships as a player (four times) and a coach.

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