Auck­land soft­ball reigns supreme again

Western Leader - - SPORT -

Auck­land re­mains the pow­er­house of New Zealand soft­ball with both the men’s and women’s teams lock­ing up their third con­sec­u­tive na­tional ti­tles.

Venita Hokai’s women’s side pro­duced a big in­nings to snare a 5-2 come­back vic­tory over Wellington in the Na­tional Fast­pitch Cham­pi­onship fi­nale at Lower Hutt’s Fraser Park on Fe­bru­ary 19.

Trail­ing 2-1 af­ter the first in­ning, the women’s team, lead by lo­cal slog­gers Beth Stavert and Gil­lian Wills, let their bats fly in the sixth.

The Auck­lan­ders had been strug­gling for hits against Wellington’s White Sox pitcher Rita Hokianga be­fore Auck­land’s Sa­man­tha Parks - bet­ter known as a pitcher - stepped up and slammed a sin­gle to score for a 3-2 lead.

It was then up to Tyla Mor­ri­son to close the game out with the ball and the young Waitakere Bears pitcher shut down the Wellington hit­ters.

De­spite only en­ter­ing the game in the sec­ond in­ning, Mor­ri­son took seven strike­outs to Hokianga’s five.

Mor­ri­son was named the teams top pitcher of the tour­na­ment.

Fel­low Bears team­mate A’iee­sha Sete­fano-Hooper took out the top gong, awarded the tour­na­ments most valu­able player. In to­tal there were seven lo­cal play­ers in the Auck­land squad.

The Auck­land men - led by Black Sox stal­wart Nathan Nukunuku - then fol­lowed up that suc­cess with a 1-0 win, also over Wellington, in the day’s fea­ture match.

Black Sox catcher Zane van Lieshout, the tour­na­ment’s lead­ing batter go­ing into the fi­nal day, slugged a dou­ble in the top of the sec­ond in­ning and slid home to score af­ter a Wellington out­fielder lost sight of the ball in the sun.

The fast start was then backed up by Ja­panese pitcher Kenta Okazaki, who was in com­mand­ing form for Auck­land on the mound, al­low­ing just two safe hits as he racked up eight strike­outs.

Wellington sec­ond base­man Dante Matakatea raised a glim­mer of hope for the south­ern­ers when he pow­ered the ball to­wards the fence late in the third in­ning, only for Auck­land’s Ben Enoka to make a spec­tac­u­lar catch just in­side the bound­ary.

Okazaki then dug deep for his side to dis­miss dan­ger­man Tyson Byrne on a full count at the start of the fi­nal in­ning and set his side up for a de­ci­sive vic­tory, com­plet­ing the dou­ble for Auck­land at the na­tional event. FI­NAL RE­SULTS

Men

Pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal: Auck­land 2 North Har­bour 1.

Grand fi­nal: Auck­land 1 Wellington 0.

Women

Pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal: Wellington 2 Can­ter­bury 1.

Grand fi­nal: Auck­land 5 Wellington 2.

Sa­man­tha Parks drove in two runs to help Auck­land win the na­tional women’s soft­ball cham­pi­onship fi­nal.

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