Auckland softball reigns supreme again
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
Preliminary final: Auckland 2 North Harbour 1.
Grand final: Auckland 1 Wellington 0.
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.