Black Sox infielder Cole Evans hit a home run for Auckland at the national softball championships.
ORIGINAL STORY by Tony Smith
Black Sox stars Cole Evans and Zane van Lieshout hammered home runs as champions Auckland made an emphatic opening statement on the first day of the National Fastpitch Championships.
The Aucklanders - chasing their third successive title - nailed eight hits off Wellington's Black Sox pitcher Josh Pettett in a 4-1 victory at Lower Hutt's Fraser Park on Thursday.
Evans, 18, gave Auckland the perfect start with a leadoff home run in the top of the first inning. Number nine hitter van Lieshout repeated the feat to lead off the third frame.
Shortstop Evans and veteran Nathan Nukunuku both had two hits for Auckland and pitcher Kenta Okazaki struck out 11 Wellington batters.
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Dante Matakaea homered for Wellington in the bottom of the first inning.
Bayley Pearson-Hoani hurled Auckland to a 5-0 win over Counties Manukau-Waikato (CM-W), collecting five strikeouts for two hits - both to second baseman Corey Wilson.
Okazaki's Japanese world championships pitching stablemate Hikaru Matsuda fired North Harbour to a 4-1 win over Canterbury.
Batting in the clean-up hitter slot at No 4 in the Harbour order, Matsuda slammed an automatic home run in the fourth inning and also picked up a single for a 1.000 batting average.
He held a strong Canterbury Red Sox batting lineup to four safe hits while racking up six strikeouts.
Junior Black Sox outfielder Reilly Makea cracked a seventh inning home run for Canterbury's only run.
Former Black Sox hurler Kurt Schollum led Southern Pride to a 4-1 win over Counties Manukau-Waikato.
Schollum struck out 11 batters for four safe hits and also hit a double. Harrison Valk was Southern's top batter with a two-bagger and a triple.
Young CM-W pitcher Daniel Chapman also fanned 11 batters, but his side committed four fielding errors.
Two Black Sox stars drove Canterbury to a 3-2 win over host team Hutt Valley. Tyron Bartorillo batted in two runs in the second inning and Josh Harbrow slotted a solo shot home run in the third.
Canterbury's starting pitcher Ben Watts restricted Hutt to two hits in 5.3 innings before closer Ethan Johnston took over. The pair combined for 11 strikeouts.
North Harbour remained unbeaten after shading Southern Pride 4-3 with three runs in the bottom of the seventh. Martyn Cannons tripled to score two runs and scampered home for the match winner on a wild pitch by Schollum, who again snared 11 strikeouts for five hits.
Wellington inflicted Hutt Valley's second loss with Zac Boyd batting in former Hutt star Tyson Byrne in the seventh inning for a 5-4 win. Pettett (Wellington) and Nik Hayes (Hutt Valley), the Black Sox pitchers, both nabbed nine strikeouts and Hutt's Craig Wallace hit a home run.
Champions Auckland racked up two big wins before suffering a shock late night loss to hosts Hutt Valley.
Jennifer Feret and Aieesha Hooper - both part of the White Sox squad at last weekend's Down Under international tournament in Sydney - blasted home runs for Auckland in a 13-1 five innings romp over Southern Pride.
Hooper went three from three at the plate for a 1.000 average. Pitcher Sammi Parks hit a triple and took four strikeouts.
Auckland needed just four innings to beat Wellington 10-0 after scoring nine runs following a big two-down rally in the third frame. Allison Mohi and AariaTawha both produced two-run singles as Auckland accumulated hits at will despite a Wellington pitching change.
But pitcher Petra Krinklanova set up Hutt Valley's 5-4 win over Auckland, holding the titleholders to four hits. Ashley Johnston had two of Hutt's seven hits while Auckland paid the price for five errors.
Wellington had opened the tournament with a 7-0 shutout of Counties Manukau-Waikato after doubles by Brooke Cutting, Paiton Koko-Latu and Marama Makea. Wellington pitcher Kara Sterling held her opponents to two hits while nabbing five strikeouts.
A double play in the bottom of the seventh inning preserved Canterbury's 3-2 win over Hutt Valley. Former White Sox shortstop Cassie Siataga returned from her United States college scholarship to collect two hits for Canterbury, including a three-bagger. Hutt Valley outbatted their southern rivals 8-6, with Kriklanova cracking a triple.
The Canterbury Red Hawks later crashed to a 7-3 loss to Counties Manukau-Waikato after a starring role by the combined team's pitcher Pania Monk. The White Sox international threw a winning game and hammered a two-run triple and a double. Nicole Baxter went two from three for Canterbury.
Monk later batted in the winning run as CM-W pipped Southern Pride 1-0.
Hutt Valley rebounded from the Canterbury loss with a 2-0 win over Southern Pride, the runs coming in the third inning after hits by Danica Ferriso, Kuraroa Ratu-James and Keri Simeon.
Wellington edged Canterbury 3-2 in the tournament's first tiebreaker with Danielle Tanoa batting in Marama Makea for the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
AT A GLANCE
National Fastpitch Championships first day results
North Harbour 4 Canterbury 1, Auckland 4 Wellington 1, Southern Pride 4 Counties Manukau-Waikato 1, Canterbury 3 Hutt Valley 2,
Auckland 5 Counties Manukau-Waikato 0, North Habour 4 Southern Pride 3, Wellington 5 Hutt Valley 4.
Canterbury 3 Hutt Valley 2, Auckland 13 Southern Pride 1 (5 innings), Wellington 7 Counties Manukau-Waikato 0 (5 innings), Counties Manukau-Waikato 7 Canterbury 3, Auckland 10 Wellington 0 (4 innings), Hutt Valley 2 Southern Pride 0, Wellington 3 Canterbury 2 (8 innings), Counties Manukau-Waikato 1 Southern Pride 0, Hutt Valley 5 Auckland 4.