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Thomas Makea to return to Wellington after establishing Papanui Tigers as a top NZ softball club

March 16, 2018

Lower Hutt, NZ - - Thomas Makea to return to Wellington after establishing Papanui Tigers as a top NZ softball club



Iain McGregor/Stuff

Papanui Tigers coach Thomas Makea (R) is returning to Wellington after coaching the Canterbury softball club to their first national interclub tournament final.

ORIGINAL STORY by Tony Smith

Former Black Sox star Thomas Makea is confident Canterbury champions Papanui can remain one of New Zealand's leading men's softball clubs after he returns to Wellington.

Player-coach Makea guided the Papanui Tigers to their first New Zealand interclub tournament final last Sunday at Lower Hutt.

The Tigers led Auckland's Mt Albert Ramblers 1-0 before losing 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning.

The Papanui Tigers congratulate home run hitter Anthony Stuart (R) after he put them ahead in the national softball ...
Paul Hodgson/PauloPics.

The Papanui Tigers congratulate home run hitter Anthony Stuart (R) after he put them ahead in the national softball final at Lower Hutt.

 

"The boys are proud but devastated," said Makea.

READ MORE: * Ramblers pip Papanui for NZ softball title

"It was heartbreaking to lose it that way [to a wild pitch with a runner on third base]. I'd rather they got a hit to drive in the run."

Papanui pitcher Ben Watts hurled his team to the national club softball final.
Paul Hodgson/PauloPics

Papanui pitcher Ben Watts hurled his team to the national club softball final.

 

But Makea was pleased with his team's performances during the five-day tournament and commended the way they played in the final after losing to Ramblers 7-0 after six fielding errors in a playoff game on Saturday night.

"We talked about it after the game - we knew if we eliminated the errors we would be in with a pretty good show [of taking the title]."

He hailed pitcher Ben Watts, who held the Ramblers batters  - led by Black Sox captain Nathan Nukunuku - to three safe hits in the final.

"Ben pitched really well all weekend.  He's been our go-to-guy all year."

 

Makea said Watts was "in better shape this season" and had thrived on being "the senior guy" on the pitching mound after Ethan Johnston's move to a coaching role in Indonesia.

Papanui also got great value from two guest players from Albion, Canterbury Red Sox representatives Anthony Stuart and Josh Hartwig.

Stuart hit a home run in the final and picked up another hit. "Ant's experience in the field and behind the dish [as catcher] helped us out and Josh Hartwig dominated in the batter's box," Makea said.

Makea - a four-time world champion with the Black Sox - showed plenty of hitting power himself with eight tournament RBIs (runs batted in).

Current New Zealand infielder Tyron Bartorillo also pounded three home runs.

Bartorillo is one of four Papanui players in the Black Sox training squad.

The other three - first baseman Callum Bishop (who had 11 RBIs and 3 home runs) and outfielders Reilly Makea and Jackson Watt - are all aged 20 or under, which gives coach Makea great hope for the club's future.

"They've had international experience and have played in America and the other players look to those guys as leaders.

"But it's not just them. A guy like [second baseman] Josh Dickson is a born leader and a very good player, himself."

Makea has coached Papanui to two titles - their first since the mid-1970s - and a national club final in two seasons at Papanui Domain.

He said he would "cherish my time down here", but it was time for he and wife Kara to "move home to Wellington to be closer to our parents".

Makea said it had been satisfying to help Papanui go from "cellar dwellers to contenders". He said there was a real determination to do well this year after finishing fifth in New Zealand last year, "when we felt we were a top-four team".

Makea said he hoped Canterbury softball would retain a minimum of four premier men's teams and "make the competition stronger" by "evening out" the playing strength.

The PCU Devils - Canterbury's other representative - finished 12th out of 19 teams at the interclub tournament.

Women's Softball

Christchurch hosted the 17-team national women's interclub tournament with the Halswell Hornets proving the top local club with a sixth place finish.

It was a creditable effort by Halswell - led by NZ Junior White Sox coach Carl Tuinenga - considering club stalwart Nicole Baxter-Warren was out with a broken leg and senior pitcher Jenni Mumm played on with an injury.

Halswell infielder-pitcher Lucy McIntyre led the batting with a .455 average.

Kaiapoi  - the only team to beat eventual winners Te Aroha (Hutt Valley) - finished eighth. Australian import Stephanie Trzcinski and Lauren Sutherland proved to be two of the more successful tournament pitchers with 0.43 and 0.93 earned run averages, respectively.

The PCU Angels, Canterbury's club championships, finished 15th and Papanui 16th. Papanui's American catcher Elizabeth Snow was the fourth top batter at the tournament with a .520 average.

 - Stuff

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