December2014

Seven Black Sox spots on the line for world champs

December 15, 2014

Auckland, NZ


Seven Black Sox spots on the line for world champs

Original Story by Tony Smith

Photosport

MUST DO BETTER: Black Sox coach Mark Sorenson was unhappy with his side's execution against the Aussies.

 

Coach Mark Sorenson gave the Black Sox a pass mark despite losing the Oceania softball series final to Australia but upped the ante by insisting seven spots were still on the line for his world championship squad.

New Zealand, the defending world champions, won four out of five games at the Oceania tournament in Auckland but lost the final 1-0 - and the title - to Australia.

The Black Sox had hammered 37 safe hits, including seven out-of-the-park home runs - in their first four encounters, which featured 6-0 and 9-5 wins over Australia.

But Sorenson admitted they struggled to execute "when the stakes were raised" in Saturday night's final once the Australians brought top pitchers Andrew Kirkpatrick and Adam Folkard on the mound for the first time against the Kiwis.

"It was who we wanted to see and who we were looking forward to seeing but we just didn't execute well against them," Sorenson said.

"We created chances, that's what we were trying to do all weekend, to try and make sure we gave ourselves a shot."

The Black Sox suffered four strikeouts in a row when they had runners in scoring positions at second and third base.

"And we missed a couple of signals," Sorenson said.

" You can't afford to make those little mistakes. Mental toughness isn't about the chances you take, it's about holding your nerve."

Australia scored the only run of the game when tournament MVP Kirkpatrick forced an infield error to advance to second base and scored on a shallow hit over first base by Marshall Kronk.

Sorenson described Kronk's "little blooper" as "an excuse-me kind of hit" but Black Sox pitcher Nik Hayes recovered well from the early setback.

However, Sorenson was happy with the contributions of some of his younger and newer players, including Hutt Valley debutants, infielder Joel Evans and catcher Cory Timu and Wellington utility Jerome Raemaki.

Evans batted well, with an automatic home run against Samoa on Friday and a timely single in the final against Australia and Timu deputised well for top catcher Stephen Ratu and picked up two hits in the 11-4 win over Samoa on Saturday.

Canterbury third baseman Josh Harbrow, who earned a start in the final, also grabbed his opportunities.

Overall, Sorenson remained pleased with the Black Sox's batting depth and said brothers Ben and Thomas Enoka and Tyson Byrne, who missed the final with a back strain, "could go on to be the top three in our batting order for multiple world series".

Thomas Enoka crushed two home runs at the tournament, the most by a New Zealander. The Black Sox also have proven, experienced hitters in their middle order with captain Nathan Nukunuku followed by power batter Donny Hale and double world champion Tyron Bartorillo.

Wellington's Wayne Laulu, who hit a home run against Australia in the 9-5 victory, has become a reliable pinch hitter.

Defence is a definite "work-on", said Sorenson, who believes the Black Sox have the individual skill but need to work on their option-taking in pressure situations and communication between the infield and outfield.

 

The Black Sox and Australia both qualified for the 2015 world championship in Canada in June where the Kiwis will be chasing a seventh title.

Sorenson will name his world championship squad in mid-March after the national interclub tournament.

"Potentially, there are still five to seven spots that are contestable."

- The Press

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