February2015

Black Sox Stars Shine in the Batter's Box

February 22, 2015

North Harbour, NZ


Auckland complete National Fastpitch Championship double after success for men's and women's teams

ORIGINAL STORY by Tony Smith

Auckland have completed a National Fastpitch Championships softball double after the men's team thrashed North Harbour to crown the women's team's success.

Player-coach Nathan Nukunuku's Auckland team clinched their first title since 2012 with a resounding 9-2 five innings victory in this afternoon's final at Hamilton's Resthills Park.

Auckland's big-name Black Sox stars, brothers Ben and Thomas Enoka, Donny Hale and Nukunuku shone in the batter's box during the four-day tournament and 39-year-old left-handed pitcher Heinie Shannon was in imposing form in today's final, taking seven strikeouts while giving up just three safe hits.

But Auckland also unearthed some new stars, none more so than 16-year-old shortstop Cole Evans, who fully justified his selection in the Black Sox trial series in Hamilton next week.

The teenager batted 1.000 after a triple and a single and notched four RBIs (runs batted in) in the final.

Isaac Fletcher, the Auckland United first baseman, also made an impression in the batter's box, producing three RBIs. As the Auckland women's team did before them, Nukunuku's side took a grip on the game almost from the outset.

North Harbour, who had not won a New Zealand title since 2005 under the former national league format, survived the first innings but were stung in the second when Auckland amassed three runs after Evans produced a sacrifice fly to score Bernard Hale and Ben Enoka blasted a two-base hit to bring home his younger brother, Campbell Enoka.

Evans stepped up to slam a three-bagger and score Josh Niu and Matthew Oxley in the fourth inning.

Vincent Harris pulled a run back for Harbour after hits by Brad Rona and Reuben Topia in the bottom of the fourth.

But Auckland kept the hammer down with a four-run spree in the top of the fifth after a two-base hit from Bernard Hale bounced over the outfield fence for a ground rule double, Evans achieved another RBI with a single and Fletcher drove in two more runs.

Harbour reduced the deficit to 9-2 when Conor Peden scampered home on Callum Ryan's base hit in the bottom of the fifth, but the seven-run mercy rule was invoked at the end of the inning.

It was the first time Auckland had won the men's and women's titles at the same tournament since 2012 in Lower Hutt.

Earlier the women's team claimed its third title in four years after hammering Hutt Valley 5-0 in the final.

American import pitcher Blaire Luna shut out the Hutt hitters, hurling 15 strikeouts at Resthills Park, Hamilton.

Luna conceded a safe hit to White Sox star Danica Ferriso in the top of the third innings but struck out Angela Stubbs, Mel Gettins and Cindy Potae.

Ferriso's single proved to the be only hit for Hutt Valley. Luna, a 24-year-old University of Texas graduate, who pitches in the United States Pro League, simply got on a roll, dominating every hitter she faced. Auckland seized an early initiative in the bottom of the first inning after capitalising on two Hutt Valley infield errors. Krysta Hoani made base on the first fielding fumble, Ancelle van Molendorf popped down a safe bunt and Katrina Nukunuku hit a sacrifice fly to centrefield to score Hoani.

Jennifer Feret bunted safely on two outs, allowing van Molendorf to score from third base and Feret added the third run after a throwing error by Hutt Valley shortstop Ashley Johnston.

Feret, a naturalised American who now plays for the New Zealand White Sox, led Auckland's hit parade with a safe bunt, a single and a double. Hoani, Nukunuku, van Molendorf, Gillian Wills and veteran first base Tuhi Cooper also recorded hits.Auckland, coached by White Sox coaching aspirant Venita Hokai added another run in the bottom of he second and leapt ahead 5-0 in the third frame when Nukunuku slammed a triple and Feret batted her home.

Hutt Valley's teenage White Sox pitcher Courtney Gettins gave up eight hits, although several were safe bunts, and took just two strikeouts.Auckland's win avenged their loss in last year's final to Canterbury. Hutt Valley have not won the national title since 2009, which was their fourth in a row.

Hutt Valley made the final after a 6-4 win over Wellington in this morning's elimination match. They took control with a four-run scoring spree in the bottom of the fifth inning after hits by Stubbs and sisters Mel and Courtney Gettins.

Counties Manukau-Waikato beat Southern Pride 5-4 after an eighth inning tiebreaker in the wooden spoon match. The Southern Pride coaching staff chose to intentionally walk Counties' home run hitter Ashley Razey four times because they feared her batting power.

Final women's NFC placings:  Auckland 1, Hutt Valley 2, Wellington 3, Canterbury 4, Counties-Manukau Waikato 5, Southern Pride 6.

 - Stuff

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