Jefferies Cup eludes Marlborough
Marlborough came within an ace of winning the South Island Jefferies Cup men's softball tournament for the first time since 1988 at the Mainland Foundation Ballpark in Christchurch yesterday, losing to hot favourites Canterbury Red Sox 8-9 in a thrilling tie-breaker grand final.
The most disappointing thing about the loss is that Marlborough led 8-0 after a blistering start had the hosts on the ropes, but eventually the pressure both mentally and physically of playing their third game of the day and sixth in two days told on the mostly young Marlborough side.
Kyle Marfell led the early batting onslaught as he did throughout the weekend, slamming a hit and bringing home two runners while pick-up player Aaron Ridson, from Christchurch, smashed a three-run home run in the first innings. Cody Campbell hit a double and Tyler Bird also hit a runner home as Marlborough stunned the Red Sox by leading 8-0 in the third.
However Canterbury, laden with Black Sox players, began chipping away and made a key switch bringing on Black Sox pitcher Penese Iosefo who conceded just three more hits after replacing Scott Sutherland.
Teenage Marlborough pitcher Kurt Schollum had done a brilliant job throughout the weekend and in the early stages kept the Canterbury batters pinned down.
Gareth Cook sparked Canterbury's comeback with a double then Josh Harbrow hit a triple and Paul Barker hammered an automatic home run in the bottom of the fourth.
Cook slammed another run out of the park in the fifth but going into the seventh Marlborough still held an 8-6 lead. However with Schollum finally spelled having shouldered a massive workload so brilliantly, the hosts equalised through Harbrow and Stephen Ratu to force the tie-breaker. Harbrow's infield single shattered Marlborough's dreams, the Red Sox taking out their 18th straight South Island crown.
Marlborough coach Steve Gill, while despondent at getting so close, praised his charges.
"Overall, very, very happy. Obviously disappointed to go eight up and lose. They played above themselves but two mental errors in the field proved costly. I was thinking we were going to have it but Canterbury didn't panic.
"They [Canterbury] were sweating. Their coaches were feeling the pinch and they were on the ropes but Iosefo came on to pitch and that told."
Marlborough also lost 2-3 to the Red Sox in pool play while beating Otago and Southland yesterday leading up to the final.
On Saturday Marlborough began with an emphatic 11-2 thrashing of Nelson then had their only poor game of the tournament, going down 2-5 to Canterbury under-19 despite Kyle Marfell opening with a booming home run.
Marlborough had a chance to level with the Red Sox in Saturday's pool clash but Marfell was left stranded on base.
Marfell was the batting star not only for Marlborough but for the tournament. He hit two home runs against Nelson and Canterbury under-19s and in all had a brilliant 14 hits performance.
Coach Gill said, "He opened up a few eyes. He was outstanding, brilliant batting and he fielded brilliantly. His brother, Hayden Marfell, was impressive in the outfield and Shane Parnell got a hit in all three of Sunday's games."
Schollum's pitching would have gone a long way to securing him a place in the Black Sox team for next year's World Championships and at just 18 years of age, he is a star in the making. His brother, Ryan, also had a good tournament at catcher.
Ridson, Kyle Marfell and Kurt Schollum made the tournament team and Gill was named assistant coach.
Otago beat Canterbury 3-0 in pool play on Saturday, their first loss for 20 years.
Marlborough had to do without another of their up-and-coming stars Tailah Love, transfer complications preventing him from playing.
Results: Otago 3 Canterbury 0, Marlborough 11 Nelson 2, Southland 3 Canterbury under 19s 0, Canterbury under 19s 5 Marlborough 2, Canterbury 19 Nelson 0, Southland 4 Otago 1, Southland 9 Nelson 0, Canterbury 3 Marlborough 2, Otago 7 Canterbury under 19s 3, Canterbury 12 Southland 1, Nelson 4 Canterbury under 19s 3, Marlborough 2 Otago 0, Marlborough 4 Southland 2, Nelson 9 Otago 2.
Finals, Canterbury 9 Marlborough 8.
The Marlborough Express