The Black Sox have been beaten 3-1 by an Auckland United All-Star selection, a month out from the men's softball world championships in Auckland.
In their first outing as a team, the Black Sox were left red-faced by the scratch combination, which had their measure throughout Monday night's match.
Tacked on the end of the annual Vic Guth tournament, the outing was a way for the national team to respect the event's 50th instalment, as well as squeeze in some much-needed match practice together.
But the combination selected by tournament organisers was always on top of the national side, collecting runs off all three pitchers - Heinie Shannon, Penese Iosefo and former Marlborough representative Nik Hayes - used over the five innings played.
It could have looked worse on the scoreboard - a fourth run was disallowed, after the base runner failed to tag third on the way home.
But the lessons did not end with the scoreline. On that same play, Black Sox reserve Nathan Nukunuku slid aggressively into second, taking out short stop Tyson Byrne and clearing the dugouts.
"In terms of combinations, it was the first time out on the park, we were a little bit rusty, we missed a couple of cut plays and our pitching can only improve," said Black Sox coach Eddie Kohlhase, who refused to hit the panic button so early in the campaign.
"My message was, you don't win a world championship on January 28. Our aim is to be ready by March 1."
Kohlhase took a fairly conservative approach to the encounter, keeping many of his veterans on the sidelines for most of the game.
Donny Hale was unavailable, captain Rhys Casley and fourth pitcher Jeremy Manley - both returning from injury - took no part, while Thomas Makea was only used as a pinch hitter at the death.
The Black Sox next assemble to contest the Brother Patrick tournament in Auckland on February 8-10.
- The Marlborough Express
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