The Upper South Island team impressed at Saxton Ballpark yesterday to hold the visiting Black Sox to a 4-1 win.
In front of a large crowd, the home squad were aggressive with the bat and in the field, tying up the scoreline until the top of the fourth.
Co-coach Daryl Stratford applauded the team, as well as the individual flair of many players, especially Kurt Schollum who pitched for both sides.
Black Sox hurler Nik Hayes arrived in Nelson late due to a delayed international flight. But because Schollum toured with the national side earlier this year and is considered part of the wider Black Sox camp, he was transferred across the diamond, pitching four innings for the Black Sox and three for the USI team. He took six strikeouts in total.
Black Sox coach Eddie Kohlhase praised the 17-year-old's prowess and has acquired him for tonight's rematch.
"It was a great game of softball. It was very clinical and the skill level was high," Kohlhase said. "The last time our squad played together was July and this match was about reacquainting ourselves and working on combinations. The Nelson side understood this game was as much for us as it was for them."
The home side was aggressive on defence, making the first out of the game a Nigel Kelly double play. Derryn French followed up with a routine shortstop first out. Unfortunately it was three up, three down in the batter's box.
The Black Sox scored their first run in the top of the second. Jerome Haretuku drove the ball to centre field and was scored by Dan Tarapi who hit to the fence.
USI were able to reply in the third after Vincent Whittington earned the only walk of the game and was advanced to two through a sacrifice from French.
Damien Dolejs returned the ball hard and fast to the pitcher at his turn to bat. With the ball bouncing off the pitcher's glove and out into right field, Whittington was able to come home and tie up the game at 1-all.
USI pitcher Brandon Peck had kept the game tight, striking out two Black Sox, but was made to work in the fourth innings with Aaron Neemia and Haretuku hitting 13 fouls between them. Neemia eventually got the ball in the park, hitting to centre field for a three-bagger. After his string of fouls, Haretuku hit the ball out of the park and scored them both.
A misthrow for a tag at third in the fifth innings saw Tyrone Bartorillo bring in the fourth run for the Black Sox.
Both teams were effectively shut down in the last three innings once Schollum returned to his squad and Marlborough-born Hayes took the mound for the national side.
Hayes struck out seven of 10 USI batters. And, apart from the run in the fifth, it was three up, three down in each innings for the Black Sox. Schollum took two strikeouts and, as well as several routine outs, there was a successful Kelly-instigated rundown on Tyson Byrne.
USI team captain French said the game was a great opportunity for many of the young players, who all proved themselves against the best the country has to offer. French, Peck and Daniel Mallabar have been picked for the Southern Pride team, and Luke Bowers is a step closer to becoming noticed, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News