Top of the South flying high

Nelson's young softball players have made history by claiming the inaugural Mainland Shield at the South Island under-17 boys' provincial championships.

At Christchurch's Mainland Foundation Ballpark on the weekend, Nelson were crowned champions after reversing a round-robin result and beating Canterbury 13-3 in the final. Nelson's pitcher Lincoln McBride was named the tournament MVP and five Nelson players made the tournament team.

The Nelson victory prevented Softball Canterbury from claiming the triple-crown after the Canterbury Red Sox senior men's team cruised to a record 19th consecutive South Island title without conceding a run.

Nelson Men's team finished fifth in the Jeffries Cup after losing to Southland 7-1, the Red Sox 8-0, Marlborough 3-0 and Otago 4-3.

The Canterbury Women's Red Hawks beat the Nelson Women 14-0 in the Jubilee Cup semifinal then went on to beat the Canterbury under-19 women in the final. Nelson's women's team were pipped for third place after a 7-6 loss to Southland.

Nelson's age-grade team made up for the lack of wins in the senior competition, only dropping one game on the way to a title.

In pool play Nelson started with an emphatic 26-0 win over Mid-Canterbury. Southland was up next on the competition's first day and the southern side were sent packing 7-0.

Canterbury brought the Nelson lads back to earth as the home side took an 11-9 victory, but the win couldn't prevent Nelson emerging from the round-robin at the top of their pool.

In Sunday's crossover matches, Nelson qualified for the final with an 8-0 win over Central Otago. Nelson then had their chance to prove they are the top team, taking on the Cantabrians and leaving no doubt with the lopsided score line.

Nelson coach Stu Power said he had no doubt the team could tip up Canterbury in the final. "We had confidence because we were hitting their pitching and once we got six-nil up after the first inning we knew we would take it out," he said.

"They all batted well to back up good pitching from Lincoln McBride and there was good fielding the whole weekend. The only game we really saw errors was the game we lost to Canterbury."

He said strong age-grade softball in Nelson allowed many of these 15 and 16 year olds to play A-grade softball in Nelson. Many of the team are also growing used to success, having won the under-15 South Island champs at the beginning of the year.

"I'd just like to thanks the boys and the parents, it was just great the amount of support we had down there. Being the first team to win the Mainland Shield was a real bonus too. The guys were over the moon."

Along with pitcher Lincoln McBride, Tyler Power (catcher), Cole James (infield), Keegan Hollis (infield) and Marty McBride (outfield) made the tournament team.