NZ baseballer on the brink of US college glory
Another Kiwi ball player could be on the brink of national college glory in the United States.
Just days after White Sox pitcher Rita Hokianga hurled West Texas A&M University to the NCAA Division Two women's softball title, Auckland baseballer Makauley Fox is heading to the NCAA baseball playoffs.
The 18-year-old New Zealand Diamondblacks pitcher helped Oregon State University (OSU) win their regular-season Pac-12 conference and earn top national seeding for the 64-team playoffs.
They will host a regional playoff series, which starts on Saturday (NZT) at their ball park at Corvallis, Oregon. They will play the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV), California Irvine and North Dakota State. The series winner will advance to the 'Super Regionals' playoffs phase which determine the eight teams for the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska from June 15.
Fox chose college over a host of minor league professional offers with Major League Baseball organisations and that decision has paid early dividends with the OSU Beavers receiving top seeding.
The ranking is the highest ever for the Beavers, who were the No 8 national seed in 2005 and No 3 last season.
The postseason appearance is the 15th all-time for the Beavers, and the sixth consecutive for the school, which extends a programme record. The Beavers are 47-29 (.618) all-time in the postseason, including a 26-17 (.604) record in NCAA Regional games and back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.
In his freshman year, Fox has contributed to the team's success largely as a reliever in a strong pitching rotation, pitching in six games, with a 1-0 win-loss record and an earned run average of 3.86.
The 1.88m left-handed hurler raised a number of eyebrows with his five shutout innings in pitching the Diamondblacks to their history making first-ever win against Thailand at the World Baseball Classic qualifier in Taiwan in 2012. He was targeted by a number of top colleges and MLB professional organisations.
"It's a huge blessing to be given such an amazing opportunity," said Fox.
"It is a fantastic experience to be playing in such a strong baseball environment.
"Being able to get a college degree at the same time as playing baseball [in a programme] that rivals the level in the minor leagues is a dream come true," Fox said.
"I am loving being in a community that supports all aspects of my growth and development and to showing many other Kiwi kids this pathway to achieving dreams."
Baseball New Zealand chief executive Ryan Flynn said everyone in the sport here "is proud of Makauley's accomplishments and his many years of hard work''.
Fox is one of a clutch of Kiwis at US colleges, including fellow Diamondblacks Max Brown (Kansas State University) and Daniel Bradley (North Iowa Community College).
Junior Diamondblacks Dewald De Klerk and Nick Koh are headed to Kansas-based Colby Community College and Indiana Wesleyan University respectively.