Hayes steals world title shot with Black Sox
Black Sox bolter Nik Hayes was both a happy pitcher and a bitterly disappointed one yesterday.
The 23-year-old player was stoked to make the Black Sox squad for the March world championships in Auckland but was gutted at Hutt Valley's National Fastpitch Championship (NFC) semifinal defeat to Canterbury.
Hayes said making the squad for the Black Sox's North American tour last winter "was a big enough thrill, let alone making this side".
"But, I'm pretty much on an off-buzz at the moment for not making the final . . . we had the team to make the final. We beat every single side at this tournament, bar Canterbury, so Canterbury deserved to go on and win it."
Hayes grew up in Marlborough where his father, Colin, was a top player. He was selected for the Junior Black Sox world championship squad in Canada in 2008 but moved to Wellington with Poneke Kilbirnie to further his career.
"They brought me up there with the help of [former Black Sox pitcher] Marty Grant . . . then I moved on to two Hutt Valley clubs [Cardinals, then Dodgers]."
Hayes only started pitching at 15 because Marlborough age-group teams were struggling to find decent hurlers.
"I'm training four times a week and my partner [Sam Poa] is always on at me to not slacken off . . . she's pretty much the driving force behind me. She looks after our two young daughters all night . . . it's hard getting home from work at 4 o'clock, leaving for training at 5 and coming home when the kids are in bed.
"But, at the end of the day, you put in those commitments to get results like this."
Hayes was the only Wellington-based pitcher in the squad, with Wellington's Karl Gollan missing out to veteran Auckland left-hander Heinie Shannon, a 2009 Black Sox representative in Saskatoon. Canterbury's Penese Iosefo - top pitcher and MVP at the NFC tournament - and United States-based former Manawatu man Jeremy Manley are also on the pitching staff.
Hayes was joined by Hutt Valley team-mates Rhys Casley, the Black Sox captain, and infielder Tyson Byrne. Four Wellington players - outfielders Thomas Makea, Wayne Laulu and Jarrad Martin and catcher Aaron Stroman-Neemia - made the squad. Makea and Martin will be attending their fifth world championships since 1996.
Their selection came at the expense of Makea's brother, Campbell, 22, an outfielder who has represented the Black Sox for the past two years.