Courageous Canterbury pitcher Penese Iosefo escaped from a car wreck a month ago to become a national champion and book a berth in the Black Sox world softball championships squad.
The 25-year-old was named top pitcher and most valuable player at the National Fastpitch Championship (NFC) after throwing the Canterbury Red Sox to a 2-0 win over Auckland in the grand final in Albany yesterday.
However, his biggest buzz came after speaking to son Cairo on the telephone after his name was read out in the 17-man Black Sox squad for the world championships in Auckland in March.
"It's just the biggest thing I could ever have . . . my girlfriend, Kereana, and my son rang . . . to hear your son saying ‘you're the man' was pretty cool.
"He was screaming at the TV, ‘don't let them hit it . . .' "
Iosefo also celebrated off the diamond with his proud parents, Andy and Lyn, a month after they escaped with their lives from a serious car crash near Dunedin, with Cairo, 4, also in the vehicle.
"We went down for my granddad's 80th. Driving back on the way home, we ended up hitting the back of a milk truck and going into a paddock," he said.
"The back tyre blew, that's what made it flip, and from what people told us, it ended up rolling three or four times and ended up on its side. But everyone came out pretty much unscathed.
"I had a cut to the head and sore ribs and such . . . other than that I'm just happy everyone's alive."
Iosefo's ribs were still tender after the second day of the NFC.
However, Iosefo played on to pitch Canterbury to three sudden-death wins in the playoffs.
He said he had "to fire and get out of my groin injury I pulled in the semifinal [victory over Hutt Valley] to get out and do the job for the boys".
"We just had to battle to get past that first run and once we got it, we shut the game down pretty much."
Iosefo said his former Junior Black Sox coach, Mark Sorenson, encouraged him to work hard at his pitching but he almost gave it away at one stage to focus on being a hitter.
He took a year off after Cairo was born but came back with renewed determination to make it as a hurler.
"I love it now, I don't even worry about hitting any more, except for my club."
Iosefo and Hutt Valley hurler Nik Hayes, 23, will join 2009 world championships pitchers Jeremy Manley (United States-based) and Heinie Shannon (Auckland) on the Black Sox pitching roster.
Hayes, a Marlborough product, also contemplated giving up the game after his Junior Black Sox debut in 2008 but was drafted in to play on the Black Sox' North American tour last winter.
Hayes said the selection was a "bittersweet" moment for him.
While he was thrilled to make the world championships team, he was gutted Hutt Valley lost their NFC semifinal to Canterbury.
"Seeing the Canterbury boys out there celebrating, made it really hard," he said.
Two other Canterbury players - utility Daniel Milne, 34, and infielder Tyron Bartorillo, 28, were named in the Black Sox.
Coach Eddie Kohlhase said the unlucky omissions were Auckland shortstop Nathan Nukunuku, Canterbury captain Gareth Cook, pitchers Regan Manley (Hawke's Bay) and Karl Gollan (Wellington) and young Wellington players Jerome Raemaki and Campbell Makea.
Makea's older brother, Thomas, and former Black Sox captain Jarrad Martin were named in their fifth world championships squad since 1996.
Black Sox: Pitchers: Jeremy Manley (United States, formerly Manawatu), Penese Iosefo (Canterbury), Nik Hayes (Hutt Valley), Heinie Shannon (Auckland). Catchers: Aaron Stroman-Neemia (Wellington), Patrick Shannon (Auckland). Infielders: Rhys Casley (Hutt Valley, captain), Brad Rona (North Harbour), Tyron Bartorillo, Daniel Milne (Canterbury), Tyson Byrne (Hutt Valley). Outfielders-utilities: Donny Hale, Jerome Haretuku, Ben Enoka (Auckland), Thomas Makea, Wayne Laulu, Jarrad Martin (Wellington).
- © Fairfax NZ News