The Black Sox have been beaten 3-1 by an Auckland United All-Star selection, a month out from the men's softball world championship in Auckland.
In their first outing as a team, the Black Sox were left red-faced by the scratch combination, which had their measure throughout last night's match.
Tacked on the end of the annual Vic Guth tournament, the outing was a way for the national team to respect the event's 50th instalment, as well as squeeze in some much-needed match practice together.
But the combination selected by tournament organisers was always on top of the national side, collecting runs off all three pitchers - Heinie Shannon, Penese Iosefo and Nik Hayes - used over the five innings played.
It could have looked worse on the scoreboard - a fourth run was disallowed, after the base runner failed to tag third on the way home.
But the lessons did not end with the scoreline. On that same play, Black Sox reserve Nathan Nukunuku slid aggressively into second, taking out short stop Tyson Byrne and clearing the dugouts in the process.
"In terms of combinations, it was the first time out on the park, we were a little bit rusty, we missed a couple of cut plays and our pitching can only improve,'' said Black Sox coach Eddie Kohlhase, who refused to hit the panic button so early in the campaign.
''My message was, you don't a world championship on January 28. Our aim is to be ready by March 1."
Kohlhase took a fairly conservative approach to the encounter, keeping many of his veterans on the sidelines for most of the game.
Donny Hale was unavailable, captain Rhys Casley and fourth pitcher Jeremy Manley - both returning from injury - took no part, while Thomas Makea was only used as a pinch hitter at the death.
''There were a whole lot of guys who had played seven or eight games (in the tournament), but we told them we had to replicate a world tournament, and we just had to get out there and play," said Kohlhase. "But it was the same for the other team.
''We have to work on our pitching accuracy, our fielding wasn't too bad and we haven't even started working on our running game. There were probably one or two situations where we would have done some things differently, but those are good things to work on."
The Black Sox next assemble to contest the Brother Patrick tournament in Auckland from February 8-10.
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