Family trio star as North Harbour topples champions Auckland at national softball tournament
The Rona family featured prominently as North Harbour pulled off a big upset win over Auckland at the National Fastpitch Championships softball tournament.
Harbour beat their crosstown rivals 6-2 to inflict Auckland's first loss of the series at Lower Hutt's Fraser Park on Friday.
Brad Rona – veteran of five world championships with the Black Sox – led the charge when Harbour had a big, four-run inning in the bottom of the second frame. Rona's shot scored Kurtis Tompkins for Harbour's first run.
His elder son, Pita Rona, stepped up and smashed a three-run home run over the fence for a 4-0 lead.
Auckland struck back in the top of the second inning when Black Sox catcher Zane van Lieshout singled to score Nathan Nukunuku and Regan O'Neil.
But Harbour restored their four-run lead when Vincent Harris homered in the third with Joshua Kingi on base.
The pitchers dominated thereafter, with Harbour replacing young starter Sam Marley with Japanese international Hikaru Matsuda, who took five strikeouts for four safe hits.
Teenage second baseman Kaleb Rona effected a vital double play for Harbour in the seventh inning and finished as his team's top batter with two hits from three trips to the plate.
Wellington beat Counties Manukau-Waikato 3-0 despite being outbatted three hits to two.
Zac Boyd opened the scoring for Wellington in the third inning and Ricky Manson (on a wild pitch) and Tyson Byrne (error) scampered home in the fifth.
Hutt Valley edged Southern Pride 2-1 after Black Sox outfielder Jerome Haretuku produced a sacrifice fly to score Joel Evans in the first inning and Jay Johnston, running for catcher Cory Timu, crossed on an error in the sixth.
Canterbury toppled Southern Pride 4-2 in the South Island derby with all four runs coming in the fourth inning.
Southern's relief pitcher Josh Kelly had a tough baptism, conceding a home run to the first batter he faced – Black Sox infielder Tyron Bartorillo. Singles to Josh Harbrow, Josh Thomson and Reilly Makea followed before the Pride coaches restored starting pitcher Riley Power, who promptly gave up a double to Ihaka Davis.
Southern bit back in the fifth with two runs after Tim Campbell tripled and Mardi McBride singled, but Canterbury's Black Sox pitcher Penese Iosefo prevented any further scoring.
A series of walks and hits by Callum Bishop, Josh Dickson and Davis allowed Canterbury to build a six-run spree in the inning to close out a comfortable 10-0 win over Counties Manukau-Waikato.
The Friday programme was disrupted by rain.
Wellington had two vital early wins in the women's competition.
Coach Glen Roff's side pipped Hutt Valley 3-2. Paiton Koko-Lutau scored on errors by the Hutt corner infielders in the third inning, but Hutt responded when Mikayla Lewin crossed after a fielding fumble and Kuraroa Ratu-James batted in Megan Cross.
Wellington took a winning edge in the sixth after Freya Bullock's three-bagger and a single to Emma Francis.
White Sox pitcher and catcher Rita Hokianga and Mel Gettins played their part in Wellington's 3-1 victory against Southern Pride. Gettins singled in the early stages and Francis and Alison Boys followed with two-baggers as Wellington built a crucial lead. Hokianga held Southern to five hits, while taking three strikeouts.
Champions Auckland thrashed Canterbury 8-0 in five innings after establishing a 6-0 lead in the second frame following base hits by Aieesha Hoopeer, Jennifer Feret-Brear, Sammi Parks and Aaria Tawha. Parks threw a one-hitter and took four strikeouts.
AT A GLANCE
Early second day results from the National Fastpitch Championships.
Canterbury 4 Southern Pride 2, North Harbour 6 Auckland 2, Wellington 3 Counties Manukau-Waikato 0, Hutt Valley 2 Southern Pride 1, Canterbury 10 Counties Manukau-Waikato 0 (5 innings).
Wellington 3 Hutt Valley 2, Wellington 3 Southern Pride 1, Auckland 8 Canterbury 0 (5 innings).