Four home runs drive Auckland United to national softball glory
Rising Black Sox star Campbell Enoka smashed two automatic homeruns to spark Auckland United to their third national open interclub men's softball title.
United – title winners in 1978 and 2012 – overpowered Hutt Valley Dodgers 5-2 in a sluggers final featuring six out-of-the-park home runs.
Enoka – promoted to leadoff batter with older brother Ben on the casualty list – blasted the ball over the fence in the top of the first inning and repeated the feat in the sixth frame at Christchurch's Mizuno Ballpark on Sunday.
First baseman Isaac Fletcher followed his cousin Campbell Enoka in the first inning with another home run over centrefield, leaving Dodgers and their Black Sox pitcher Nik Hayes an uphill task.
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Black Sox captain Thomas Enoka joined the home run parade with a shot over centrefield in the third inning.
United head coach Duncan Enoka admitted the back-to-back dingers in the first inning gave the new champions a dream start after Dodgers had failed to score despite a double by Danny Brown and a single to Black Sox catcher Cory Timu.
"For any pitcher to get two home runs hit off you [by the first two batters] is quite devastating. I felt sorry for Nik Hayes there, but he came back strong." Enoka Sr said.
"Once we got ahead, we set that benchmark, it gave us that buffer.
"To be fair, Dodgers came trucking back but the boys maintained their composure and held out till the end."
The United coach paid tribute to "fired up" pitcher Bayley Hoani, who held Dodgers to five hits – including two automatic home runs, to Brown and Timu.
Hoani, who also pitched United to victory in the 2012 final, had "been a workhorse all week", sharing the pitching load with Thomas Enoka.
The United hurler ended the game by striking out the last batter for his ninth "K" of the game.
Hayes struck out 13 United batters but conceded seven hits.
Campbell Enoka led United's batting averages with three hits from four at-bats and brother Thomas went two from four.
United led 4-0 before Brown belted Dodgers' first home run in the top of the fifth inning. Timu gave them a glimmer of hope, cutting the deficit to 4-2 with his king hit in the sixth, but Campbell Enoka cancelled it out with his second round-tripper.
His father and coach said 22-year-old Campbell was "maturing every season" and benefited from brotherly competition. "The three of them are very competitive, but very encouraging of each other as well."
Catcher Kallan Compain drove in his 16th run of the tournament to clinch the most valuable player (MVP) award.
The Aucklanders entered the tournament on a high after winning their fifth consecutive Auckland club championship last weekend.
Coach Enoka said it had been their goal to "win the AFC first and come down and win club nats".
When captain Ben Enoka was unable to play the AFC final or take the diamond in Christchurch, "guys on the bench stepped up to fill the hole and certainly did their jobs".
Seven of the United squad were backing up from the 2012 title triumph and their could be more success on the horizon with United have the coach Enoka nothing none of his lineup had yet reached 30 – prime age for a softballer.
He has had the nucleus together for seven years and said they were "born and bred United players" and there were more in reserve with the club's under-17 and under-19 players already training with the premier team.
Auckland United qualified directly for the final after thumping Mt Albert Ramblers 8-1 on Saturday. Dodgers edged Ramblers 1-0 in the Sunday morning playoff.
Auckland Softball have completed a "double-double" by providing the provincial and club national men's and women's champions – the first time any province had achieved the feat since Auckland in 2012.
Western Magpies defended their national women's open club championship title after a 3-2 win over Hutt Valley Dodgers at Howick on Sunday.
All Magpies' runs came in the first inning after a two-down rally sparked by free bases to Cassie Siataga (hit pitch) and Jennifer Feret-Brear (walk). Virginie Anneveld hit a single to score Siataga and catcher Aaria Tawha doubled to bring home Feret-Brear and Robyn Hall (running for Anneveld).
Dodgers struck back with two runs in the top of the second after hits by Rebecca Jefferies and pitcher Rita Hokianga and Magpies' sole error of the game.
But there was no further scoring with Hokianga holding Magpies to four hits while taking four strikeouts.
Magpies' 22-year-old Texan starting pitcher Jamie Allred and Feret-Brear combined for five strikeouts and six hits.
AT A GLANCE
National Men's Open softball results
Top four-playoffs: Auckland United 8 Ramblers 1, Hutt Valley Dodgers 8 Auckland Marist 2, Dodgers 1 Ramblers 0.
Grand final: Auckland United 5 Dodgers 2.
Playoffs: 5th/6th: Papanui (Canty) 3 Poneke Kilbirnie (Wgtn) 1, 7th/8th: Howick (Auck) 1 Saints (Marlborough) 0.
Awards: Top batter: Brad Rona (Northcote) .609. Top pitcher: Nik Hayes (Dodgers). Most Valuable Player: Kallan Compain (Auckland United).