Three Enoka brothers and a cousin in NZ Black Sox world softball championship squad
Three Auckland brothers - and their cousin - will make New Zealand softball history when they play together in a Black Sox world championship squad for the first time.
Established stars and flatmates Ben and Thomas Enoka will be joined by younger brother, Campbell. The trio will be vying to be the starting outfielders for the tournament in Canada from July 6-17.
The family connection is deepened by the inclusion of their cousin, catcher Kallan Compain, 27.
Ben, who won a gold medal with the Black Sox in 2013, is 27, Thomas, the Black Sox vice captain, is 26 and Campbell - one of six world series rookies in the squad - is 24.
Compain, who played for Samoa at the 2013 world tournament in Auckland, got the nod at catcher over Hutt Valley's Cory Timu with Sorenson opting "for the best defensive catcher to back up Zane [van Lieshout]."
The family quartet, who have played together throughout their careers, won the national interclub tournament in Christchurch this month in an Auckland United team coached by the Enoka's father, Duncan.
But their world series selection is even sweeter.
"It's awesome that the three of us are in the team," said Thomas, who captained the Black Sox on their Argentina tour last November and at the Challenge Cup tournament in Auckland in February.
"It's been a dream for the whole family to have all three of us in there."
He said he and Ben had "enjoyed watching the little brother grow up. He's now at the point where he's established himself and he could be better than both of us.
"He's been playing really well; he deserves it."
The Enokas were equally excited at the call-up for Compain, who was on the Argentina tour.
"He didn't really think he had a shot at it because he missed out on the Challenge Cup, but he played himself in with a great week at the club nationals [where he was the tournament MVP]," Thomas said.
"I'm so proud of him."
Compain's father is the brother of the Enokas' mother, Michelle, who will be in the stands at Whitehorse in the Yukon with husband Duncan.
"We've got a lot of uncles and aunties who want to travel, so I'm sure there'll be a lot of family support there, we had a good crowd in 2015," Thomas said.
The Black Sox, who have won six world titles between 1976 and 2013, had to settle for the silver medal at the 2015 tournament in Saskatoon, losing 10-5 after leading Canada 5-0.
That memory still drives Thomas Enoka, who said it was "unfinished business" and he had "a real fire in the ally to get the gold medal back again".
Ten of the 17-man Black Sox squad will be backing up from 2015.
The group announced by head coach Mark Sorenson on Tuesday features the returns of captain Nathan Nukunuku, 36, and Brad Rona, 41, for their sixth world championships.
Rona has not played for New Zealand since the 2015 tournament and Nukunuku missed the Argentina and Challenge Cup tournaments due to business commitments.
Sorenson said Thomas Enoka did a good job as the stand-in captain and would be "a leader of the future", but Nukunuku's experience would be vital.
"He sets high standards and he's a leader who inspires the guys around him."
Rona had never been out of contention, Sorenson said, and won the MVP award at the International Softball Congress tournament in the United States last year and the top batter accolade at this month's New Zealand interclub.
In another talking point, American-based pitcher Karl Gollan has been selected for his first world championships since winning gold with the Black Sox in Christchurch in 2004.
Sorenson said Gollan, in his mid-30s, provides "a left-handed option" to back up hard-throwing right handers, Nik Hayes (a gold medallist in 2013) and world championship rookies Josh Pettett (Wellington) and Campbell Gibson (Auckland)
Gollan appealed as a potential "relief" pitcher and "offers us another stick because he's still a very good hitter".
Sorenson said the Black Sox had a "well-balanced squad with a lot of young guys who we've blooded, but some older heads who give us that much more experience".
AT A GLANCE
The 2017 New Zealand Black Sox world championships squad
Pitchers: Campbell Gibson (Auckland), Karl Gollan (USA), Nik Hayes (Hutt Valley), Josh Pettett (Wellington)
Catchers: Kallan Compain (Auckland), Zane van Lieshout (Auckland)
Infielders: Tyron Bartorillo (Canterbury), Cole Evans (Auckland), Joel Evans (Hutt Valley), Josh Harbrow (Canterbury), Nathan Nukunuku (Auckland, captain), Brad Rona (North Harbour)
Outfielders/Designated Players: Ben Enoka (Auckland), Campbell Enoka (Auckland), Thomas Enoka (Auckland, vice captain), Isaac Fletcher (Auckland), Wayne Laulu (Wellington)
Head coach: Mark Sorenson (Hutt Valley)
Assistant coach: Darryl Marino (Hutt Valley)
Pitching coach: Jim Wana (Wellington)
Manager: Jayden Moore (Canterbury)
AROUND THE BASES
- Nathan Nukunuku and Brad Rona will be attending their sixth world championships since 2000.
- Ben Enoka will be attending his fourth and Nik Hayes and Wayne Laulu their third.
- Nukunuku and Rona have three world championship gold medals and two silvers.
- Nukunuku, Rona, Hayes, Laulu, Tyron Bartorillo and Ben Enoka remain from the Black Sox's last world champion team in 2013.
- Bartorillo (Australia, 2009), Thomas Enoka (Samoa, 2013) and Compain (Samoa, 2009) have played at a world championship for other nations.
- Queensland-born Bartorillo won a gold medal with Australia in 2009.
- Six players - Campbell Gibson, Josh Pettett, Kallan Compain, Zane van Lieshout, Campbell Enoka and Isaac Fletcher – will be playing at their first world championship for the Black Sox.