Brad Rona celebrates 100th Black Sox test cap in softball win over Denmark
Three home runs got the Black Sox back on a winning track at the world softball championships as veteran Brad Rona celebrated his 100th international game.
Rona, 41, joined captain Nathan Nukunuku in the hundred club in a 8-1 win over Denmark on Thursday (NZ Time) - a day after Nukunuku reached three figures at Whitehorse in Canada.
Both men made their New Zealand debuts in the late 1990s and are chasing their fourth gold medals at their record-equalling sixth world championships.
Softball New Zealand chief executive Tony Giles said reaching the 100-test mark was "a magnificent achievement and totally deserving".
Research by SNZ statistician Elaine Karsten showed Nukunuku has played 151 games for the Black Sox, including non-internationals, and Rona 141.
Black Sox manager Jayden Moore said the pair join two "other greats", four-time world champions Thomas Makea (140) and Jarrad Martin (131), in the 100-test club.
Rona has been a regular starter in Whitehorse, but he came off the bench to drive in a run in the Black Sox's 8-1 six innings win over a Denmark team coached by Nukunuku's brothers Israel and Dion (a former Black Sox gold medallist).
Coach Mark Sorenson gave game-time to some of his fringe players with Joel Evans starting at second base, Josh Harbrow at third and Isaac Fletcher moving to first base.
In-form hitter Kallan Compain switched from right field to his specialist role behind the plate, catching to starter Josh Pettett.
Campbell Enoka - promoted to leadoff batter from number nine in the order - justified Sorenson's faith by hammering a home run over the centrefield fence in the first at-bat of the game.
Evans followed with another homer over left field to give the Black Sox an unassailable early 2-0 lead.
The Black Sox put a lock on the game when shortstop Cole Evans - switched from top of the order to the no 9 slot - clouted a three-run home run to left centrefield to extend the margin to 6-0.
Pettett pitched two innings for no hits and four strikeouts before being relieved by left-hander Karl Gollan.
The 38-year-old gave up two hits, including a fourth inning solo shot home run by Denmark's Martin Simonsen. But he did not serve up a walk and took four strikeouts, befuddling some Danish batters with his deceptive change-up deliveries.
One of the few Black Sox pitchers permitted to bat, Gollan showed why with a single in his only trip to the plate.
New Zealand closed out the game after two more runs in the bottom of the fifth with Rona collecting his RBI.
The Kiwi batters collected eight hits, including two to Compain, one of the most improved hitters in Whitehorse this week.
The Black Sox complete round-robin play against fourth-ranked Pool B team Botswana on Friday (NZ Time).
AT A GLANCE
New Zealand 8 Denmark 1 (6 innings). Hits: NZ 8 (Kallan Compain 2, Campbell Enoka HR, Joel Evans HR, Cole Evans HR, Josh Harbrow, Wayne Laulu, Karl Gollan) Denmark 2 (Martin Simonsen HR). Pitching: Josh Pettett (2 innings) 0 hits 4 strikeouts 0 walks, Karl Gollan (4 innings) 2 hits, 4 strikeouts, 0 walks).