CHAMPIONS CONTINUE TO LEAD THE WAY IN CANTERBURY SOFTBALL PREMIERSHIPS
By Tony Smith
The two titleholders continue to set the pace after the first month of the Canterbury men’s and women’s softball premierships.
With premier grade numbers fluctuating in some other centres, Canterbury has expanded its elite grades to six teams this season.
Carl McIlroy’s ELE Papanui Tigers – chasing an eighth consecutive crown – lead perennial rivals PCU Devils by a slender point in the men’s championship.
PCU, behind the pitching of new Black Sox call-up Liam Potts, edged Papanui 2-1 on opening day, but the Tigers turned the tables on October 28 with a 5-2 win.
The promoted Rolleston Raptors hold third place after an encouraging start to their first premier season.
The Kaiapoi Queens – maiden Canterbury champions last season – enjoy a six-point lead in the women’s premiership, although nearest rivals Papanui have several games in hand.
Lindsay Thomas – fresh from winning the US Women’s Professional Fastpitch title with the Texas Smoke in the New Zealand off-season – slugged her fourth home run of the season for the Queens on Saturday – and pitched them to a win.
The women’s premiership continues to benefit from the addition of American college graduates. University of Nebraska alumnus Tristen Edwards is challenging Thomas for top batter honours after a startling start for the newly-promoted Riccarton Maidens.
Casidy Chaumont, a University of Missouri senior in 2022, has helped drive Papanui’s rise under coaches Paul and Suzy de Latour while PCU’s Stephani Fairclough led the pitching ERAs after the first round.
LAST SATURDAY’S REPORTS
Black Sox outfielder Jackson Watt warmed up for the Oceania World Cup qualifying series with a stint on the pitching mound in the Papanui Tigers’ win over Richmond Keas.
It’s unlikely the left-hander will pitch in Pago Pago against Australia and American Samoa later this week, but he was good enough to rack up 14 strikeouts in the ELE Papanui Tigers’ 5-2 win last Saturday.
Papanui seemed to be cruising in the early stages at Papanui Domain, but the RKS Blinders struck back to tie the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning after Leroy Cherry and Te Korewa Reihana slugged back-to-back triples.
The Tigers rallied with three runs in the seventh after lower order men Caleb Stewart and Josh Glading strung together successive hits (Stewart’s being a double).
Watt made way for Ben Watts in the bottom of the seventh and the Tigers and Canterbury No 1 fanned three Blinders back-to-back to clinch the win.
Stewart led the Tigers’ batting with three hits from four and Glading went two from four.
Former Black Sox infielder Josh Harbrow was in red-hot form in the PCU Devils’ 6-0 win over the Kaiapoi Kings.
Harbrow batted .666 after a triple and a home run while Bailey Hamilton and pitcher Liam Potts also clouted three-baggers.
Potts snared nine strikeouts, conceding just one hit, to Kaiapoi stalwart Jakzon Quinn.
Former Junior Black Sox pitcher Josh Kelly has proved a handy signing for the Rolleston Raptors’ first premiership season.
The Nelson-based hurler nabbed 13 strikeouts while scattering five hits in Rolleston’s 3-0 shutout win over the Albion Anteaters.
Aidan Tamati opened Rolly’s scoring and runs to Raikyn Barnes and leadoff hitter Blake Hardy wrapped it up in the fifth.
Lindsay Thomas swapped a catcher’s crouch for the pitching mound to lead the Kaiapoi Queens to a come-from-behind 7-6 win over Sydenham Kereru.
With her pitching protégé McKenzie Bailey-McDowell on Junior White Sox duty, Thomas turned her arm over, getting a win as a pitcher while also blasting her fourth homer of the fledgling campaign.
SK belied their bottom-of-the-table ranking by taking the fight to Kaiapoi, helped in large measure by some handy hitting from Krystal Werahiko in the clean-up role.
With one sister, Mikayla, absent and another, Carly, coaching, Krystal led from the front with two hits (including a double) in the early stages, engendering sufficient respect for the Queens to intentionally walk her on another couple of plate appearances.
SK led 6-5 after four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Robyn Hall, Jade Miller and Cheyan White plated after back-to-back hits. Werahiko was given a free pass to first and scored on Riko Ouchi Ditmer’s single.
They entered the top of the seventh requiring just three outs to end the game.
But Thomas, as she has so often done, sparked a Kaiapoi revival, smashing a leadoff home run through centrefield to tie the ball game.
Up stepped No 4 hitter Raina Joseph, who had had a triple in her first turn at bat. She slammed another three-bagger and scored on Christina Paul’s game-winning leftfield single.
Kaiapoi accumulated 13 safe hits, with Manawa Ruki leading with two from three, and Joseph, Paul and Rome Collins-Cross batting .500 (2 from 4).
SK had gone into the Kaiapoi clash with confidence renewed after a season-first win over Riccarton, 9-2.
Krystal Werahiko produced three hits from four at-bats, including a two-bagger. Navita O’Gram batted 1.000 with two hits (both right-field singles) from two trips, while Riko Ouchi Ditmer had a double.
Tristen Edwards tagged a triple for Riccarton and scored on a hit by Steph Kepa, who went two from three for the Maidens. Eden Jones also hit a double for Riccarton.
Switzerland national team player Kimberley Zehnder got a couple of hits in Halswell’s 10-3 win over Riccarton.
The centrefielder batted .500 while Hornets stalwarts Lucy McIntyre and Bev Lethlean went two from three and Ashley Lightfoot lashed a triple.
Riccarton got a grand start when leadoff Irish Taramai scored in the top of the first inning after hitting safely before a RBI single from Sydney Crippen-Lay.
Tristen Edwards drove a two-run home run with Hana Allan on base for Riccarton’s remaining runs in the third frame.
Edwards topped the averages with 1.000 after three hits from three while Taramai batted .666 (2 from 3).
Richmond Keas 3 Albion 2, PCU 2 Papanui 1, Rolleston 9 Kaiapoi 2, Papanui 13 Rolleston 1.
PCU 10 Richmond Keas 0, Albion 9 Rolleston 3, Papanui 12 Richmond Keas 1, PCU 10 Kaiapoi 0.
Albion 10 Kaiapoi 3, PCU 7 Rolleston 4, Papanui 6 Albion 0, Kaiapoi 6 Richmond Keas 0.
PCU 10 Albion 6, Papanui 8 Kaiapoi 1, Rolleston 4 Richmond Keas 0, Papanui 5 PCU 2.
Papanui 5 Richmond Keas 2, PCU 6 Kaiapoi 0, Rolleston 3 Albion 0.
Riccarton 6 Sydenham Kereru 5, PCU 9 Papanui 3, Kaiapoi 9 PCU 1, Halswell 5 Kaiapoi 4.
Halswell 12 Sydenham Kereru 2, Riccarton 6 Halswell 2, PCU 7 Sydenham Kereru 0, Kaiapoi 2 Papanui 0.
Papanui 7 Riccarton 0, Kaiapoi 10 Sydenham Kereru 0, Riccarton 5 PCU 4, Papanui 2 Halswell 1.
Kaiapoi 7 Riccarton 0, Papanui 9 Sydenham Kereru 2, Papanui 5 Kaiapoi 4, PCU 5 Halswell 4.
Sydenham Kereru 9 Riccarton 2, Kaiapoi 7 Sydenham Kereru 6, Halswell 10 Riccarton 3.
Papanui (7 games) 25pts, PCU (7) 24, Rolleston (6) 12, Albion (6) 9, Kaiapoi (6) 4, Richmond Keas (6) 4.
Kaiapoi (7 games) 22pts; Papanui (4) 16, Halswell (6) 14, PCU (5) 13, Riccarton (7) 12, Sydenham Kereru (7) 7.
Canterbury Softball Association Incorporated
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