The five Marlborough-based players in the under-15 boys Upper South Island softball team, with coaches Darren Aldridge and Marshall Rawiri. Photo: Supplied.

Young softballers take on the best

Five Marlborough softballers were members of the Upper South Island (USI) team which contested the under-15 boys national tournament held at Te Atiawa Park, Paraparaumu from January 9-12.

USI, who includes leading players from Marlborough, Nelson and the West Coast, was among the 17 teams who contested the nationals.

This year’s USI side comprised five boys from Marlborough, five from Nelson, plus one pick-up player from both Dunedin and Christchurch.

The Marlborough representation consisted of: Luke Aldridge (2nd base), Willem Hayton (3rd base), Jaymie Blake (catcher/outfield), Kayden Burdon and Ryan Jamieson (both outfield). Both team coaches, Darren Aldridge and Marshall Rawiri, were from Marlborough as well as the co-manager, Geoff Blake.

The team were pulled together quite late in the piece and, while the majority managed three or four combined trainings, the entire team didn’t get together until the afternoon of January 8 in Paraparaumu when they met the two pickups who flew into Wellington.

USI had a tough introduction to the tournament, meeting a strong Wellington combination first up.

They then took on Tairawhiti, Hawke’s Bay, Mid Canterbury and North Harbour (eventual second place-getters, over the first two days.

On day three the teams were split into pools based on performances to date, with USI, Auckland Development, Southland, Tairawhiti and Horowhenua being put together.

USI scored two wins in their pool, beating Tairawhiti and Horowhenua and enjoyed close matches against both Auckland Development and Southland.

Having played nine games over four days the USI lads played a lot of softball and, according to team management, “improved out of sight”.

They were involved in some tough battles, proving very competitive, including holding North Harbour scoreless for three innings.

“The boys did themselves proud, particularly for a team that came together at the last minute,” said co-manager Blake.

William Macdonald had a strong tournament, both at bat and on the pitcher's mound, for Marlborough.  Photo: Shuttersport.

Softballers third at Jefferies Cup

Marlborough’s senior men’s softball side proved highly-competitive at the annual Jefferies Cup tournament, which was staged in Christchurch recently, but fell short of a top two placing in the round-robin format.

They came away from the four-team competition at Mizuno Ballpark with a three-win, three-loss record, finishing third behind perennial winners Canterbury and Otago.

Marlborough met the host first-up, losing 8-2, before beating Otago 7-6 and Southland 6-4. Their final match on an arduous day one was a replay of their earlier clash with Otago, but this time the southerners came away with a narrow 2-1 win.

On Sunday, Marlborough accounted for Southland in their opening match, again 6-4, before going down to Canterbury in a high-scoring encounter 15-8.

Coach Steve Gill felt his side had performed well, despite the fact they had played no warm-up games together prior to the interprovincial tournament and were without their usual ace, former Black Sox pitcher Kurt Schollum.

“Our first game [for the season] was against Canterbury and we started well, going up 2-0 in the first inning against the eventual winners.

“The boys played excellently with little preparation. Saying that though, even if we had been playing a lot of ball, we may have ended up with the same result.”

In the side’s second match against Canterbury they made a blazing start, going ahead 8-1 heading into the fourth inning before losing 15-8 in the fifth, as the home side brought a few of their bigger names into the game.

Kyle Marfell, who hit a big homer against the Red and Blacks, and William Macdonald, with a three-bagger, were impressive with the bat all tournament. Macdonald, Jontae MacDonald and Riley Power, from Nelson, shared the pitching duties.

With there being no senior competition at the moment in Marlborough, Gill had to call on several players who play elsewhere, recruiting some of them under a “State of Origin” rule.

However, he said “six or seven” Marlborough-based players had trained regularly in Blenheim for the Jefferies.

“It is just that there is a shortage of pitchers around [Marlborough] at the moment. With William and Jontae now in Christchurch and Kurt taking time out it’s been hard to get the others regular play.”

The Marlborough team was: Jontae MacDonald, William Macdonald, Campbell Gill, Kyle Marfell, Tyler Bird, Denham Wisdom, Blake Wisdom, Anaru Anderson,  Christian Farrow, Drew Roberts, Riley Power (Nelson), Jack Bates and Jacob Davidson (Christchurch).

Anderson and Macdonald were picked up by Canterbury for the national under-23 tournament which followed the Jefferies Cup, McDonald joining the Southland side.

Young softballers in action at Lansdowne Park on Saturday. Photo: Supplied.

Softballers start season with slight shift in venue

The Marlborough softball season officially got underway on Saturday.

Teams gathered at Lansdowne Park for a series of game to kick-start the 2019-20 season. With the council doing drainage work at the moment near the established softball diamond on the northern side of the stop bank, games will be played until further notice on the fields between the Central Rugby Club and the back of the main western stand.

Marlborough Softball Association chairperson Bruce Walker says the under-7 competition is expected to comprise at least 13 teams, six sides will make up the under-9 grade, four teams will compete in the under-11/13 grade and there is one team confirmed for the under-15 grade at this stage, although they are still finalising the age groups.

“Softball has started in Marlborough with a bright sunny day and plenty of energy and numbers to match,” said Bruce.

“The BBQ was running and everyone had a great start to their weekend. We will not be playing over Labour Weekend but will resume the games on Marlborough Anniversary Weekend.”

The MSA have spent time in the province’s schools, stirring up interest in the game, with a resulting rise in numbers.

“Credit for this must go in some part to Morgan Walker [MSA development office] and Nathan Gill, a long-time Marlborough softball representative.

“Morgan has taken time out of year 13 studies to deliver several drills and games that Nathan has put together to the kids. They responded well to the presentation and have come along to play softball,” Bruce added.