Softball: Canadian makes a mark with the bat

By Shane Hurndell

Canadian centre outfielder Austin Mark was the toast of the Napier Vikings premier men's softball side on Saturday night.

Mark, who is in his first season in the Bay, hit an automatic home run with veteran short stop and player-coach Scotty Mitchell, 49, on base to give the Vikings a 5-4 win against defending champions Maraenui Pumas at Akina Park, Hastings. It was the Vikings first win in two seasons.

"It's a shame Austin couldn't join us at the celebrations. He had to take off to Wellington for some playing commitments down there but I drank his share," Mitchell said.

"It could have been a long night but Rachael [Mitchell's wife] called me to come home for tea. I thought I better go and score some brownie points as NFC is getting close," Mitchell, who is the Hawke's Bay men's NFC team's co-coach, said.

Left outfielder Phil Mudd was another to shine with the bat for the Vikings with a three bagger and a single from four turns. It was a case of double celebration for Mudd at the weekend as his daughter Kora turned one yesterday.

Kyle Steffert pitched for Vikings and struck out two of the 28 Pumas batters he faced while conceding two walks and nine hits. Pumas used two pitchers.

Tiwana Aranui struck out three of the 25 batters he faced while conceding nine hits and a walk. Horowai Puketapu struck out two of the three batters he faced.

"We're still missing a couple of batters," Pumas coach Ainsley Kara said, referring to the fact his side will be more of a force when Hawke's Bay representatives Regan Manley and Karaitiana Aranui are available.

Fast Pitch short stop Curtis Huata smashed his third and most crucial home run of the season to date as his team beat GSB Building Saints 5-4 in the clash of the unbeaten sides at Akina Park. With his team trailing 4-3 and three minutes left on the clock in the 1h 45m encounter Huata hit his automatic over the centre outfield fence with right outfielder Kane Herbert on base to secure the victory.

"We started coming right towards the end of the game. That comeback win will give us confidence for the rest of the season," Huata said.

A former Black Sox training squad member, Huata, 20, said he can't wait to play for Hawke's Bay against the Black Sox at Akina Park on November 18. He has hopes of making the national training squad again and if he can continue to produce hits like Saturday's he could achieve his goal.

While happy with his team's victory Fast Pitch coach Corey Tamati pointed out his troops could easily have lost the game.

"Basic errors are still letting the boys down. Jordan [pitcher Jordan Waterhouse] pitched well but far too often was let down by fielding errors," Tamati said.

Saints coach Graham Scarfe said six runners left on base proved costly for his team.

"There is still a long way to go in the season and we're not far off where we should be," he said.

Huata opened the scoring when he scampered home on a passed ball in the first inning. Saints took a 2-1 lead in the second inning when centre outfielder Luke Woon scored on an error and first baseman Paul Roberts scored on a fielder's choice.

Fast Pitch took a 3-2 lead in the third inning when former Junior Black Sox outfielder Rongo Rapaea hit Huata and Herbert home. Woon tied the game up at 3-all when he scored on a passed ball in the fourth inning which also saw Roberts score on a hit from left outfielder Fred Jackson.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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