BRIAN DELLOW agonised over his decision to play in Hawke's Bay's premier men's softball competition's pre-Christmas final on Saturday.
The GSB Building Saints first baseman had his cousin Isaac Barlow's wedding in Hastings at the same time as the final against Fast Pitch, a five-minute drive down the road at Akina Park.
"In the end I decided to play the final for Isaac," Dellow explained.
The decision paid off.
Dellow produced a player-of-the-match performance during Saints 3-1 win over their rivals which gave the team their first pre-Christmas title since 1996.
Five weeks after smashing an automatic home run for Hawke's Bay against the Black Sox the 35-year-old powerful left hander got on base with all three turns at bat. His second hit, an automatic home run over the centre outfield fence in the bottom of the third inning, put Saints ahead 2-1.
It wasn't a surprise when Fast Pitch pitcher Jordan Waterhouse intentionally walked Dellow when he came up to bat for the third time in the 1hr45m time limit final which ended after Fast Pitch's sixth turn at bat.
"I've been hitting the ball pretty good and training pretty hard and it paid off today. To get this title is the icing on the cake for the club which has had a memorable pre-Christmas campaign," Dellow said.
He was referring to the fact Saints also took out the senior B men's, under-18 youth and all of the age group competitions they entered.
"This is good for all the young fellahs coming through our grades and of course young Bradley," Dellow said pointing over to 14-year-old club member Bradley Woon who watched the final while home for Christmas from Auckland's Starship Hospital where he is receiving treatment for a brain tumour. He returns to Auckland on January 16 to start five months of chemotherapy.
Saints opened the scoring in the first inning when second baseman Paul Roberts scored on an error. Fast Pitch equalised when catcher Kane Herbert scored on an error in the second inning.
Saints final run came in the fourth inning when left outfielder Fred Jackson hit third baseman Hoani Crawford home. Both Crawford and Jackson impressed with their defensive work, too.
Saints world champion Argentinian pitcher Pablo Masmu conceded three hits and two walks while striking out two of the 25 batters he faced. Waterhouse also conceded three hits and two walks while striking out three of the 23 batters he faced.
It was the fourth consecutive year Fast Pitch had failed to win the pre-Christmas title.
"These finals are definitely a mental obstacle for the boys. We have to flip this hurdle somehow ... the boys were in the right frame of mind when they warmed up," Fast Pitch coach Corey Tamati said afterwards.
"That's our challenge for 2013 but we will be back," added Tamati who is in his first season coaching the side after playing for Maraenui Pumas who won the pre-Christmas and post-Christmas titles last season.
In the curtainraiser Saints soundly beat Maraenui Pumas 8-2 in the under-18 youth pre-Christmas final.