If anyone had told Samarah Simmons at the start of this softball season she would be playing at national under-19 tournament level she would have laughed it off as a joke.
"I've exceeded all my expectations," Simmons, a Hastings Girls High School Year 11 student, said after the first day of play at the Akina Park, Hastings-hosted tournament yesterday.
After warming the subs bench during the Bay's opener, a 7-0 loss to Wellington, left-handed second-base player Simmons - who along with fellow 14-year-old Amber Ray is playing in her third consecutive national tournament this month after previously playing at under-15 and under-17 levels - was one of the hosts' stars during a 6-4 win against Hutt Valley.
Simmons, who scored the nickname "Sammy" when she took up the game three seasons ago, got on base with all three of her turns at bat.
Just as she did with the national title-winning Bay under-17s, Simmons used her slaps to rattle the Valley defence.
Her defensive work also impressed. Naturally Simmons, who is eyeing a career as a physical education teacher, hopes her form continues for the remainder of the six-team tournament which ends on Sunday.
Bay coach Darrel Paul said two other members of the under-17 side made valuable contributions to the win against Hutt Valley. Pitcher Courtney Gettins took eight strikeouts for the hosts, who never relinquished an early lead, while conceding six hits.
Regular second base player Brooke Eden produced some outstanding defensive work at short stop, a position her mother and Bay assistant coach Angela Stubbs, represented New Zealand in.
Paul's designated player, Brooke Stilwell, a pick-up player from North Harbour, also shone with the bat, bringing four runners in.
Against Wellington, Hawke's Bay trailed 1-0 until the bottom of the sixth inning.
"Wellington turned things up a bit at the end and moved the ball well. We left too many runners on base ... while we were able to move the ball we couldn't finish off scoring opportunities," Paul said.
Wellington and Canterbury were the only unbeaten teams after yesterday's play. Wellington walloped Waikato 11-4 in their other outing while Canterbury thrashed Waikato 19-1 before pipping Auckland 4-2.
Hawke's Bay lost their first two games at the national under-19 boys tournament in Hamilton, against Upper South Island and Auckland, and were 5-3 down against Wanganui-Manawatu in the bottom of the fifth when Hawke's Bay Today went to press.