Softball: Rookie Carson key in Pumas victory

By Shane Hurndell

Rookie Callum Carson was the toast of the Maraenui Pumas side after the most dramatic Hawke's Bay premier men's softball clash of the season on Saturday.

The 14-year-old Napier Boys' High School Year 11 student, who is in his first season of premier play after just three seasons in the sport, hit first baseman Mark Kelleher home to tie the score at three-all in the bottom of the second tie breaker inning of Pumas' match against pre-Christmas champions GSB Building Saints at Akina Park, Hastings.

Later in the inning centre outfielder Horowai Puketapu then smashed an automatic home run over the left outfield fence on diamond two with short stop Karaitiana Aranui on base to give Pumas a 5-3 victory.

"That was a pretty awesome feeling," left outfielder Carson said as his team manager and scorer Vicky Julian presented him with the match ball for his feat.

"We needed that win," Carson said, referring to the fact it was Pumas' first victory in the post-Christmas competition and top three teams prefer the first spot for the semifinals rather than the second or third.

A 2011 International Softball Academy under-14 boys team tourist to Australia, Carson got on base twice during the victory.

Saints opened the scoring in the second inning when left outfielder and former Junior Black Sox utility Jovaan Hanley scored on a fielder's choice. Pumas equalised in the bottom of the third when Puketapu scored on an error.

Hanley thought he had given his side a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh with an in-park home run when plate umpire Ken Harris called him safe. However Pumas pitcher and player-coach Regan Manley appealed the call and after consulting with his plate umpire Craig Waterhouse, Harris, changed the call.

With Pumas unable to score in the bottom of the seventh, the tie breaker was required. Saints took a 2-1 lead when Devontae Roberts scampered home on a pass ball. Pumas equalised in the bottom of the eighth when Puketapu scored on a sacrifice hit from second baseman Tiwana Aranui.

Saints took a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth when catcher Jacob Zurcher scored on an error. While Carson and Puketapu did the damage with the bat when it counted, Manley deserves praise for his economic pitching.

Manley collected 17 strikeouts while his Saints counterpart, under-19 world champion with Argentina, Pablo Masmu, collected 11.

Always an outstanding sportsman on and off the diamond, Hanley, refused to criticise the umpires afterwards.

"You learn to get over calls like that. It added to the spectacle for the crowd ... now I'm off to help Craig [Waterhouse]," Hanley said as he joined Waterhouse and the rest of the Fast Pitch Selection for the trip south to Wellington for yesterday's game in the capital's intercity competition.

Saturday's other premier men's match at Akina Park saw Fast Pitch wallop Napier Vikings 12-1 in four innings. Former Junior Black Sox outfielder Rongo Rapaea smashed an automatic home run over the centre outfield fence on diamond one during Fast Pitch's first turn at bat.

His brother and Fast Pitch third baseman, Puhi Rapaea, smashed a three-run automatic over the right outfield fence in the fourth inning. Captain and second baseman Te Rangi Chadwick and Rongo Rapaea both collected three hits from three turns at bat.

Fast Pitch pitcher Jordan Waterhouse conceded two hits to the Vikings batters and Vikings scored their only run in the fourth inning when first baseman Craig Smith came home on a pass ball.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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