Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Pitching on a shoestringe

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Latest drubbing leaves Black Sox desperately hoping they can at least make the final.

Pitching was always going to be the problem for New Zealand in this tournament, says Rattue. Photo / Dean Purcell
Pitching was always going to be the problem for New Zealand in this tournament, says Rattue. Photo / Dean Purcell

The lights stayed on late into the night, but they also started to dim on New Zealand's world title softball hopes as the Canadians battered the Kiwi battery.

After watching four New Zealand hurlers get smashed into oblivion by the red and black batters at Rosedale Park, the prospects of reclaiming the title won by Australia in 2009 seemed distant. Adding to the gloom, the fifth thrower - Heinie Shannon - is injured.

This was a fantastic sporting night of roaring from the stands, constant action, touches of controversy, and even a scoreboard that blew up with a tremendous pop.

Brad Rona produced a smashing batting performance to keep New Zealand in a game that lasted well over three hours.

Pitching was always going to be the problem for New Zealand in this tournament and the remedy, frequent changes on the mound, didn't go close to papering over the cracks. Confidence will be down, after an extraordinary 17 hits were given up to the Canadians.

Canadian softballers are known for free swinging and they went to town in Albany. Australia, with two great pitchers in Adam "Fireball" Falkard and Andrew "Cheese" Kirkpatrick, must now be overwhelming favourites. The efficient Aussie offence may not need many runs to win this tournament.

Where has New Zealand's pitching gone wrong? The game got too confident, and thought the Steve Jacksons and Michael Whites would keep popping out of the woodwork. Jarrad Martin and Thomas Makea - terrific pitching prospects as youngsters - switched to being batters.

Coach Eddie Kohlhase and pitching coach Chubb Tangaroa are prepared to ring constant changes, yanking starter Penese Iosefo in the first innings against Canada. While you can understand the philosophy, it means a world series rookie like Iosefo will constantly look over his shoulder, affecting his flow and strategies. In the Catch 22 department, New Zealand needs Jeremy Manley to fire, but that takes confidence and time on the diamond.

The batting is capable of being sensational but the infield wasn't totally slick because second base Nathan Nukunuku had trouble getting ground balls to stick.

The bottom line: things do not look good for the Black Sox and softball needs a massive turnaround from the team. New Zealand officials desperately hope they at least make Sunday's final.

While the loss of active Olympic status directly affects the women, there are flow-on effects for the men.

Media coverage has close to disappeared. A positive injection is needed. Things will never match the good old days, but the game must hang on and a successful Black Sox team is crucial.

As Australia has shown, amazing things can be achieved on a shoestring budget in a country where the game is totally ignored by the sporting mainstream.

But a shoestring pitching staff is difficult to overcome during a tournament.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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