Former Hawke's Bay players Aaron Kuru and Jacob Zurcher had contrasting roles as Northcote won the North Island Men's Softball Classic which ended in Hastings yesterday.

Junior Black Sox utility Zurcher, 18, came on as a pinch hitter and got walked in Northcote's 3-0 victory against Johnsonville in the final of the Just Softball-sponsored 10-team tournament at Akina Park. Former Black Sox infielder Kuru, who is better known as a jumps jockey these days, produced some superb defensive work and hit pitcher Pita Rona home for one of Northcote's runs.

Despite his limited role in the final, Zurcher was thrilled with Northcote's weekend which saw them complete an unbeaten run in section play on Saturday and drop just one game yesterday when their final berth had already been secured.

"It was the ideal return home for me and playing for Northcote was the best choice I've made. We'll return to the Bay again next year with the aim of going back-to-back in this event," he said.


A plumber's apprentice in the big smoke, Zurcher, is hoping to crack North Harbour's National Fastpitch Championship team this summer. Northcote's only loss yesterday was an 11-1 defeat against title favourites Poneke Kilbirnie of Wellington who had seven Bay players on their roster.

Poneke Kilbirnie's title hopes were dashed when Hawke's Bay-based Black Sox utility Jovaan Hanley, one of their key pitchers, withdrew with an injury. This left Samoa pitcher Joel Harris to carry the bulk of the load on the mound.

Rona and Johnsonville's Black Sox pitcher Josh Pettit won the awards for their respective teams' best players in the final. Eden Roskill and Junior Black Sox utility Jordan Tahana won the award for the best International Softball Academy player at the event.

Maraenui Pumas beat Hutt Valley Cardinals 2-1 in the plate final.