IT WASN'T the farewell Hawke's Bay softballers Courtney Gettins and Emma Houkamau deserved from the national age group scene.
That was their second placing with Hutt Valley at the recent national under-19 tournament in Auckland when they were pipped 3-2 by Wellington. This result meant the Dodgers premier women's players who have won multiple top pitcher and top catcher awards respectively over the years finished their junior careers with Central Region, North Island and national age group titles in every age group apart from the under-19s.
However, within days of returning home from Auckland there was the perfect form of consolation. Sitting in their respective email in-boxes this week was confirmation of United States Junior College scholarships.
Pitcher Gettins, 18, will head to Florida Southwestern Junior College near Miami in July when catcher Houkamau, 17, heads for Eastern Arizona Junior College in Thatcher.
"That was good news because we were both pretty down. That was our fourth crack at the national under-19 title," Gettins explained.
The two-time Ngati Kahungunu Junior Sportsperson of the Year will be joined by Canterbury infielder Mikayla Werahiko and Wellington catcher Kayla Rangiawha in Florida. Gettins has yet to decide what academic courses she will pursue but anticipates it will be Health Science-related.
Iona College's 2014 Outstanding Sportsperson Award winner will be the second member of her family to tackle a softball scholarship in the States. Her sister and White Sox teammate, catcher Melanie Gettins, completed one with Iona College in New York five years ago.
"Melanie has been a big help in the recruiting process and also Dad," Gettins said referring to her father, Junior White Sox coach Kevin Gettins.
Houkamau and Gettins will hear next month if they have been successful in making the Junior White Sox side for the July Junior World Series in Oklahoma. It will be a surprise if they don't.
Top performances in Oklahoma and then for their respective Junior College teams will enhance their chances of selection in the White Sox for the 2016 World Series in Canada - their long-term goal. "The plan is to start our scholarships after the Junior Worlds and in May I'm having a stint with the Philadelphia Chaos team," Gettins said.
While Houkamau and Gettins will play in different conferences there is a possibility their respective teams will play each other should they qualify for inter-conference play-offs. Napier Girls High School product Houkamau will be attending the same Junior College as her former Dodgers teammate Rita Hokianga pitched for before moving on to West Texas A & M University.
"I want to follow a similar path to Rita. If everything goes well I will move on to a university after two years at the Junior College," Houkamau said.
Although she will arrive in the States as a catcher she is happy to be used as a utility if required. Houkamau, who has been with the Dodgers club since she was 9 after spending the first four years of her softball career with Maraenui Pumas, is in her first full season as a left-handed batter and pointed out her right-handed batting will also be used if needed.
Auckland pitcher Loran Parker will attend the same Junior College as Houkamau whose studies are likely to be language-focused. Like Gettins, Houkamau, is grateful for all the coaches she has had over the years as well as the numerous people who have assisted with the pair's fundraising campaigns.
"I must thank my personal trainer Shaun [Rankin] who has helped me keep my fitness levels up where they should be too," Houkamau said.
They will both play for Hutt Valley at next month's National Fastpitch Championship in Hamilton, the country's most prestigious inter-provincial tournament. Gettins is confident Hutt Valley will be a title contender. From March 12 to 15 they will be in Christchurch with Dodgers, Ngati Kahungunu's and Hawke's Bay's 2014 Senior Team of the Year, attempting to retain their national women's interclub title. They won this title with an unbeaten run in North Harbour last year and the pair's eyes lit up when quizzed on the chances of going back-to-back.
Consecutive national titles with Dodgers will be the perfect send-off for the pair.