Under normal circumstances taking a team to a national softball tournament with one reserve could be a recipe for disaster.
But the Hawke's Bay Evergreens women turned this negative into a positive at their 12-team nationals in Dunedin at the weekend and won the title with five wins from as many games.
"Because we only had 10 players everyone knew they had a job to do and got on with it. And as the tournament progressed they got better at those jobs." the oldest member of the tour squad, 80-year-old Joyce Chapman, explained.
"Sometimes when you have a bigger playing squad things can fall apart because you're trying to give everyone game time and the cohesion and consistency doesn't always remain the same."
Chapman, the long-time matriarch of the code in the Bay, said Hawke's Bay, who beat Tauranga 6-4 in their final, had an extra incentive to win their third title in six years. Two of their players, centre outfielder Lyn Guateri and utility Brenda Bental, travelled from Australia to play for the Bay.
"That's a huge sacrifice and the girls really wanted to win for them," Chapman said.
A former Taradale club player, Guateri represented Hawke's Bay up to under-19 level before moving to Brisbane. Both she and Bental play in an Aussie Masters League.
Five of the squad, pitcher Kay Lorimer, catcher Kae Schlierike, first base Paula Hokianga, second base Crystal Jessup and short stop Sharon Chapman, still play in Hawke's Bay's senior B women's competition. Lorimer's mother, former New Zealand rep Marilyn Lorimer, coached the team with assistance from Gay Morgan.
Chapman snr, Debbie Gordine and Yvonne Kuring, all former Evergreens players, were the "technical advisers".
Hawke's Bay opened their campaign with a 7-2 win against Hutt Valley before beating Southland 10-0, Horowhenua 12-0 and Hutt Valley 10-5. Hawke's Bay had last won the tournament outright in 2010 before featuring in a weather-affected four-way tie for the title in 2011.
"Next year's tournament is in North Harbour and the girls have already spoken about back-to-back titles. We'll probably stick to the 10-player formula, it worked so well," said Chapman snr.
The Evergreens were one of three Hawke's Bay teams which ended their national tournament campaigns on Sunday. Hawke's Bay Dodgers, the defending champions, finished third at their 16-team national women's interclub tournament in Christchurch and the Central Vikings finished 13th at the 22-team national men's interclub tournament in North Harbour.
-Evergreens: Kay Lorimer, Kae Schlierike, Paula Hokianga, Crystal Jessup, Leonie Turi, Kim Elers, Lyn Guateri, Natasha Singh, Sharon Chapman, Brenda Bental.