For 17 years Fast Pitch Softball Club stalwart Craig Waterhouse had produced a "friendly" draw for his club in the annual North Island Men's Classic, but his troops failed to bring home the bacon.
Waterhouse again delivered a kind draw for the 18th edition of the Classic at the weekend and the Fast Pitch Giants capitalised, pipping the other previously unbeaten team, Poneke Kilbirnie, 5-4 in yesterday's final at Akina Park, Hastings.
In addition to collecting most of the prizemoney in the Just Softball-sponsored event, Giants utility Cameron Willis was named top batter with an average of .689 and former Black Sox hurler Regan Manley shared the top pitcher award with former Hawke's Bay rep Jovaan Hanley, who is one of several former Hawke's Bay reps playing for Poneke Kilbirnie.
Willis, who hit two home runs on Saturday, was thrilled with his and the Giants' form.
"Our whole team batted well," said Willis, 22, who has played for the team for five years.
"I just hope we can continue this form when we attend future tournaments, both with Giants and the Central Vikings," he said.
"This also has to give us confidence in the buildup to the pre-Christmas final in the Hawke's Bay competition. At the same time Saints and Maraenui Pumas went pretty well this weekend which means there will be quality ball towards the business end of the club season," Willis added.
Giants player-coach and catcher Te Rangi Chadwick hit a home run in the first inning of the final. His team trailed 4-1 going into the bottom of the third.
Luke Herrick hit Willis home and Herrick scored on an Aaron Kuru hit to have the hosts trailing 4-3. Kane Herbert hit two runners home in the bottom of the fourth to put the Giants in front.
Three consecutive outs in the top of the fifth sent the Giants into celebration mode.
There was a strong Hawke's Bay flavour to the Poneke Kilbirnie roster. Hanley spent most of the tourney on the mound and smashed at least six automatic home runs during the weekend; former Black Sox utility Fabian Makea was on first base, Josh Gettins at third and Campbell Makea at centre outfield in the final; and both of Thomas Makea's sons, Reilly and Dante, got plenty of game time,
Campbell Makea was one of five members of the Black Sox team who will play in this weekend's Auckland-hosted Oceania qualifying tournament for the World Series in action during the Classic. The others, pitcher Nik Hayes, catcher Corey Timu and infielders Joel Evans and Tyson Byrne, played for the Chubb Tangaroa-coached Fast Pitch Rockets, who finished eighth.
In their best performance of the weekend the Rockets drew 0-all with Poneke Kilbirnie.
Waterhouse said it was pleasing to see the Rockets players, many of whom are under 15, learning from international stars. Tangaroa, who is also the Hawke's Bay under-15 boys coach, opted not to take his provincial side to yesterday's Central Region tournament in Hutt Valley as he felt his rep players would benefit from the tougher competition in the Classic before next month's North Island under-15 tournament.