There's a new dynamic duo playing a starring role in New Zealand sport - and they're doing it under the radar.
But if Auckland Tuatara infielders Josh Morgan and Jared Walker needed to prove something to their parent clubs, they're certainly doing that.
The American imports, who joined the Tuatara from the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers respectively, have settled into their work in a big way in the Australian Baseball League. Providing a devastating one-two punch in the heart of the Tuatara lineup, the young duo have taken the league by storm and led the Tuatara to the top of the North-East division at the halfway point of the season.
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Speaking to the Herald about the team's success in recent weeks, Morgan said it came down to simplicity.
"Try to keep that same swing going through the middle and the results will take care of themselves."
The Tuatara's sophomore season in the league got off to a terrible start, with the side winning just one of their first eight games. The season began under unlikely, and tragic, circumstances with the team reeling after the sudden death of 23-year-old infielder Ryan Costello, who had joined the club from the Minnesota Twins organisation.
"We don't make any excuses, but in the beginning of the season we were dealing with some certain stuff – we still are – but at the same time I think we're just getting comfortable getting our feet in the dirt and enjoying it. We're having a lot more fun," Morgan explained.
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"Pinky (outfielder Andrew Marck) called a players meeting during the second series and told us to have fun. He said 'you guys have to realise you're in New Zealand playing winter ball. Just have a little bit more fun and stop pressing' and I think ever since he made that speech we've been rolling a little bit. We're having more fun, feeling more comfortable and playing more confident and aggressive. If we keep going like this, I like our chances."
"A lot of us were around the same age that came over," Walker said of Costello. "Having him not be with us has been tough and for it to be so out of the blue and unexpected – I've dealt with unexpected deaths before with my family and my brother – but it's a feeling you're never going to get used to. The team was shocked at first and a little down, not knowing what to think; we have a lot of young players who have never had to go through something like this.
"I run out there every inning with his initials and my family's. It just helps me understand how much bigger life is outside of baseball and how much we take it for granted."
Morgan and Walker, who both got a tattoo paying tribute to Costello, have been the leading lights in turning the team's fortunes around over the past three weeks. The pair have combined to drive in 29 runs, and score 30 themselves, from 34 hits, with both showing their ability to work a count and put their power to use.
Add to that the production of Marck, who leads the league in batting average, the power of Won-Seok Kim, and the constant reliability of the pitching rotation, the Tuatara sit in the box seat for a playoff spot with five rounds remaining in the regular season.
"The team has grown a lot from the ups and downs that we've had," Walker said.
"It's going to be a fun race (to the playoffs) and I think we can do it. I haven't seen every team yet, but with what we've got and the momentum we've got we can do anything."