The Wanganui Mustangs were run down late in their debut in the Manawatu Softball Men's Reserve Grade in Palmerston North at the Weekend.

The Mustangs Sports Club Wanganui side took and early lead, then ran neck-and-neck with Raiders Rebels throughout the match before going down 6-5 late in the fifth and final innings.

Mustangs manager Layce Madams said despite going down with injury, Ben Hollis and Matthew Ranga put their bodies on the line, getting home in the first innings to give Wanganui a 2-1 lead.

By the end of the third innings Raiders Rebels had made up the leeway to be all tied up on 2-all. At the top of the fourth, both teams remained neck-and-neck with three runs apiece, until Mustangs pitcher Trent Hemi smashed an automatic home run in the bottom of the fifth and final innings bringing home another runner to take a 5-3 lead.

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Raiders Rebels gave as good as they took, hitting their own homer with another runner in tow to even the scoreboard again at 5-all. The Raiders Rebels then snatched victory at the top of the fifth to bring the final score to 6-5.

Mustangs coach Ron Hollis was impressed with the determination of his side and wanted to acknowledge the efforts that each and every team member made, especially the beginner players taking the pitch for the first time.

Meanwhile, Ezi Finance Whanganui Braves will field a team this weekend in the Manawatu Premier Men's grade after defaulting the first match of the season against Huia Braves in Palmerston North last weekend.

Players overseas or injured forced player-coach Shane Foster to default, but a full crew has given him confidence of a bold showing against Raiders this Saturday.

Braves made the decision to step up to premier grade this season after finishing runners-up in reserve grade last year and subsequently securing the services of ace pitcher Brad Worsley who has returned home after gaining national attention playing for Hutt Valley.

Adding to the confidence is the arrival of newcomers, assistant coach Peter Flood, second baseman Glenn Casey, who played in Whanganui years ago and has returned from Tauranga, and Ricky Boniface, better known as a veteran of the Pirates rugby club.

"We really need to field a team this weekend. We're playing Raiders who are also stepping up into premier grade. We beat them last season in the reserve division," Foster said.