It was a perfect afternoon for top club level softball to return to Whanganui, but it was the visiting Manawatu Dodgers who made the most of it with one run victories in both adult matches at The Ballpark in Gonville on Saturday.
The Dodgers club brought over three teams to play the locals in friendlies as a way to promote the adult game, given both the Ezi Finance Whanganui Braves and the Wanganui Mustangs continue lobbying the Manawatu Softball Association to let them host competition games at Gonville sometime in the New Year.
In the Premier game, a run by the Dodgers in the sixth innings was enough to get them up for a 1-0 win over the Braves in a fielding and pitching dominated match, in what was just the Braves second loss when playing this season.
With both the Braves' Brad Worsley and his two Dodgers counterparts pitching a shut-out, the home side's best chance to rack up some runs came at the top of the third innings, with a base hit being followed by a steal to second, and then another base hit and second base steal having two men lined up to come home.
However, two strike outs followed and over the remaining innings the Braves would only get a couple more base hits.
The Dodgers started to get some hits on Worsley, but would be caught out, while the Braves batters also began getting a piece of the Dodgers pitcher, only to end up with foul balls or shots going straight up for simple catches in-field.
It was at the top of the sixth that the stalemate was broken, as a throw slightly too high let the Dodgers get a base hit, with a bunt then sacrificing an out but moving their man to second, and then a misfield led to another base hit, which became a steal to second.
The Dodgers then did what the Braves couldn't, as a line drive got their third base runner home while the Braves fielders got the other two runners out.
A tired Braves couldn't get an equaliser in the seventh innings, as Worsley got walked to first but was then picked off by the baseman after coming back from his lead off, which was followed by two strike outs.
"That hurts when that happens," said player-coach Shane Foster about not converting their third innings opportunities.
"Then they scored that run on an error."
The team just could not get enough clean hits to put the pressure on the fielders, only starting to get their eye in on the first pitcher when it was too late.
"[Dodgers] did the right thing. They changed pitcher and that guy is a little bit better," Foster said.
It was a thriller in the Reserve Grade game, with fortunes fluctuating throughout, as a final innings comeback by the Mustangs was not enough to prevent an 8-7 loss.
Mustangs held a one run advantage through most of the game until a powerful sixth innings from the Dodgers saw them get four runners home and a seemingly insurmountable 8-4 advantage.
A tense final innings saw the Mustangs get three runners home before their third out.
The Mustangs best play came from Jeff Yacap, with a big hit taking him from the pitch and back to home plate, although it was not classified as a home run.
Manager Layce Madams said it was a great promotion for the home fans, showing the younger players there is a pathway to the adult game, with the Dodgers determination to play well helping make the experiment work.
"It was almost the Dodgers were coming back to win against the Whanganui team on their home ground, because we beat them down there [in competition]."
There was local success in the opening morning game, as Whanganui Combined Schools defeated the Dodgers junior team by three runs, believed to be a 7-4 scoreline.