The Mustangs Cup will not be staying with the Whanganui club it is named after as Kapiti came from four runs down to win a 9-8 thriller in the seventh innings against the Castlecliff Club Mustangs at Softball Park this afternoon.
The final culminated two days of hot, windy, and furious action, and the playoff was the only match to use the full seven innings format, as the earlier tournament games were played with 75 minute time limits.
Getting up 4-0 on the back on an powerful home run over the fence and then lightning quick base running from Jefferson Yacap, the Mustangs ran a little bit out of steam late in the game with a couple of fielding errors, while their pitcher Trent Hemi was gutting out a shoulder injury.
Eight teams started the tournament on Saturday morning in two divisions, with the top two teams from each division going into the Mustangs Cup playoffs this morning, while the remainder played off for the Shield.
President and head coach Ron Hollis said initially Manawatu Softball had decided at late notice they would resume the 2018-19 regular season competition on Saturday, but the Mustangs were able to negotiate with the body to hold off for another weekend, especially when it was clear the Manawatu club sides who were attending the Mustangs tournament were going to honour that commitment.
As well as teams from Manawatu, Kapiti and Hutt Valley, there were a couple of composite teams which included members of the Ezi Finance Wanganui Braves, who play Premier Grade above the Reserve Grade of the Mustangs.
The top Mustangs team had played Kapiti on Saturday and had a 1-0 loss, but still made it through to the Cup semifinals after 7-4 wins over The Differences and the Palmerston North Dodgers, the latter game being tense as the Dodgers had two runners on base and a batter at the plate when the time limit expired.
Coming back on Sunday morning, Mustangs defeated the Hutt Valley Dodgers in the semifinal, who ultimately finished third overall after beating the Mustangs All Comers, who had lost to Kapiti in the other semifinal.
The Shield final was won by the Palmerston North Raiders.
In the Cup final, played on the diamond on the lower tier of Softball Park due to the blustery conditions, the Mustangs had a brilliant start as Yacap smoked the pitch over the fence for a home run that brought another Mustang with him for 2-0.
The following innings, Yacap had another strong hit to the outfield and was like a fox terrier on the beach with the speed he cleared second base and made third after a loose relay throw by Kapiti.
Yacap came home off the next base hit, which became a steal to second, and despite a couple of catches, a sacrifice line hit brought another Mustang home for 4-0.
Hemi then kept a clean sheet with catches off his pitches and an out going to first, but the Mustangs could not score on their next at bat either.
Kapiti never lost composure and after just getting a safe to first, the runner stole second and then a Mustangs misfield had the visitor's first point on the board with another runner on second, who then also got home after sacrifice hit was followed by a solid centre drive.
Kapiti worked their third runner around so another out at first got him home to close the gap to 4-3.
Yacap was then walked to first but was so quick he stole his way to third rapidly and Josh Hollis hit him home for 5-3, and then also stole his way around the bases so Hemi's centre field hit re-established the Mustangs advantage at 6-3.
Yacap was everywhere as Kapiti started with a great hit that bumped into the fenceline, but the second baseman's lightning fast throw after the relay had the shocked runner out at third base, which Yacap followed with a good catch of a skied hit.
The Mustangs lower lineup batters went first and were rapidly dismissed on their next at bat, but the bottom of the sixth inning proved crucial as a the umpire warned Hemi for a heated exchange of words with the Kapiti manager, and then there was controversy on a dropped catch by Hollis where he may have been impeded by a Kapiti runner going from first to second.
Mustangs had two outs going to first at the time, but all the drama saw Kapiti rapidly get three men home to lock it up 6-6.
Yacap then stepped up again to hit the Mustangs second base runner home, before stealing his way over to third.
Ben Hollis holed out deep in the outfield, but Yacap was so quick he was able to go back to third base and then take off again to steal home plate before the throw even arrived back in the diamond for 8-6 heading into the Kapiti's last at bat.
A tiring Hemi couldn't quite pick up a mis-hit on the first try, with Kapiti turning that first base into a steal to second, with a powerful hit then bringing that runner home for 8-7.
Another strong centre drive and brought the other Kapiti runner home and put their man on second with all three outs still available.
He then got to third on a sacrifice hit, and despite Hemi putting two strikes on the Kapiti's next batter, he got the hit to the centre and the visitor's cheered their man home for the matchwinner.
"That's the way softball goes, and they finished off better than us," said Ron Hollis of the handful of costly errors and calls that went against them.
"More than happy, it's come from nothing to make the final and lose by [just] one run.
"Our pitcher has had a sore shoulder since yesterday morning."
Hollis confirmed the club is looking to make the Mustangs Cup an annual tournament.
"They all said they would come back, we asked all the teams and they told us. It's awesome."