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Softball: Tournament part of prep for World Champs

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

This weekend’s Southern Cross Softball Challenge in Christchurch is a tournament with special significance as two national sides prepare for their respective world championships.

Five women’s teams and three men’s teams take part in what is set to be a top build-up for the New Zealand White Sox in their bid for the World Championships in Holland 15-24 August. Their opposition in the tournament includes a strong Queensland Heat team, Canterbury Red Hawks, Southern Pride and Canterbury Development.

Key highlights of the women’s tournament will be the Gettins sisters, Courtney and Melanie from Hawkes Bay in the White Sox along with the Bromhead sisters, Kyla, Rebecca and Tegan. Katrina Nukunuku continues the family tradition of the sport with her husband being the Black Sox captain, Nathan Nukunuku.

White Sox pitcher, Michal Tangaroa is the daughter of former Black Sox pitching legend, Chubb Tangaroa, but will sit out the tournament to overcome a back strain.

The women’s tournament runs from Good Friday through to Easter Monday at the Mainland Foundation Ballpark, Christchurch.

The men’s tournament has the Temperzone New Zealand Junior Black Sox up against a Canterbury Development team and the Canterbury Red Sox which happens to feature three current Black Sox players, Tyron Bartorillo, Josh Harbrow and Josh Thompson.

The Junior Black Sox are preparing for their World Championship in Yukon, Canada 11-20 July. Black Sox legends Thomas Makea (coach) and Jarrad Martin (assistant coach) are in charge of the team.

"It’s good to have a hit-out again for the players. It’s a little out of season, but this gives us some momentum and gets the boys focused for the world champs being only three months away and then we’re in the thick of it and aiming for the ultimate goal," says Martin.

"When we played in Auckland at the Dean Schick tournament the boys did really well that weekend against the men’s teams and met our expectations, if not beat the expectations. Now they know they can compete with the men’s teams. Imagine what they can do against the under-19 teams at the world champs."

There are a number of notable players staking their claim in the JBS side, such as North Harbour’s Connor Peden who recently played with the Black Sox during their series win over Australia. In addition Cantab Ethan Johnston who pitched the Kansas City Outlaws to second place in the North America Fastpitch Association tournament in recent times.

Seventeen-year-old Nopera Stockford, also from Canterbury has so many connections in the sport that softball is running in his blood. Older sister is Katrina Nukunuku, his brother Kevin has played for Great Britain at two world champs and plays for Auckland. Another sister, Leah, 18 has played for Canterbury while his father, Paul has been a coach of the Junior Black Sox.

Martin says he’s impressed with all of the players and says there is some top athletes in the team.

"The sport has come a long way. Now we’re a High Performance sport it’s all about results. The guys are working pretty hard on their fitness and are now lean, mean, fighting machines. We’ve got players like Connor (Peden) who had some great experience with the Black Sox and is a very mature 18-year-old, while we’ve got a very talented 15-year-old in utility, Cole Evans from Auckland and 16-year-old Dante Matakatea, who is Thomas’s son," explains Martin.

The men’s tournament runs Saturday to Easter Monday also at the Mainland Foundation Ballpark.

SOUTHERN CROSS CHALLENGE 2014

2014 Participating teams:

Women:

Canterbury Red Hawks, Queensland Heat, NZ White Sox, Southern Pride, Canterbury Development.

Men

Canterbury Red Sox, Temperzone NZ Junior Black Sox, Canterbury Development.

11-20 July, 10th Jr. Men's Softball World Championship

15-24 August, 14th Women's Softball World Championship

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