Black Sox softballers foiled in bid for second major United States title

Stuff - Tony Smith - Aug 22 2022

A bunch of New Zealand Black Sox ball players have come up one base short of achieving a coveted United States softball double.

Six New Zealanders – Black Sox training squad members Cole Evans, Ben Enoka, Josh Pettett and Tane Mumu, plus former world championships representatives Jerome Raemaki and Wayne Laulu – have been playing for the New York Gremlins.

They helped their team - based in Clifton Park, near Albany, New York’s state capital - win a fifth Amateur Softball Association (ASA) national championships title in Indiana a fortnight ago.

But the Gremlins lost the International Softball Congress tournament final 3-0 to Canada’s Hallman Twins in Illinois on Sunday (NZ time).

The Gremlins had to play three games on the final day, beating the Bear Creek Express 4-2 and JB – a team of Argentinians based in California – 5-4 before the championship game. They also endured a two-hour rain delay.

Black Sox captain Evans, Enoka and Raemaki (later named in the ‘All World’ First Tournament team) got safe hits in the final off Hallman Twins’ Argentinian import pitcher Huemul Mata, but were also struck out on other at-bats.

Mata, who pitched Argentina to their first world title in 2019, took 14 strikeouts and collected a RBI (run batted in) from a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.
Australian slugger Marshall Kronk – the tournament MVP who won the most RBIs award – drove in two of Hallman’s three runs with singles up the middle.

Pettett, a Black Sox world champion pitcher in 2017, took the loss for New York. The Wellington hurler gave up one run and five hits while taking six strikeouts before being replaced in the sixth inning with the Twins ahead 1-0.

The tournament featured players from the New Zealand, Argentina, Australia and Canada squads expected to battle Japan for the medals at the men’s softball World Cup in Auckland from November 26 to December 4.

Black Sox coach Mark Sorenson watched the final on livestreaming and said Hallman pitcher Mata’s performance “showed that Argentina will be tough again’’.

“Gremlins had him on the ropes a number of times, but no one stepped up with a quality at-bat to drive runs in. They left a bunch on base.

“Our [Black Sox] guys did OK, I saw some good individual game performances, but we only got one in the [two] All World teams, which showed there’s still some work to do.’’

Raemaki, who also made the tournament team at the ASA nationals, was joined on the ISC All World First squad by three Gremlins teammates, former Australian world champions Andrew Kirkpatrick and Zenon Winters, and USA international Erick Ochoa, who won the top batter award.

The Gremlins’ Kiwi contingent were among 18 New Zealanders playing at the ISC tournament, widely regarded as the best interclub series in world softball.