Enoka blasts homer to set New Zealand away to winning softball start

A booming home run by Ben Enoka set-up an important 3-1 victory for New Zealand over the Czech Republic on the opening day of the Tradestaff WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup in Auckland.

The seven-time champions Black Sox beat the Czech team 9-0 in the opening game of the Softball World Cup in Prague in 2019, but their European opponents, now ranked fifth in the world, have improved much. That included a win over the Golden Homes Black Sox in the lead-up event in Palmerston North last week.

Hutt Valley’s Joel Evans scored the first run after a Czech miss field off a Cole Evans hit before fellow Hutt player Tane Mumu scored to put the Black Sox 2-0 up in the top of the third inning. Tomas Klein replied for the Czech Republic, getting home on a wild pitch to cut the lead in the bottom of the third.

However, Auckland’s Ben Enoka hit the first home run of the tournament to put the Black Sox 3-1 up in the top of the fifth, and they held the lead from that point at Rosedale Park in Albany.

The boilover almost happened when Cuba, who only arrived in the country this morning, led defending world champions Argentina 1-0 going into the seventh and final inning.

Argentina dug deep as the Cubans naturally began to tire, to tie the game and then score a double to get home 3-1.

Earlier Australia, who won the international tournament in Palmerston North last week, showed that was no fluke with a 7-0 blitz of Denmark with veteran Nick Shailes scoring four runs.

In other games Canada, who scored three runs in their first at-bat, held on against a plucky Venezuela 3-2; Japan were impressive in beating South Africa 11-0; while five-time winners USA had to hold on for a 1-0 win over Philippines.

All kiwi-fan focus was on the hosts in their important clash against the Czech Republic, delighted with Enoka’s blast over the fence to push New Zealand to a 3-1 advantage.

“The home run came with my third time up and I was just trying to hit the strikes and leave the balls,” said Enoka.

“I got lucky with that one and fortunate to get it over the fence. We were leading by a run so it was a game-changing aspect in the later innings and a bit of a spark for us not to die-off.

“It was a benchmark effort, a line in the sand. I think we can improve on today’s performance. It is going to get harder as we go on but the boys are tight and we will continue to stay connected.”

Czech Republic had two players on base in the bottom of the sixth but New Zealand pitcher Daniel Chapman managed to strike out Vojtech Forman to end the inning.

Hutt Valley’s Rhys Evans' triple to deep left-centre bounced back off the fence but with the crowd cheering him on, Evans tried to run home but was tagged out to keep the score at 3-1 in the top of the seventh.

Josh Pettett then came on in the bottom of the inning and made it three-up and three-down to give New Zealand an opening win.

“It was really important to get that first win and get the monkey off our back,” said head coach, Mark Sorenson. “We played them last week and they came from behind to beat us and they will be a force o