Young softballers take on the best

The five Marlborough-based players in the under-15 boys Upper South Island softball team, with coaches Darren Aldridge and Marshall Rawiri. Photo: Supplied.

Five Marlborough softballers were members of the Upper South Island (USI) team which contested the under-15 boys national tournament held at Te Atiawa Park, Paraparaumu from January 9-12.

USI, who includes leading players from Marlborough, Nelson and the West Coast, was among the 17 teams who contested the nationals.

This year’s USI side comprised five boys from Marlborough, five from Nelson, plus one pick-up player from both Dunedin and Christchurch.

The Marlborough representation consisted of: Luke Aldridge (2nd base), Willem Hayton (3rd base), Jaymie Blake (catcher/outfield), Kayden Burdon and Ryan Jamieson (both outfield). Both team coaches, Darren Aldridge and Marshall Rawiri, were from Marlborough as well as the co-manager, Geoff Blake.

The team were pulled together quite late in the piece and, while the majority managed three or four combined trainings, the entire team didn’t get together until the afternoon of January 8 in Paraparaumu when they met the two pickups who flew into Wellington.

USI had a tough introduction to the tournament, meeting a strong Wellington combination first up.

They then took on Tairawhiti, Hawke’s Bay, Mid Canterbury and North Harbour (eventual second place-getters, over the first two days.

On day three the teams were split into pools based on performances to date, with USI, Auckland Development, Southland, Tairawhiti and Horowhenua being put together.

USI scored two wins in their pool, beating Tairawhiti and Horowhenua and enjoyed close matches against both Auckland Development and Southland.

Having played nine games over four days the USI lads played a lot of softball and, according to team management, “improved out of sight”.

They were involved in some tough battles, proving very competitive, including holding North Harbour scoreless for three innings.

“The boys did themselves proud, particularly for a team that came together at the last minute,” said co-manager Blake.

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