By Tony Smith
Black Sox captain Nathan Nukunuku hailed Ramblers’ rising young pitching star Daniel Chapman after the Auckland club clinched a ninth national men’s interclub softball title.
Chapman was voted most valuable player as the unbeaten Mt Albert Ramblers edged first-time finalists Papanui from Christchurch in Sunday’s final at Lower Hutt.
Ramblers came from behind to win 2-1 with designated runner Blake Wardrope scampering home on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Chapman, 20, showed great resolve to recover from giving up an automatic home run to Papanui Tigers third baseman Anthony Stuart in the top of the third inning.
He kept his composure to concede just one more safe hit, a fifth inning single to Stuart – the only Papanui batter to taste success against the former Junior Black Sox hurler.
Nukunuku, Ramblers’ player-coach, said Chapman, who snared 11 strikeouts in the final, was “a deserved MVP”.
“In the last three games, he had a no-hitter against PK [Poneke Kilbirnie], a no-hitter against Papanui and then a two-hitter in the final,” Nukunuku said.
“He’s grown as the year’s gone on. The NFC [National Fastpitch Championship representative tournament] was a great experience for him, he learned some lessons there.
“He was on fire for us this week.”
Chapman twice shut out Papanui’s elite hitters, including longtime Black Sox sluggers Tyron Bartorillo and Thomas Makea. He racked up 24 strikeouts over the two encounters.
Ramblers confirmed their reputation as New Zealand’s leading club of the modern era – 36 years after their first national title in 1982.