New Zealand 19u Black Sox Squad Announced

(click logo for original story at official NZ website)

23 Apr 2010
NZ Junior Black Sox Squad Announced
National Office SNZ

The following boys have been named in the 2010 NZ Junior Black Sox Softball Squad. The team will play in the Sydney-based Friendship Series in July followed by a seven match test series against Australia.

1. Pita Rona
2. Morgan Cook (Nth Harbour)
3. Campbell Enoka
4. Ben Bull
5. Mark Sorenson
6. Matt Oxley (Auckland)
7. Levi Elliot (Waikato)
8. Horowai Puketapu (Hawkes Bay)
9. Isaac Hekenui (Taranaki)
10. Campbell Gaunt
11. EJ Albright
12. Zane Siolo (Hutt Valley)
13. Josh Pettett
14. Brad Worsley
15. Jerome Raemaki
16. Te Wera Bishop (Wellington)
17. Sam Church (Nelson)
18. Sam Hazeldine (Canterbury).

The team will be coached by John Love (Auckland) and Phil Johnston (Canterbury).

The squad will be preparing for the World Series Under 19 Tournament to be held in Parana Argentina in 2012.

Editor’s notes: As is so often the case in major league baseball and in men’s fastball, talent seems to run in the genes, with some families continuing to produce top notch players. Peruse this list and a few names jump out at you, even for those of us living far away from New Zealand……Rona, Enoka, Sorenson, as the next generation of fastball stars spread their wings….

The Jr. Black Sox finished 4th in the ISF Jr. World Championships at Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada in 2008, making the 4 team playoff round, but missing the medal stand, behind Australia, Canada and Japan, respectively. The Jr. Black Sox showed flashes of gold medal play — as the only team in Whitehorse to knock off the 4 time-gold medalists from Australia (during round robin play), but did not play consistently enough to medal. If they were building momentum towards the playoff round, it appeared to be extinguished by a late inning loss to Argentina, with a memorable game ending triple play by Argentina. Their rematch with Argentina should prove to be one of better draws in 2012, with Argentina hosting in Parana, just outside of Buenos Aires.

At the ISF Jr. Worlds in 2008, the teams seemed to break into three distinct groups:

Medal Round Playoff teams:


Of this group, with four consecutive gold medals over nearly two decades of play, AUS remains the team to beat, in spite of the loss to NZ and near loss to Canada in the title game. Game in, game out, they are the deepest and most seasoned team, and the one that looked like they had played a great number of games together– a key element that I think separates these teams from the rest — high level game experience. In 2008, other than the Kiwis win over Australia, Canada appeared to be the only team that could really go toe to toe with the Australia in the talent department. Canada went from bronze to silver, and figure to vie for gold in 2012. In the two prior World Championships, Canada played at home (PEI in 2005, Whitehorse in 2008). It will be interesting to see how they play as the visitors. (It worked out well for another Canadian squad, the Kitchener Rivershark Twins, who were twice denied in the 2007 and 2008 ISC World Tournaments, at home in Kitchener, only to win back-to-back titles on the road in Kimberly WI and Quad Cities, IA. )

Mid-tier-battling to get onto the medal stand


An evenly balanced group, with a slight edge to ARG and USA ahead of MEX and VEN. Of these four, Argentina might be the most likely to break through to the next tier, with good pitching, and the hometown fans to cheer them on. Pitching will be the big question mark for the USA, with ace BJ Hunhoff graduating from the program, as well as James Hartman. The USA was 1-4 in close games, losing to Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Argentina, defeating only Mexico. Had they beaten South Africa, as most thought they would/should, and win one of the one-run games, they finish 7-4 and are knocking on the door for medal contention. The USA coaching staff will be back again, with Tim Lyon, Scott Standerfer and Gary Mullican, providing a strong base to build on. Their challenge will continue to be to find and develop pitching, something hard to come by for the Yanks. Even at the senior level, the top spots on the staff were occupied by Canadian born hurlers (Koert and Price). Lyon is determined though, and continues to beat the bushes for raw talent, and in hope that he has time to develop it by 2012.

Bottom-tier-not yet competing


These bottom tier programs are still building a talent base to compete. The European teams were a notch above those from Africa, consistent with the number of years the countries have had, or not had a 19u program. Each of the bottom tier teams had a player or two that stood out, making this group capable of knocking off someone at the next level in a given game (as South Africa did to the USA), but still a ways from moving into the mid-tier group.

By 2012, nearly all teams with have complete new rosters, so these comments are based more on the programs than the teams that we’ll see in Parana in two years.

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