Far North Coast softballers shine for NSW Country
EIGHT Far North Coast players featured in the NSW Country team that finished third in the Australian Under-23 men's fast-pitch softball championship in Melbourne.
ACT, which has four Australian open men's squad representatives, including two of the best pitchers in the world in Andrew Kirkpatrick and Adam Folkhard, dominated the championship.
Kirkpatrick received all three individual awards ? MVP, batting and pitching.
The FNC players in the NSW Country team were Andrew Carrall, Garon Clough, Jon Hudson, Michael Munro, Jarred Pickup, Brendan Shailes, Nick Shailes and Reece Smith.
Also in the team were two softballers from Newcastle, Nathan Hollier and Darren Hudson (former FNC), and Mitchell Turner from Orange. FNC coach Kayleen Shailes was head coach of the Country team.
Six of the FNC players ? Hudson, Munro, Pickup, the Shailes brothers and Smith ? plus manager Graham Snape, were members of the Northern Country open men's team that won the 2007 State championships in February, the first time the region has won the title. Kayleen Shailes also coached this team.
During the championship in Melbourne, NSW Country team had some good results in the preliminary rounds with wins over Queensland (7-0) and Victoria (4-0). It finished fourth behind ACT, WA and NSW going into the finals.
NSW Country was the only team to take the undefeated ACT the full seven innings in the rounds with all other opponents being beaten by the runs ahead (mercy) rule.
There were some outstanding performances during the rounds with the bat, pitching and in defence.
Nick Shailes pitched a no-hit game in the team's win over Queensland; an amazing three double plays by Nick Shailes and Jon Hudson against Victoria; good batting by Brendan Shailes (who topped the team batting averages); great fielding by Andrew Carrall and Michael Munro; an incredible all-round effort in pitching and batting by Jarred Pickup and Garon Clough; while Reece Smith caught for all but three innings at the tournament.
NSW Country beat NSW 6-2 in a preliminary semi-final, but then faced ACT in a game where the winner went straight into the championship final.
In a great effort, NSW Country took the undefeated ACT to the limit.
After the regulation seven innings it was 2-all, with NSW Country forcing the game into an eighth innings tie-breaker, but they went down 3-2 in the toughest game of the tournament.
This put NSW Country into a sudden-death play-off against Victoria, which they lost 6-4 and with it the opportunity for a rematch with ACT.
ACT went on to win the final against Victoria, again by the runs ahead rule, 10-0.
The team loses only two players from this year's contingent, Darren Hudson and Andrew Carrall, and is now looking forward to the championships in Perth next year.