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Evergreens aim high

Mark Fricker is part of a strong batting line-up. PHOTOS/FILE

SOFTBALL

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

Wairarapa headed to the national evergreens tournament in Nelson yesterday aiming to better their third-place finish at last year’s tournament.

Wairarapa are ranked fourth for the tournament to be played at Saxton Field, Stoke, and have been handed what appears to be a kind draw.

They began round robin play today at 9am against Combined Services [ranked 12], followed by Nelson [14] at midday, and finishing at 3pm with what is likely to be their toughest challenge against Tauranga [5].

Wairarapa need to finish in the top two to qualify for the quarterfinals on Saturday morning.

They would then play either the first- or second-ranked team in Group A, which comprises defending champions Southland [1], Hawke’s Bay [8], Waikato [9], and Manawatu [17].

Wairarapa coach Russell Kawana said the team was aiming high.

“We aim to be better our third place in 2019 and want to achieve what we did in Wellington in 2018, when we were first-equal with Southland.”

‘Chunky’ Karaitiana will be starting pitcher.

Kawana said there’s a lot of quality throughout the squad, which is mainly based around the Giants Premier Reserve and Premier Three Intercity teams.

“We have one of the best pitching line-ups. Chunky [Justin Karaitiana] will start and we then have Nix [Tony Nixon] and Shane Kirkwood to finish, and Chris Feary as back-up,” he said.

“We have probably the best infield and outfield at the tournament, and we have one of the strongest batting line-ups – everyone from one to 14 is strong with the bat.”

The winners of the tournament will take home the Pop Chote Trophy, with the runners-up winning the Chee Trophy.

Apart from their shared title with Southland in 2018, Wairarapa have finished runners-up three times – in 2003 behind North Harbour, 2006 to Hawke’s Bay and 2014 to Auckland.

As well as the 14-strong playing squad, 15 supporters are travelling with the team.

Wairarapa team:

Tony Nixon, Justin ‘Chunky’ Karaitiana, Shane Kirkwood, Mark Fricker, John Bradbrook, Corie Karaitiana, Gordon Wilmshurst, Chris Feary, Fruean Easthope, Terry Waitere, Matt Kawana, Geoff Packer, Reece Wasson, and Willie Waitere.

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