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South Park hosts final

Mitchell Shields, 15, is one of Giants Blue’s rising stars. PHOTOS/FILE

SOFTBALL

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

All the hard work has paid off for the Giants, with the Masterton club to host both Intercity premier three finals at South Park on Saturday.

Giants Blue qualified for the Section A final against Hutt Valley Dodgers Black or Poneke-Kilbirnie Kowhai after their last round-robin opponents, Dodgers Blue, defaulted their game because several players were down with covid-19.

Giants Red finished top of Section B with an unbeaten record and will play Totara Park Gold in their final.

Since their places in their respective finals were confirmed, Giants president Chris Feary has been working hard with competition organisers to have the deciders played in Masterton.

“It’s the first time in Giants’ history that we’ve had finals at home,” Feary said after the draws were confirmed on Wednesday.

“It’s such a great thing for the club and supporters, and I’m picking there will be a lot of interest.”

The Blues’ opponents were to be decided last night after Dodgers Black play Poneke-Kilbirnie in a catch-up game, with a spot in the final at stake.

If they make the final, Dodgers Black will be unfamiliar to the Blues as they have not played each other this season, with Dodgers defaulting their two previous scheduled games.

The Blues easily beat Poneke-Kilbirnie 10-2 in the first round but were humbled 0-8 in their second encounter, their only loss of the season.

Feary said the Blues are by far the best team in the grade and good enough to play two levels higher in premier reserve, especially with player-coach Justin ‘Chunky’ Karaitiana fronting the pitching duties.

The former Hutt Valley representative has been in commanding form on the mound but has been battling a niggling back injury.

Fifteen-year-old Mitchell Shields has proved to be a worthwhile back-up, but he’s unlikely to see much action given the extra pressure of a final. The Blues will need Karaitiana to shoulder much of the work to come out on top.

The Blues batters have also impressed, with Shields, Tristan Hillock, and the experienced Chris Cox in good form in their latest outing, a 15-1 drubbing of Kapiti.

Giants Red have been the dominant force in Section B since stepping up from the Hutt Valley President’s Grade for the second part of the season.

They are unbeaten and have rarely been tested, with their smallest winning margin being 13 runs, and that was against Saturday’s opponents.

Tony Nixon, Giants Red pitcher.

Tony Nixon and Feary have shared the pitching duties, and few opposition batters have got the better of the veteran duo.

The Reds’ batting line-up is chockful of big hitters in Gordon Wilmshurst, Terry and Willie Waitere, and Matt Kawana and youngsters Jesse Neumann, Riley Hanson, Thomas Kawana, and Julian Ellmers have impressed since coming into the side in December.

Feary said one factor that could impact both Giants teams is a competition ruling that allows teams to call up players from other teams in their clubs to replace players ruled out with covid-19.

“I’m suspecting that whichever teams come over here will be taking full advantage of being able to pull players into their teams. But we’re at full strength, and the guys are pumped to be playing at home.”

The season, however, is over for the Giants women.

The team have made massive strides in their third season in the Hutt Valley Major B championship and qualified for the top five, only to miss out on the semifinals.

Feary said the team of mainly new players were competitive against the top teams, often going down by only one or two runs.

“I would think that they’ll be geed up next year, and they’ll move forward again and be real contenders.”

The Giants Red and Totara Park Gold final starts at 1pm, followed by the Giants Blue versus Dodgers Black or Poneke-Kilbirnie Kowhai final at 3.30pm.

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