Softball: Memorable win for Otago

They do not have the Jefferies Cup but the Otago softballers do have a special place in the province's history.

Otago broke a 20-year drought with a stunning win over Canterbury in the opening game of the tournament in Christchurch on Saturday.

Led by a spectacular performance from Ben Watts, Otago beat the formidable Canterbury Red Sox 3-0.

It was Otago's first win over Canterbury - a winner of 17 consecutive Jefferies Cups - since 1992.

Watts, one of the finest Otago-developed players in years, smashed a home run with brother Cam on base to give Otago a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

Ben Watts also pitched the full game, holding Canterbury scoreless and to just three hits. An insurance run in the fourth inning gave Otago a memorable win over its powerful neighbour.

Otago coach Aran Bailey has experienced his share of heartache at Canterbury hands over the years but was a happy man yesterday.

"It was really a game of defence. We cut out the errors and the boys looked really sharp," Bailey said of the win over the Red Sox.

"We got a couple of good hits early on but it was all about the defence."

Bailey said celebrations at the end of the game were "muted" as both Otago and Canterbury digested the result.

"We really couldn't believe it had happened. The boys are stoked. Very, very happy."

Unfortunately for Otago, it was not quite able to sustain its momentum through the rest of the tournament. It beat Canterbury under-19 (7-3) but lost to Southland (3-1), Marlborough (2-0) and Nelson (9-2).

Otago took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning against Canterbury under-19 and added four more runs in the second.

Cam Watts led the batters with a run-scoring triple and a two-RBI double.

Cam Watts singled home Ryan Williams as Otago took a 1-0 lead over Southland, but Southland scored a run in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings.

Led by pitcher Kurt Schollum, Marlborough kept Otago scoreless and managed to eke out two runs.

In its final game, Otago kept pace with Nelson for the early innings but then leaked three runs in the fifth inning and four in the sixth.

"Our hitting got a bit patchy, so we weren't bringing in the runs," Bailey said.

"We committed a few errors, and some calls didn't go our way. But we were competitive the whole weekend."

Canterbury rebounded from the loss to Otago with four straight wins. It then seemed down and out in the final, trailing Marlborough 8-0, but roared back to win 9-8.


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