Golden Homes Black Sox head coach Mark Sorenson says selecting World Cup squads can be a bitter-sweet experience.

The six-time world champion had the job of phoning both the new caps and those omitted from the training squad, and says he had “to make some tough calls’’ before Tuesday’s announcement of the 16-strong Black Sox team for the 2022 World Cup.

“Those phone calls when you are letting people down is actually really hard,’’ Sorenson says. He made a particular point of contacting Tyron Bartorillo - a three-time world champion (with Australia in 2009 and the Black Sox in 2013 and 2017.

The Canterbury veteran was in the last Black Sox world championships team in Prague in 2019 but didn’t make the cut this time despite a good NFC. Sorenson felt Bartorillo deserved to be reached out to because of his standout service to New Zealand softball.

“Barty’s been a great Warrior for the Sox,’’ Sorenson said, but despite Bartorillo having a good NFC, the selectors felt, with the tournament being delayed due to the Covid pandemic from February 2021 to November 2021 that “Father Time has passed him by’’.

The emotions involved in dashing someone’s cherished World Cup dream is offset by “calling someone who’s made the team for the first time.

“Hearing the job and excitement in your voice actually breaks it up a bit.’’

The Black Sox squad for the November 26-December 4 tournament at Whakaata Māori Stadium in Albany includes four uncapped players and seven men suiting up for their first World Cup tournament.

Sorenson picked the team with selection panel colleagues Darryl Marino and Carl Franklin, with input from battery coach Patrick Shannon.

Here he explains to softball writer Tony Smith the rationale behind key selections.

Sorenson said Bishop, the tournament MVP in Wellington’s NFC final win, had spent time in professional baseball which had”really rounded him as an athlete, but also as a man.”
“In Paddy’s words [referring to assistant coach Paddy Shannon], Beau’s the quarterback behind the dish, he controls the game.’’
From the Porirua club and a dual NZ softball and baseball international, Te Wera is “a quality young man’’, who is respectful of the standards of the game’’ and “wants to learn. Sorenson was impressed with Te Wera’s offense at the NFC and felt he has a “strong presence’’ at the plate.

“Cam’s really come into the equation in the last year. He really put his hand up in the trial two weeks ago and basically demanded our attention.For the second catcher’s role the core skills of a catcher are of primary importance more than hitting - catching the ball, throwing runners out and taking control of the game, and Cam did those roles well. He throws guys out consistently, and we’re beginning to see that across the board from all our catchers.’’
Sorenson says “catching was an area we had identified we needed to improve after Prague. “And, without casting any aspersions on guys who’ve played there in the past, I think we’ve definitely done that.

In naming just two specialists - Daniel Chapman and 2017 gold medallist Josh Pettett - with utility Pita Rona as a back-up, the Black Sox selectors clearly feel they have enough in their arsenal to get through one pool game a day before striking the playoffs over the final four days.
What if Chapman suffers a setback in his recovery from spinal surgery? The Black Sox can replace players up to two days before the start of the World Cup.
Sorenson says the other pitchers in the training squad - Canterbury’s Ben Watts and Auckland pair Taine Slaughter and Liam Twigden - will be playing club ball and will thus be match-fit if needed.
Queensland-based Nik Hayes - a World Cup winner in 2013 and 2017 - wasn’t really considered for the 16-man squad because, Sorenson says, he didn’t meet the requirement of playing in the Black Sox trials or NFC.
But Hayes might not be completely out of the picture if the Black Sox strike a pitching fitness crisis.

Sorenson “wasn’t surprised by his outing’’ in the NFC final defeat to Wellington given the Auckland hurler was only pitching his third weekend since his rehabilitation following back surgery in April.
He felt Chapman was capable of throwing an extra inning, but appreciated the fact that Auckland coach Nathan Nukunuku was taking care of him.
“Our target for him is by the time he gets to Palmerston North [on November 19] for the pre-World Cup tournament is to have him pitching at 100 % capacity and at 75 % accuracy.’’


The first-time World Cup player is the ‘all rounder’ of the Black Sox squad.
Sorenson says the North Harbour man “will do some pitching, but we’re looking for him to take an anchor role at first base. He’s a talented young athlete that can play a number of positions [Pita has also played shortstop and catcher], but he’s six foot five or six, which makes him a great target at first base … and he’s played a bit of first base in the baseball system. So, he’s really going to wear both hats as an infielder or DP.’’

A Black Sox catcher at the 2015 world series, the Aucklander has since specialised as an outfielder although he was back behind the dish catching at the NFC.
“He’s a good outfielder who’s got a great arm and reads the ball well off the bat. He can also play first base and he caught in the [NFC] final.’’
Peden was also used as a DP in a mid-order slot by Auckland. Although he does have catching experience, it seems Sorenson sees him as third-choice behind Bishop and Watts behind the dish.

The experienced Aucklander - a proven world-class hitter - has filled myriad roles for the Black Sox, including pitcher, first base, second base and outfield.
He played at second for Auckland in the NFC, but his role for the Black Sox has potentially changed after a hamstring dashed his younger brother Campbell Enoka’s selection hopes.
“Thomas can cover a number of spots’’, Sorenson says, “but he will likely stay at this stage at first base or outfield. His dynamic has changed a bit with Campbell going down.’’

The Hutt Valley teenager - is, according to Sorenson, still only 19 - but was New Zealand’s Emerging Male Player of the Year last season.
“He’s a young man with a lot of upside,’’ Sorenson said. “He’s a talented fielder, he can cover shortstop or second and he’s very fast, he led the base-stealing at NFC.
“He had a breakout season last year when he burst onto the scene and pretty much knocked all the pitchers around the park.

The Wellington infielder - one of the four new caps - becomes the fifth member from the Makea whānau to play for the Black Sox, after his dad Thomas, uncles Fabian and Campbell and his brother Reilly. In addition, Fabian’s daughter Mereana is a current NZ White Sox women’s international and her sister Marama is a former Junior White Sox infielder now playing at Eastern Illinois College in the US.
Sorenson sees Dante as the type of player who ignites batting lineups and makes things happen, saying “what you saw [in the NFC final] is what we’ve seen from Dante for a while”.
“He’s a baller, from a softball family, who’s been around the ballpark a long, long time.
“He’s very competitive, he wants to win and he brings a lot of passion to the game. There’s a bit of polish about him and he’s an aggressive player around the bases. He has the skills we want to play a fast-paced game.’’

Sorenson says the older brother of captain Cole Evans “to us has been the best third baseman
in the country for the last couple of years.
“He’s a real leader in the field. He’s obviously got a great combination with Cole, but he’s been a driver after anchoring that Ramblers and Auckland infield for the last couple of seasons.
Rhys is a “real competitor’’, who will move the ball at the plate and try to put pressure on opposition fields.
As a bonus, he can also cover second base.

The fifth Ramblers man in the Black Sox squad is another new cap who’s been knocking on the door for a few years, Sorenson says.
“Bradley was MPV for Auckland when they won [the 2021 NFC] in the Hutt Valley. He’s got good speed, he can hit the ball and he’s a competitor.’’

The Wellington stalwart is now one of the Black Sox’s more experienced players, having played at world series in 2015 and 2019.
First selected for the Black Sox in 2011 as a Year 12 student at Rongotai College, Raemaki had an outstanding 2022 North American season, making the top All-Star teams at both the ASA national championships and the ISC world tournament. After sitting out the Black Sox trials with a slight hamstring strain, Raemaki passed the Black Sox’s stringent fitness test last week and played a key role in Wellington’s NFC victory.He’s played at third base for the Black Sox before, but Sorenson sees Raemaki more as “a first base or DP’’ in this campaign.
The only left-handed hitter in the Black Sox squad, Raemaki’s a long ball pull hitter at heart, but Sorenson was encouraged to see him pull another tool out of his kit by bunting in the NFC final to put pressure on the infield.




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