If population was the key to winning softball championships, the ACT wouldn’t have much of a chance. After all, the territory has fewer than 400,000 people, and competes against states with several million.
But that minor handicap couldn’t stop the ACT 89ers, who claimed National Open Men’s Championship title when they defeated Queensland 3-0 in the final of the 2017 John Reid Shield.
It was an amazing performance by the ACT, led by first-time coach Andrew Kirkpatrick who dominated with bat and ball to steer his team to victory. Kirkpatrick pitched a complete-game one-hitter, with 13 strikeouts. With the bat, he had one more hit himself than he allowed, earning the award for player of the grand final.
The win brought joy to everyone involved in ACT softball, none more so than association president Nathan Bale. “It was a fantastic performance,” Bale said. “Andrew was terrific, of course, but Zenon Winters and Josh White also chipped in with timely home runs, and catcher Nick Norton was oustanding all day.”
So, how does a team from the small-population ACT become the most powerful force in Australian men’s softball? “That’s a good question – I wish I knew the answer to that,” Bale said. “If I did, we could tap into it and make our women’s team the champions too.”
According to Bale, success starts with coaching. “We’ve had a long line of coaches, dating back to the 1980s and 90s, who have all made great contributions to softball in the ACT,” he said.
“That helped us build a core group of high-end talent, which we’ve had for the past 10 or 15 years.
“The coaches, from the Harrows and now Andrew, have built a strong culture and set the tone to ensure high standards.”
The ACT backed up its batting with some excellent fielding including a double play by shortstop Evan Byrne and a spectacular diving catch by second baseman Jarrod Bradbury.
For Queensland, Marshall Kronk was the only player to register a hit off Kirkpatrick.
Bale hopes ACT’s strong performances will continue over the next three year, as Canberra hosts the Open Men’s Championship from 2018-20.
Individual Award Winners
|Best Batter||Hayden Mathews (NSW)|
|Best Pitcher||Harri Peters (NSW)|
|Rookie of the Year||Dayle Child (SA)|
|Most Valuable Player||Hayden Mathews (NSW)|
|Player of the Grand Final||Andrew Kirkpatrick (ACT)|
|Pitcher||Harri Peters (NSW)|
|Catcher||David Edwards (Vic)|
|1st Base||Aaron Cockman (WA)|
|2nd Base||Brendon O’Byrne (WA)|
|3rd Base||George Psimaris (Vic)|
|Shortstop||Julian Jemmott (Qld)|
|Outfielders||Hayden Mathews (NSW)|
|Zenon Winters (ACT)|
|Jamie Sheehan (ACT)|
|Designated Player||Josh McGovern (ACT|