Kiwi duo and ’freakish’ talent change Mackay’s fortunes
LAST year was a learning curve for Mackay's men's softball side. Now they are ready to take it to Queensland's best.
The contingent will begin their quest for the State Championships today with the nucleus of their 2018 team intact.
Just three players have left since their last title push, while New Zealand duo Dylan Fraser-List and Scott Sutherland have joined the side to bolster the pitching ranks.
Mackay coach Abe Kilgour said the duo's experience would prove crucial when push came to shove against the high calibre opposition they will face.
But lessons learned last year would be equally paramount to their chances, he said, as would ensuring they learn from the campaign in which they finished second from last.
"It was a whole new thing for us. It was another step up, another level for us to play, and we definitely didn't play badly," Kilgour said.
"We put up a fight in every game and were only losing by one or two runs, it's just a whole different ball game at that level.
"You're playing national and international players, so it was a big learning curve for us."
A key focus for Kilgour is ensuring his side's defence is up to scratch, limiting the impact of opposing sides instead of simply trying to outscore them with the bat.
One weapon at their disposal is catcher Riley James.
The 17 year old has been playing representative level softball throughout his development as an athlete, not only Queensland but Australia as well.
Impressed by the youngster's skill, Kilgour said his exuberance and natural ability would be a threat for competition heavyweights such as Redlands.
He said James's exposure to a higher level of competition, as with the team's Kiwi recruits, would provide a point of difference that would influence the rest of the side and boost their chances in the championships.
"(James) is one of those freaks of the game where everything he does is natural - his catching ability, batting, fielding - everything comes easy to him," Kilgour said.
"They play at an even higher again level of ball to us, so the experience and being able to teach that to our players is something you just can't get playing in the local comps and state leagues."
The Men's Queensland State Championships get under way at 8am at Redlands Softball Association, south of Brisbane.