As the year draws to a close, we sat down with NZ Black Sox captain Cole Evans, reflecting on a year filled with both triumphs and lessons.
While club Victories with Ramblers and Gremlins brought a wave of elation, but the disappointment in the World Cup lingered. Yet, stepping back onto the diamond and securing qualification for the next round felt like a vital step forward, a step that led them to the unique shores of American Samoa for the recent World Cup qualifiers.
"It was a new adventure for everyone," Evans recalls. "The American Samoan people welcomed us with open arms, their passion for softball infectious." The tournament itself was a study in contrasts. Four wins out of six showcased the Black Sox's potential, but also exposed areas for improvement. "That initial win over Australia, the reigning champs, was a massive boost," Evans admits. But subsequent losses highlighted the need for consistency. "We need to be more clinical, string together strong performances," he emphasizes. "While the overall win slipped through our fingers, the lessons learned were invaluable."
One of the most encouraging aspects was the emergence of young talent. "They stepped up, embracing the challenge," Evans says, his words filled with admiration. "Making your international debut can be daunting, but they didn't flinch."
This fresh wave of talent, combined with the arrival of a new coaching staff and veteran players, has injected the Black Sox with renewed energy. "There's a noticeable drive, a determination to improve," Evans observes. "It's also nice to have some veteran players back involved who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience as we try to get back to where we know as a group we can be." Recent years haven't been their finest on the international level, but Evans is optimistic about the future. "For me, the future is clear," he says. "My personal focus remains constant – to keep pushing myself, improving as an all-around athlete and person. I hope this inspires others to do the same, elevating the game of softball in New Zealand as a collective."