Lara Andrews leads Hutt Valley club Te Aroha to first national women's softball title in seven years
15 MAR 2018 | BY ANGIE JOHNSTON
White Sox star Lara Andrews completed the happiest of homecomings by leading her Hutt Valley club Te Aroha to a seventh national women’s interclub softball title.
The experienced infielder returned to Lower Hutt this season after a decade on the college softball and Pro League circuits in the United States.
She captained Hutt Valley to their first National Fastpitch Championship provincial title for nine years in February and has now added the coveted interclub crown after Te Aroha’s 3-2 win over Waitakere Bears in Christchurch on Sunday.
Andrews won the interclub tournament’s top batter and Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards after leading the Te Aroha offense with a batting average of .692.
READ MORE: Hutt Valley win first NFC softball title since 2009
She also topped the RBI (runs batted in) charts with nine.
Boosted by White Sox pitcher and catcher battery Rita Hokianga and Mel Gettins, Te Aroha were always favourites to take their first championship victory since 2011.
They looked on course for a comfortable victory, leading 3-0 into the sixth inning,but the Bears – playing their third game of the day – took it to the wire with a two-run comeback.
Te Aroha led 2-0 after the bottom of the second inning when Gettins singled and Jordan Mumu made base when her bunt was errored by a Bears infielder.
Dinah Luke stepped up to drive a two-bagger to score Oakley Baldwin (running for Gettins) and Mumu.
Ashley Johnston – one of several double winners in the Te Aroha team from the Hutt Valley NFC lineup – batted in Yvonne Burgess for a three-run lead in the fifth frame.
Waitakere Bears – the 2013 champions – kept their supporters’ hopes alive with two runs in the top of the sixth inning.
White Sox outfielder Ancelle van Molendorff led off with a single and Rebecca Bromhead – one of three sisters in the Bears’ lineup – was hit by a pitch.
Kyla Bromhead singled to score van Molendorff and American import Stephanie Brunette supplied a hit to bring Rebecca Bromhead home.
However, Hokianga held her nerve on the TA mound in the final inning with shortstop Lara Andrews backing her hurler up by throwing out the last two batters at first base in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Te Aroha outbatted Bears seven hits to five with third baseman Otila Tavite picking up a double and a single. Johnston, Andrews, Gettins and White Sox rookie Pallas Potter also had hits for the Hutt club.
It was the first trip to the winners’ podium for Te Aroha since when they completed a treble of consecutive titles in the 2011 season.
Te Aroha qualified directly for the final with a 4-1 win over Auckland club Ramblers on Saturday evening.
Bears had to take the long route to the gold medal game after a win over Christchurch club Halswell 6-0 on Saturday and Auckland rivals Howick (5-4) and Ramblers (3-1) on Sunday.
Brunette, was the best Bears batter in the final with two hits. Van Molendorff, Kyla Bromhead and Aroha Noanoa also had single success against Hokianga, who was voted top pitcher of the tournament.