Future of NZ softball in good hands

NZ Herald:

Losana Hutchinson-Tuiletufuga is one of the three finalists in the girls’ softball category of the College Sport Young Sportsperson of the Year awards.

The 16-year-old Year 12 student at One Tree Hill College has proven herself as one of the top schoolgirl softballers in the region after a productive 2016. Now she has her sights set on cracking the Junior White Sox for next year’s world championships in Florida.

She sees herself as a catcher/batter and indeed has taken swiftly to catching, having only started specialising in crouching behind home base this year.

“I like it better than third base,” she said of her old position.

The highlight of her career thus far was being named as catcher for the tournament team at the April schools nationals in Hastings. One Tree Hill, which has a strong softball pedigree ” the premier girls are coached by Bob Mitchell and Brian Faunt ” placed fourth there but defeated MAGS to win the Auckland one-day tournament title in term one.

“The nationals were a pretty tough competition, but I think we can do better. Next year we should have a good chance of taking it out,” said Hutchinson-Tuiletufuga, who has a sports scholarship to One Tree Hill.

“There is really good coaching here. They give us good opportunities, too, like with the batting cages [on the school grounds]. You can go in there whenever you like. They also offer coaching outside of team training.”

Time management is a work-on, though most of the intense softball period comes in term one, when she plays for the school on a Wednesday afternoon and her Marist club on Fridays and Saturdays.

When the Herald caught up with Hutchinson-Tuiletufuga, she was about to head in for an exam, but the quietly-spoken student was obliging for the photographer and forthcoming with responses for this reporter.

“I wouldn’t say I’m organised. It’s kinda stressful I just have to make it through.”

On Wednesdays in term four, she has helped coach some of the One Tree Hill juniors. That, along with the train commute to her Papatoetoe home, means she has little in the way of spare time.

Having mastered the fundamentals of catching in a short period of time, Hutchinson-Tuiletufuga explained the requirements of the position: “You have to be able to read your pitcher and being comfortable with your pitcher; having that good bond.”

That and having a good, powerful arm to throw out those batters trying to steal second base helps too.

Her softball career has been on an upward curve ever since she donned the mitts and bat back in 2010-11 at the tender age of 10. Her first team was the Southern Braves Under-13s and she has since appeared for the Ramblers and Bayside clubs before joining Marist, based not far from One Tree Hill College, for this season.

She was a two-time Auckland schools softball champion with MAGS in 2014-15 before making the switch. Throughout her time, she has also played for Auckland Under-15s and Under- 17s and is hoping to be with the latter for the January nationals in Palmerston North. The Junior White Sox will also be named in January, and making that side would easily eclipse her tournament team honour.

In the meantime, it is softball, softball, softball for the next four months, mainly with the Marist Under-19s, before the rep stuff in January and her senior year at One Tree Hill from February.

Softball is not necessarily in her blood, but her sister plays and a cousin, Cooper Hutchinson, is in the New Zealand Diamond Blacks baseball team.

The other two girls’ softball YSPOTY finalists are Essence Jo Rogers of Alfriston College and Nerida Elson of MAGS. The event will be held this Saturday at Eden Park.

By Campbell Burnes