Ashburton’s Kate Flanagan has been named in the Canterbury Under-18 softball team. Photo Erin TaskerAfter seasons of trying, Ashburton 17-year-old Kate Flanagan has finally made her first Canterbury softball team.
She’s been named in the Canterbury Under-18 team for next month’s nationals and is over the moon to finally have the opportunity to wear the red and black.
She hopes that a uniform with a silver fern on it might one day follow.
A pitcher, Flanagan has been playing softball for almost as long as she can remember, starting off playing t-ball before moving on to little league and then softball.
Although she lives in Ashburton, Flanagan now plies her trade in Christchurch, playing for the PCU club in the under-23 competition on a Monday night and then the under-18s and premier reserves on a Saturday.
Today she’s heading to Christchurch for the pre-Christmas final of the under-18 competition against Papanui before playing in a premier reserves double header.
It’s going to be a big day, but Flanagan’s ready for it.
She said this year she’s come to the realisation that if her only play is at trainings and games she will only stay at the same level, so she’s been putting in some extra pitching practice and it’s paying off.
She’s also learning a lot off her club coach, former White Sox player Suzy Truman – who also hails from Ashburton – and has hopes of one day following in her national footsteps.
From the national under-18 tournament New Zealand trialists will be named, and although this is her last year at under-18 level, Flanagan doesn’t know if that’s a realistic goal.
“I’m not sure if it’s my aim this year.
“I’m definitely looking at it next year, but now I just want to be seen,” Flanagan said.
Pitcher is a key role in a softball team but Flanagan takes it all in her stride.
“I find there’s more pressure at first or second than at pitcher, but then you think about it, it’s not probably accurate because there is a lot of pressure at pitcher,” Flanagan said.
“When it’s a full house, that’s probably the most stressed you get, but I’ve just got to work out what’s not working and get three balls.”
Flanagan has made Canterbury development teams a couple of times, but for the past two seasons has missed out on the Canterbury Under-17 side.
She still went to the nationals though, two years ago playing for Gisborne and last year playing for Southland, and this year she had Waikato in her sights if Canterbury hadn’t worked out.
“This year I trialled and probably went in with the mentality that I wasn’t going to make it and I was thinking if I was going to be on the pick-up list I was going to play for Waikato,” Flanagan said.
She will still take to the diamond for Waikato this season too, when she lines up for Waikato at the under-23 nationals, also being played next month.
Flanagan said the 14 players who will represent Canterbury at the under-18s, under the tutelage of new coach Richard Allison, are capable of bringing it home.
“I think we are going to be pretty close. We’ve got a range of players with different strengths and I think together it’s going to be ideal,” Flanagan said.
“We’ve got a few really strong hitters and some really good short play hitters, and a lot of good infielders – there’s a lot that dive a lot and that’s just crazy to me.
“But I think our outfield is going to be our strongest asset.”
Flanagan said the three pitchers in the side all have different strengths.
One is quick, one is steady, and Flanagan has some mean spin options and she hopes they’ll do the trick.
“Because it’s not fun having home runs hit off you,” Flanagan said.
The under-23 nationals are being held in Lower Hutt from January 3, and the under-18 nationals will follow in the Waikato later in the month.
By Erin Tasker © The Ashburton Guardian - 17 December 2018