Saints second baseman Paul Roberts was struggling to hide the emotion as he played in Saturday's round of Hawke's Bay's premier men's softball competition at Akina Park, Hastings.
"It's been a tough emotional week," Roberts said after pre-Christmas champions GSB Building Saints beat Napier Vikings 10-2.
His stepfather for the past 33 years and Softball New Zealand's 2011-12 season personality of the year award winner, Mel England, died on Thursday after some tough "at bats" during a battle with cancer. England, who was 66, was Saints technical adviser during the pre-Christmas comp.
"Mel would have told me to go and play and obviously we didn't want to let him down today."
Roberts, 35, who has played for Saints for the past 15 years, pointed out England, who had been involved in Bay softball for more than 40 years, gave him numerous tips over the years.
"Everyone knows how much Mel loved softball and in particular this park. We're having his funeral here tomorrow and we're planning to give him a good send off," Roberts said.
More than 300 people attended the funeral and England's coffin was carried around the bases on diamond one by pallbearers. As the former New Zealand under-16 boys development team's battery coach and Hawke's Bay NFC men's coach approached home plate 40 of his former players and Evergreens teammates performed the popular Ngatai Kahungunu haka Tika Tonu.
As England crossed home plate Bay umpire Eric Horsham called him safe.
Roberts, a son of England's long-time partner and former Hawke's Bay scorer Gloria Jacobs, said Saints will aim to back up their pre-Christmas title with the post-Christmas one. While he acknowledged it's not going to be easy in the absence of England as well as regular coaches Graham Scarfe and Paul Woon who have work and family commitments respectively he was confident the double could be achieved.
Vikings opened the scoring with two runs in the first inning when short stop Stephen Farrell and second baseman and player-coach Scotty Mitchell scored on a hit from catcher Craig Smith. However it was one-way traffic after Saints took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the first when first baseman and player-coach Brian Dellow scored on a pass ball and outfielder Luke Woon smashed an automatic home run over the centre outfield fence which also scored Roberts.
During an error-free defensive display Roberts made two consecutive assists during the third inning.
Fast Pitch first baseman Mario Herbert was toasting his first child, Carley-Rose Harper-Herbert, after his team's 4-3 win against Maraenui Pumas in the other premier match at Akina Park.
"Carley-Rose brought me some good luck today," Herbert said referring to his and partner Chrystal's daughter who was born the previous Monday.
"I made contact with all three turns at bat which isn't easy to do against Regan [Pumas pitcher Regan Manley] and managed to get on base with a single and a double, in what was a tight encounter," former Junior Black Sox utility Herbert added.
His captain and second baseman Te Rangi Chadwick hit an in-park home run in the victory.
Pumas were forced to promote 48-year-old catcher Tama Houkamau from the club's masters team because regular catcher Karaitiana Aranui was injured.
"While I was happy to catch the majority of Regan's pitches I was disappointed with the loss ... Too many errors and far too many runners left on base proved costly," Houkamau added.