One of New Zealand’s brightest young softball stars is trying something different this season – playing baseball with the North Delta Blue Jays.
Cole Evans, 17, has been in Canada for just two months and aside from the weather, seems to have made a smooth adjustment from playing on the smaller diamond.
“It is tough,” Evans admitted after the Blue Jays split a B.C. Premier Baseball League double header with the Coquitlam Reds Sunday afternoon. “It’s the same sort of game, but there’s a lot of (small) differences which make it a different game.
“I guess the biggest difference is the ball (pitched) from so much higher, I’m used to it coming from the hip.”
Evans, who is living with his aunt – former New Zealand international player Jan Kinghorn – while he is playing for the Jays, is putting up decent numbers offensively. He was three-for-six in Sunday’s two games against Coquitlam (a 2-1 loss and an 11-6 win), raising his season’s batting average to .273.
But the six-foot-two, 170-pound shortstop expects the average to improve over the next three months of the regular season.
“No, nowhere near,” he answered when asked if he’s completed the adjustment from one sport to the other. “There’s still a lot of work to do.”
Evans completed a first in New Zealand softball in 2015, playing at the national under-17, under-19 and senior national championship tournaments, winning the Most Valuable Player award in all three competitions.
But even with that record on his resume, there were limited opportunities.
“I can only go so far with softball,” he said. “But coming here, it can go so many different ways. There’s colleges, and major and minor leagues and stuff. There’s more opportunities here than there are back home.
“After the softball championships at home, I thought why not give it a crack and see what I can do.”
While most of his teammates are combining school with baseball or possible part-time work, Evans has nothing else on his plate.
“I don’t have a work visa or anything,” he said. “Pretty much I’m just here for the baseball.”
• The Blue Jays split Sunday’s double header against the visiting Coquitlam Reds at Mackie Park.
The Reds managed just two hits in the first game, but still won 2-1. Coquitlam took the lead on a solo home run in the fourth inning, then added another run in the fifth inning on a walk, an error and an infield out.
North Delta’s lone run came in the bottom of the fifth inning. Christopher Cook singled, stole second and scored on a base hit by Mackenzie Marquis.
There was much more offense from both teams in the second game. North Delta scored eight runs in the bottom of the second inning, then watched the Reds cut the gap to two runs before scoring three times in the bottom of the sixth for an 11-6 triumph.
Marquis and Evans each had a pair of hits for North Delta, with Evans, Logan Newman and Matt Poirier collecting two RBIs apiece.
The Blue Jays will be in the provincial capital this weekend, playing twice against the 2-8 (win-loss) Victoria Eagles tomorrow (Saturday) before a double header Sunday with the 8-0 Victoria Mariners.