Black Sox grand slam slugger Joel Evans says home run 'only a mis-hit line drive' (Video)
Black Sox game-breaker Joel Evans wasn't aiming for a home run when he launched the four-run shot heard around the softball world.
The Hutt Valley infielder's bases-loaded grand slam homer sparked New Zealand's 6-4 win over Australia in the world championships final in Canada on Monday and wrapped up a record seventh international title.
Evans said he was "over the moon" after watching the ball sail over the fence in the sixth inning to turn a 3-2 deficit into a three-run lead at Whitehorse.
"To be honest, I've never had a feeling like that before in my life; it's crazy" said the 26-year-old, who ranked it the highlight of his career.
"It's overwhelming, really, especially with the situation we were in."
The slugger's towering hit earned him a first gold medal after silver at Saskatoon in 2015.
Evans had had two home runs - and a total of five hits - before the final after winning his place in the startling lineup after a reshuffle following outfielder Ben Enoka's leg injury.
The Hutt stalwart went into the batter's box in the sixth inning feeling reasonably confident after picking up a safe hit off Australia's world class pitcher Adam Folkard in the first inning to set up the Black Sox's first run.
He said the Kiwis "had the momentum" after scoring a run in the fifth to cut Australia's lead to one run.
But Evans still had to do his job to avoid leading three runners stranded after Folkard fanned Campbell Enoka.
"There was a bit of pressure there, with two outs.
"All I was thinking was, 'clear mind and heavy bat'.
"It just so happened that the pitch I got was the pitch I wanted.
"But I wasn't looking for a home run, I was just looking for a safe hit [which would have scored two runners].
"A home run's just a mis-hit line drive," Evans chuckled.
Black Sox coach Mark Sorenson described Evans as "a real baller" and wasn't surprised his charge got the clutch hit.
"Joel's from a softball family and he's grown up at the ball park, he was the perfect guy for the situation he was in.
"Folkard's a rise ball pitcher and Joel hits the rise ball really well."
Second baseman Evans - who won a New Zealand interclub title on same Hutt Valley Dodgers team as his father, Trevor - was looking forward to heading home to celebrate with his family.
He said it was satisfying to share the Black Sox's success with Dodgers clubmate Nik Hayes, who came on to the mound in the fifth inning to stop the Australian hitters in their tracks.
"I was in his ear, the whole time ... just telling him... 'we've got to do this'.
Hayes took five strikeouts for just one hit - a home run on a full count to Australian power hitter Nick Shailes - and stamped his mark as an ice-cool closer after replacing starter Josh Pettett for the last three innings.
Hayes hails from a prominent Marlborough sporting family and has a younger brother, Dylan, who plays professional rugby in France.
Sorenson said he knew the Hutt-based hurler could deliver at the death.
"He came into the Canada game yesterday at 9-2 down with no pressure on him, but I could see in is eyes that he had that composure.
"We've always believed he had it in for him, for a long time. I was really proud to see him come in [in the final] and do the job."
Sorenson felt Hayes was needed to "close it out because he's got good variety with his pitches and he moves the ball well."