June Fitzpatrick

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June Fitzpatrick was, arguably, the first dominant pitcher in New Zealand women’s softball.

From the Miramar club, Fitzpatrick was the lead pitcher on the first New Zealand women’s team, which toured Australia in 1949, aged just 19.

During a three-test series in Melbourne, Fitzpatrick was billed by the Victorian media as “the fastest pitcher in Australasia’’, with her windmill style impressing spectators at Melbourne’s Domain.

The New Zealanders were prevented from playing in cleats and instead had to wear soft-soled shoes, but that did not deter Fitzpatrick, who formed a powerful pitcher-catcher battery with New Zealand captain Dot Schwabe.

They led New Zealand to a 9-5 victory in the first test – the first game of international softball played anywhere in the world.

A NZ Press Association report noted: “The pitching of June Fitzpatrick played a big part in the New Zealanders’ win.’’ Another account commended her “very fast pace pitching’’.

New Zealand coach Jack McCulloch rested Fitzpatrick and Schwabe for the second test – won 1-0 by Australia, to square the series.

Fitzpatrick held Australia to three safe hits in the third test decider, watched by 10,000 fans. However, an infield throwing error in the seventh inning allowed the Australians to win 3-2, and clinch the series, 2-1.

The final result was considered cruel luck for Fitzpatrick, widely regarded as one of the genuine stars of a close-fought series.

Fitzpatrick proved a winner on the domestic stage, pitching Wellington to five Bensel Cup titles (1946, 1947, 1948, 1950, 1951). She was just 16 when she won her first national title.

She also pitched Miramar Aces to a share (with Waikato’s Maple Leafs) of the 1949 Dustin Cup interclub title – the first time, in NZ national tournament history, that a major championship had resulted in a tie.

It was a measure of her influence that Wellington lost its grip on the Bensel Cup in 1952 after Fitzpatrick hung up her glove, still in her early 20s.