By HENRY MORABANG
TWENTY-NINE teams have registered for the 35th National Softball championships in Kokopo, East New Britain province, over the Easter weekend.
The event, sponsored by the National Gaming and Control Board (NGCB), will be held from Friday till Monday.
The number of teams participating this year has set a new record compared to 26 sides that participated in the last tournament in Kavieng, New Ireland province, in 2002.
Hosts Kokopo, who started the competition only four weeks ago, will field the highest number of teams – two teams each in men’s and women’s divisions, followed by former champions, Madang with two men’s and a women’s side.
The teams in the men’s division are defending premiers Port Moresby, Lae, Tabubil, Lihir, Sikut, Madang Kingz, Madang Fox, Kimbe, Kokopo One, Kokopo Two, NCD, Kara, Gazelle, Rabaul, Buka and Kavieng.
The women’s teams are Port Moresby, NCD, Lae, Madang, Tabubil, Lihir, Kavieng, Rabaul, Buka, Gazelle, Kokopo One and Kokopo Two.
PNG Softball Federation vice-president Ralph Tarasomo said unfortunately there were no teams from the Highlands region participating this year.
He said this was the biggest turnout ever and would go down as a history for softball considering the number of teams that were participating in this event.
Defending champions Port Moresby are pitted against archrivals Lae, Kokopo One, Lihir, Sikut, Kimbe and Madang Fox while in Pool B, former champions Madang Kings are up against Kara, Kavieng, NCD, Gazelle, Rabaul and Kokopo Two.
The NCD team is a development squad from the tough Port Moresby competition.
In the women’s division, Port Moresby, Madang, Kavieng, Lihir and Kokopo make up pool one while Lae, who are vying to retain the title from Port Moresby will head pool B which comprises NCD, Kara, Tabubil, Kokopo, Rabaul and Kokopo Two.
Tarasomo said the famous Kalabond Oval would provide two diamonds while St Peter’s Channel and Kokopo High School would also be venues for the event, with the same number of diamonds.
As part of the development programmes, he said the executive had decided to pick a development squad (U23) men’s and women’s team for the Pacific Invitational meet in Sydney, Australia, in July.
“This is part of the PNGSF development programme, targeting the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby which will see PNG defending their title as the champions in the region,” he said.