Evan Poo (Catholic High School, softball)

Catholic High's Evan Poo conquers self-doubt to lead team to softball title

Replacement pitcher regroups after error and gets critical outs to help team win title

Amid a cacophony of cheers, Catholic High School's pitcher Evan Poo had a momentary lapse in concentration at a crucial juncture in the Schools National C Division softball boys' final against Raffles Institution on Friday last week.

With his team trailing 3-1 in the third inning, he misread his coach's instructions to not hit the ball. This would have allowed captain Rishon Toh to try and steal second base.

Evan swung his bat and the resulting pop fly was caught, leaving Rishon unable to tag up in time and Raffles with the last out, consigning Catholic High to a run-less inning.

The 13-year-old's blunder banished any chance of a comeback midway through the clash. A distraught Evan stood on the sidelines, certain he had cost his team the title.

But after several teammates consoled him, he was determined to make amends. Recalling that moment, he said: "I felt very disappointed with myself and angry that I did what I did.

"I thought we couldn't make it already. But my teammates gave me the encouragement, saying that I could hold them from scoring any runs, that we could get the runs.

"It couldn't be because I made that mistake that they didn't have the chance to get the championship, so I got back and pitched even better."

 JEREMY KWAN
Evan Poo, pitcher for Catholic High recovered from a a momentary lapse in concentration to spark his team's comeback and eventual victory in the C Division softball final. ST PHOTO: JEREMY KWAN

He drowned out the surrounding sounds as he prepared to pitch in the fourth inning, visualising his team leading by a sizeable margin and that he had struck the batter out before and was about to repeat the feat.

Then, he released the ball. He varied his pitches, utilising change-ups to throw the batters off.

Supported by his teammates' able fielding, Catholic High picked up three fast outs. They then seized their chance after the changeover, scoring four runs to turn the game around and take a 5-3 lead.

Catholic High clung on to their lead as they shut out Raffles in the fifth and final inning to win their fourth C Division title in five years.

For overcoming his setback, Evan has been named The Straits Times' Young Star of the Month, an award backed by 100Plus and given to school athletes who shone during the National School Games this year.

ST sports editor Lee Yulin said: "It's not easy to overcome a major error, especially one that could possibly have cost one's team a championship. I'm glad that Evan was determined to not let his team down and that it drove him to play even better."

Secondary 1 student Evan became the team's first-choice pitcher only the week before, when the main pitcher injured himself.

Evan, who had been playing as a fielder at the start of the season, was unsure of his own abilities, but credited his teammates, coaches and teachers for their support throughout the season. He added: "I felt excited but also finally settled because I'd been super nervous thinking about if we were going to win or lose. What kept me going was my teammates and I didn't want to disappoint my main pitcher because we are very close friends."

Coach Koh Ruoh Jie believes that Evan has potential to go far despite an initial lack of self-confidence.

He said: "He's a good player but sometimes doubts himself. That's the one thing that affects him. Throughout this season, he got his confidence back and with that, he will do a lot better next time."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2019, with the headline 'Conquering self-doubt'. Print Edition | Subscribe