She was at bat, with the score tied at 2-2, and, with two players out, it could have gone either way. She could be out or score the title-winning run. But it was not to be.
To add to the drama, the opposing team’s pitcher threw a no-ball, gave her a walk, and she proceeded to first base. But that was not to deter Samuraiko. She stole both the second and third bases, and, before the opponents knew what was happening, she was back at home base, giving Crescent Girls’ School their first ever Schools’ National B Division title.
Samuraiko is a nickname given to 15-year-old Seko Aiko by her softball teammates. To her teammates, Aiko has strength, fighting spirit and determination, just like a Samurai. Hence the nickname.
Aiko started playing softball at the age of 10, when her late father, Seko Yoshihiro, brought her and her two sisters to West Coast Park to introduce them to the sport. Aiko said: “We started with throwing tennis balls and hitting them with the end of a tennis racket.”
Aiko fell in love with the sport. It was also her father who bought her her first softball glove and bat, and Aiko says he is the reason she joined the school’s softball team. Which is why during her moment of triumph, she felt sad that her father, who died when she was 12, was not there to share it with her.
“My dad was the one who got me started in softball,” said Aiko. “And he has been an inspiration to me all this while.”
Now, Aiko plays shortstop for her school, and is regarded by her teammates as a star player.
“Aiko is my role model and I’ve always looked up to her,” said Aiko’s teammate, Goh J-lin, 15. “She’s the driving force of the team, always motivating, supporting and encouraging us, telling us not to give up.”
J-lin said that Aiko often shows good sportsmanship by walking up to opponents who have lost to them and speaking words of encouragement to them.
“Aiko is a mentor to us all,” said J-lin. “She is very supportive to all her juniors.”
But it is Aiko’s fierce competitiveness that often brings victory to the team. Thus her nickname Samuraiko.
Aiko first came to her team’s rescue in this year’s Schools’ National B Division semi-finals and final.
“We faced Nanyang Girls’ High School in the semis,” said Aiko. “It was the fifth and last inning, and we needed to strike our opponents out one more time to go into the final.”
J-lin, who was pitching, said: “Aiko promised me in the middle of the game that she’d get the ball.”
An opponent struck a foul ball and, being the fighter she is, Aiko dived to catch the ball, and paved the way for Crescent Girls’ to enter the final. After the girls won their final against Tanjong Katong Girls’ School, Aiko burst out in tears upon reaching home. She said: “My father would have been very proud.”
In her father’s absence, Aiko’s mother has been a constant source of strength and support. Aiko said: “My mum comes to watch almost all my matches, sends me to training, and never complains about it. We talk a lot, spend a lot of time together, and I keep no secrets from her. She’s a really strong woman as she is the sole breadwinner of the household and has to raise three kids single-handedly.”
Aiko’s mother, Amelia Seko, started working after her husband’s death as a cooking instructor. She said: “Financially, things are still as tough as before.”
But, fortunately, her daughters are receiving financial assistance from their schools, and her husband’s company is also supporting them financially. She said that through supporting Aiko in her softball matches, she has come to love the sport.
Off the field, Aiko shows the same passion and enthusiasm in the things she does. Aiko’s form teacher, Quek Yin Kang, said: “Aiko is able to balance her training and schoolwork very well. Even when she’s tired after lessons, she still trains hard and shows lots of energy on the field.”
To Aiko, softball has become an essential part of her life.
“Softball fits me like a glove,” said Aiko. “Like food, it is something that I need.”
When asked if there is any advice that she can give young athletes like herself, Aiko said: “In sports, many things can go wrong. Don’t let the bad experience get you down, and don’t let the good ones get into your head too.”