On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, three VSBL Division 1 teams were crowned champions of their respective competitions. Waverley got the best of Upwey Ferntree Gully to take out the Reserves flag, while Waverley also won the Thirds Grand Final. Essendon secured back-to-back flags in the Fourths thanks to a terrific team performance over Melbourne.
Division 1 Reserves: Waverley Wildcats 6 v Upwey Ferntree Gully Tigers 4
The third and fourth place teams were the ones to progress through to the final game of the season and it didn’t disappoint as Waverley kept the lead, victorious by two runs at the end of the game.
Waverley's Reserves Coach Chipper Maurer says many of his players were also part of the winning U18 State Team, and they came back out in fine form to win another final over the Tigers. "They came back and set the tone early in the game, scoring five runs in the first three digs," Maurer said. "Cody Caulfield was outstanding, he started the game and threw five before Adam Bright and Finn Weichard closed it out."
This winning result was an exciting finish to the season for the Wildcats, who were half a game out of top spot before Christmas but they hit a bit of a rough patch in the last month of the season. Waverley held strong and dug deep to find momentum and that grand final glory. "Once we knocked Blackburn off in a fantastic game, we knew we had a pretty good chance," Maurer said. "Not a lot of teams predicted us to beat Blackburn."
Armed with a strong sense of belief, the Wildcats were determined to get the job done and it showed on Sunday. "The team was a good mix of young up-and-comers at the club with the guys that are on the back-end of their playing careers."
Division 1 Thirds: Waverley Wildcats 12 v Geelong Baycats 1
The Baycats were mounted with a colossal task at the bottom of the fifth inning in their grand final against Waverley, however it was the Wildcats who claimed the honours and the Division 1 Thirds championship!
The visiting side was up 12-0 in the final stages of the game as the home team wasn't able to get a run on the board through their first four tries.
The game started with Corey Poke getting on base safely from the first at-bat of the game, a single through centrefield. Poke was able to advance the next pitch as it was thrown wild, stealing third a couple of pitches later. Poke would be the first runscorer for the Wildcats after an error by the catcher.
A three-up, three-down dig from the Wildcats pitching and defense saw the Baycats take their positions out on the field again, just as quickly as they’d come off. The first player up to the plate for the Wildcats got things going; Tom Rynberk doubling on a fly ball to leftfield, coming home on a Alek Siddans single.
Geelong strung a few hits together at the bottom of the second, consecutive singles each to Matthew Sage, Jake Warren and Daniel Stott, however the three outs were handled by Waverley as runners were left on base.
The third inning started in similar fashion to the dig prior, Waverley hitting three singles to Poke, Tyler Orwin and Joshua Puyk. This inning saw five runs cross home for Waverley as singles kept mounting, before an RBI double from Ned Hargreaves sealed more additions to his team’s score.
Geelong found two runners on base in the third dig but it didn’t eventuate anywhere as the top of the fourth loomed, Waverley securing three more runs as six of the eight batters up in that period made it on base via singles or walks. Manning Davison was responsible for two runs in that dig with a sharp single to left field.
The bottom of the third started well for Geelong with a single to Daniel Stott but he was forced to end the dig at third as the three outs fell soon after his hit. Waverley was relentless, again finding runners on base early, Poke nabbing a single before coming home on a Orwin double. Orwin then scored himself on a Puyk single. The two-run inning saw the lead balloon out to 12 runs, Geelong needing to score a few runs to keep the game going.
Again, it looked promising for the Baycats in their respective dig, William Fitzgerald and Daniel Anson singling first up. Lachlan Stott was the next batter up for the home team and singled to left field, Fitzgerald sprinting home for their first run of the game. Unfortunately that would be the only run of the game for Geelong as the three outs transpired in quick succession.
Davison got the job done on the mound for Waverley, pitching five innings with 18 first-pitch strikes and three strikeouts. Duane Davenport started on the hill for Geelong and allowed nine hits for seven runs while Anson came in as relief, pitching 1.2 innings with three strikeouts.
Poke lead the game for hits with four in as many at bats, Siddans for the Wildcats closely following with three.
Waverley’s grand final win was that much sweeter as the Wildcats just managed to stay in the top four with a 9-4-5 season record, beating top-placed Blackburn last weekend 6-5 before knocking off the second-placed Geelong now in the deciding game.
It was a close game for the Baycats to get to the final too, a 6-7 win over Essendon last weekend after finishing second in the season with a 11-3-3 record.
Division 1 Fourths: Essendon 10 v Melbourne 7
A high-scoring tight affair at Surrey Park ended with the championship being handed to Essendon, beating the home team Melbourne.
The Bombers weren’t strangers to close games in this finals campaign, their road to the grand final was a narrow one-run semi-final win against Blackburn, the score ending 9-8. The Demons were a bit more resounding in their win last weekend, a 12-2 result against Waverley.
This was a classic battle between the top two teams in this competition, as the Demons lost just one game in the home and away fixtures and it was against the Bombers in round 13.
Essendon coach Bill Leropoulos knew the team had it in them to take out the win. "As the season progressed we developed into a very tight unit," Leropoulos said. "We knew Melbourne would be very tough to beat so everyone was prepared to play their role when it was required. Our self belief grew throughout the season, evidenced in a come from behind victory in our semi-final, somehow finding a way to get up after falling behind 7 to 0."
Standout performances across the lineup made a difference, with hardworking pitchers, quality at-bats and solid defence allowing the Bombers to take out a second straight premiership. "It obviously feels fantastic," Leropoulos said. "We had a new squad this year with over half the players turning over from last season. A number of junior players came in who were only having their first or second season of senior baseball. The support from the club was awesome. We all felt very grateful and to see how happy it made so many people is very special."