The top 12 teams in the 2019/20 VSBL season took to the field for midweek games in round 20. Sunshine still proved their prowess, while Cheltenham and Upwey Ferntree Gully settled for a hard-fought one-all draw. A top-four clash between Waverely and Blackburn will be a series to watch in the coming week.
Division 1 Firsts
Waverley Wildcats 1 v Blackburn Orioles 2
In a low-scoring game, Blackburn scored first in the first and doubled the lead after scoring one more run in the fourth.
The Wildcats responded with a run of their own in the fifth but couldn't bring another run in as the game wound up after six innings.
Liam Hopkins scored a run for the Orioles after reaching first on an error, advancing to third on a hit by Ben Leslie before Jacob Evans drove in a single to bring Hopkins home.
Andrew Jones and Jamie Papanicoloau from Waverley traded zero run digs for three innings before Nick Rossell broke through with a big double to drive in a second run for Blackburn.
The Wildcats have lost three of their last four outings but are still etched into the top four with a 12-8 record. The Orioles haven't lost a game for six weeks as their climb up the ladder is evident, sitting fourth with a 11-8-1 record.
These teams now turn their attention to Saturday as Waverley again travels to Blackburn.
Essendon Bombers 2 v Sunshine Eagles 5
Sunshine continues to be a powerhouse, taking care of Essendon in the mid-week game as the Eagles stay in the top spot with a 15-4 record.
The game was tied 1-1 after the first, but the Eagles kept chipping away, eventually putting one more up in the third and three in the fifth. The Bombers got one back in the final frame but their comeback was halted by solid Sunshine offense and pitching from Riley Barr, who gave up three hits and two earned runs in seven innings.
Sunshine coach Stuart Clayton noted that to beat Essendon, it took a team effort with many good hits and great plays. "It's good this time of the season to try and keep everyone fresh for a run at the finals," Clayton said.
Allan De San Miguel was praised for his work in the batting box that set the Eagles on their way to a good win, including a double, a single and a walk for two RBIs.
Gareth Formisano took the loss for Essendon, giving up four earned runs across 4.1 innings with four hits and three walks allowed along with four strikeouts. Luke Abels and Kyle Bedford also pitched for Essendon, while Ross Bament and Peter Stokes doubled, Jared Cruz singled and Scott McIntyre and Brodie Wise knocked in runs.
The Bombers have lost five of their last six games as they sit seventh now with a 10-10 record but could find themselves jumping up a few places if they beat Sunshine this weekend.
Berwick City Cougars 4 v Melbourne Demons 2
With both teams on seven wins heading into this game, Berwick moved up one place with the win while Melbourne slid down a place due to the loss.
This was a tight matchup through the first three innings, with Melbourne finally getting one on the board in the fourth before Berwick evened the score in the fifth.
Things got interesting in the sixth when the Cougars tacked on three runs, putting the game out of reach for the Demons who only scored one in the sixth.
Craig Barnett got the win for Berwick, giving up two earned runs over six innings with three hits and one walk given up along with eight strikeouts. Cameron Gibbens earned a save with a solid inning of quiet work on the mound. Barnett also tripled at the plate while Jordan Bradley, Lucas Taylor and John King all singled. Brad Kmet knocked in two of Berwick's runs while Aaron Ouwehand had a base hit and Mark Surtees scored a run off his bat too.
Liam Davine pitched five innings for Melbourne, giving up three hits and one earned run with five strikeouts, while Adam Pahos and Kurtis Smith also put in work on the mound. Jarryd Rogers picked up two singles for Melbourne, bringing his total to 18 on the season, while Tim Sullivan got the run in.
The Cougars have won four of the past five games as they look to rise up the ladder and currently sit with an 8-10-1 record.
The Demons have lost three in a row now but will want to come back strongly against Berwick this weekend.
Geelong Baycats 7 v Newport Rams 0
The middle part of this game is where Geelong really performed, scoring seven runs within three innings including four in the fourth, all the while shutting Newport out.
With four U18 players taking the field for Geelong, the Baycats were pleased with a strong team performance on the back of Sam Gibbon's one-hit shutout game. He had nine strikeouts on the day as he gave the Baycats all the breathing room they needed to get their offense moving.
Geelong had 24 quality at-bats as a team, with Harper Rickard laying down a beautiful sacrifice bunt in his first start in the ones. Kelli Zablan had three hits, followed by two apiece for Tyler Luther-Wilson and Josh Davies. Zablan knocked in three of Geelong's runs while Ryan Darcy and Troy Snarey both had two RBIs.
The 13-7 Baycats managed to get plenty of batters on base as they made sure of their 13th win of the season and will be looking to do the same this weekend when they play the Rams once more.
Fitzroy Lions 12 v Sandringham Royals 3
Fitzroy made light work of Sandringham in this mid-week fixture to reach win number seven of the season, although the Lions are still behind the Royals on the ladder.
The Lions led 2-1 after two innings, and they heated things up in the third with a seven-run spot. The Royals answered with two runs, but the game was out of reach for them. Fitzroy scored three more in the fifth to showcase some strong offense against a tough competitor.
Brock Pawley was the winning pitcher, giving up seven hits for three earned runs across six innings. Pawley also singled in one of his turns at the plate as his teammates backed him up with their bats too. Ethan Epifanio had three hits - two singles and a double - as Riley Hill doubled and singled for three RBIs. Danny King had two singles and a double to knock in three runs and Tyler Trevaskis had a pair of base hits and an RBI.
Fitzroy's Austin Walker had an RBI while Tom Wilson came around to score three times, getting on base with walks.
On Sandringham's side of things, Branden Stenhouse, Jack Wills, and Aiden Flynn pitched in support of Declan Croker, who took the loss after giving up nine unearned runs in four innings. Wills had an RBI double in his turn up to bat while Paul Rutgers knocked in the other two runs. Zac Skinner had two hits including a double as Will Tucker doubled and singled. Harrison Wills brought his hit tally to 21 on the season with another base hit.
Sandringham has lost the last four games and will look to change that as the two teams will battle it out again this weekend.
Cheltenham Rustlers 1 v Upwey Ferntree Gully Tigers 1
This was a frustrating night for both teams as neither could find an avenue to score a go-ahead run and therefore had to settle for a one-all draw.
Things moved quickly in this game as the first three innings were scoreless before the Rustlers got one on in the fourth. The Tigers tied it up in the bottom of the sixth, with the final frame proving impossible for either side to break through and get the win.
Andrew Campbell threw 4.2 innings for Cheltenham, facing 20 batters and giving up just four hits and two walks with one strikeouts. Lars Ligouri gave up that lone unearned run in his 2.1 innings of work, also allowing four hits. Jack Daniels singled while Conor Myles doubled to bring in Cheltenham's only run of the game. Dylan Trevorah doubled too while Mac Turley had an extra-bases hit in addition to his single, bringing his hit total to 23 on the season.
On the Tigers side, Jarrod Turner threw six solid innings with just four hits and one run scored and our strikeouts. Donovan Hendricks handled one inning as well. Justin Swanton and Harvey Chinn singled and Jordan Elliot got on base to score Upwey Ferntree Gully's only run of the game. Josh Hendricks had a pair of singles as did Wade McConnon and Travis Murphy.
Upwey Ferntree Gully and Cheltenham are fifth and sixth on the ladder respectively so the stakes will be even higher when the two teams meet again on Sunday especially since the Rustlers were on a three-game win streak prior to this result.