Springvale Lions Baseball Club celebrated a seventh Women’s Division 1 premiership in eight years to wrap up the 2019/20 VSBL season on a high note.
The Lions won 9-7 over Doncaster on Women’s Super Saturday, securing the club’s 12th Women’s Division 1 championship. Springvale's women’s program continues to go from strength to strength, with a core group of leaders and supporters including head coach and Australian Emeralds player Shae Lillywhite.
Reflecting on this sweet victory, Shae couldn’t be prouder of her team and their determination to promote women’s baseball year in and year out. “It was a very special and proud moment for the club and the people that have been involved along the way,” Shae said. “To see and be part of this team’s continued success and growth with the program is very rewarding. A lot of time, effort and planning goes into a season every year for it to not only be successful, but sustainable.”
Springvale entered the Grand Final with a few more victories than Doncaster, but they needed to band together and put on a winning performance. “We knew it was going to be a tough, hard-fought game as most of our games are against Doncaster,” Shae said. “We needed to be ready to take any opportunities that they gave us. Doncaster can overrun you very quickly with their hitting lineup, so the goal was to try to hold our nerve defensively and put runs on the board early to give our pitchers a bit of room to move.”
The Lions had an early 9-1 lead but Doncaster battled back in the later stages to come within two, although Springvale held on for the win. Shae thinks it’s a worthwhile challenge for the Lions to face tough, seasoned competitors like Doncaster every season. “They will always fight to the end as they are a good team, and that pressure is something I look forward to with Doncaster,” Shae said.
While Shae had her fair share of offensive contributions in the Grand Final, she’s most excited that some of the younger players had the chance to step up and shine in a high-pressure situation. “The whole team contributed, and I was proud of our hitting performance, especially our young stars Lili Cavanagh and Hanami Campitelli,” Shae said. “Siobhan Stephenson and Sinead Flanigan also picked up some big hits for us in clutch situations.”
The Lions were sad to lose import Ayumi Ikeyama to an ACL injury the first week of finals, but veterans like Hannah Jackson filled the void and performed well in the finals too. Shae says the all-around team success comes down to never-ending support and encouragement from the Springvale baseball community. “We have a great group of people who care about the players’ wellbeing and try to create a culture that’s inviting to be around,” Shae said. “We love to teach whoever wants to be taught more about the game and it’s important to have them playing in the right divisions for them to succeed.”
Springvale continues to field three teams for Women’s Division 1, 2 and 3, giving players of all levels the chance to develop their skills and fall in love with the game. It’s worked well for Springvale thus far and is something the club will continue to aim for in the future. “Having three teams is vital to the success of the club and has been for a number of years,” Shae said. “The leaders and veterans hold each team together very well and the twos did a fantastic job getting there this year.”
Looking forward to the next season, Shae hopes to see the Lions continue their dominance. “We will regroup leading into the next season with preseason planning to see how our numbers are fairing and work out coaching staff,” Shae said. “We will start communication with the players as to their commitment situation and individual goals, and then the rest is just hard work at training and making sure people get what they need from the staff.”
While Shae hopes some time off will give the women a chance to come back stronger and refreshed, she will remain proud of everything they accomplished in the grand final and this season as a whole. “Definitely a few moments stand out for me, one being Hannah Jackson’s catch at left field that I think saved the game,” Shae recalled. “Also, Kellie Manzie closing on the mound, after taking that role on for me many times this season. I knew she could and she did.”
Shae’s never-ending passion for the game is something she wants to keep sharing with other players as she helps them get better. She credits the support of Simone Wearne, Mandi Avent, Siobhan Stephenson and Jess Adkins for making their strong season a reality, as well as all the friends, families and club members. “It was a wonderful team effort this year with our group of talented young players mixed with the veterans still leading the way,” Shae said. “The future looks bright for the kids as they are surrounded by committed passionate players who love to play.“