The Queen’s birthday weekend saw the 2018 Senior State Winter Championships head down the Princess Highway to the Geelong Baseball Complex in Waurn Ponds. Guild Baseball Club and Saints Baseball Club joined forces to host 9 teams from Winter Associations all over Victoria in a contest to see who would be crowned State Winter Champions.
Though there were some initial stormy predictions, the weather for the weekend was almost perfect, albeit with a few brisk mornings. City and Geelong kicked the tournament off on Diamond 3 in the first Division 1 match up. Junior pitcher, Lachlan Hockey started on the hill for Geelong and despite giving up a few early runs was solid through 5 innings of work. Dennis Neal, a native Californian and current GMBC import got the start for City but a steadily productive Geelong offense proved too much for the big lefty, with Geelong taking the game 6 – 4. Ringwood took on Mt Gambier on Diamond 1 and whilst both teams scored early it was Ringwood that was able to go the distance thanks to strong pitching performances from Mitchell Ley and Jordan Barnett. Later in the day City played Mt Gambier and got their first win of the tournament (9 – 2) thanks to a great effort by starting pitcher, Gareth Formisano. Current Brisbane Bandits pitcher, Travis Blackley, took the mound for Ringwood in a clash with Dandenong and allowed only a single run. Dandenong had their chances but ended up conceding the game 9 – 2. In the last match up for Division 1 for the day, Dandenong faced the home side, Geelong. Jeff Guerrero gave up only the one run for Dandenong against a formidable Geelong offense but it was Jayde Thorne from Geelong that was eventually credited with the 6 – 0 win.
Division 2 started up at 11am on Diamond 4 in a gritty match up between Sunraysia and Dandenong’s U23’s team. Both team’s rosters featured an abundance of junior players keen for the chance to play tournament style baseball. Both pitchers were dominant through 3 before Sunraysia opened the scoring with a run in the bottom of the 4th and then a few more in the 5th and 6th to take the game, 5 – 0. North East and Latrobe were the next cab off the rank, putting together another low scoring affair with NEBA getting up, 4 – 1. Later on, Dandenong’s U23’s came out firing against Latrobe but it wasn’t quite enough to outlast the Valley team, who ended up winning the contest, 7 – 5.
Day 2 opened with a tight clash between City and top placed Ringwood. Whilst City took the lead early, Ringwood’s starter, Adam Pahos, wasn’t shaken. He eventually held City to 5 and benefitted from some run support from his team to take the win 6 – 5 for Ringwood. Mt Gambier had a tough outing against Geelong on Diamond 4, going down 17 – 3 but found their groove in their next game against Dandenong at midday. Both teams got off to a flying start, scoring 5 runs (Dandenong) and 4 runs (Mt Gambier) in the first innings. Rick Wheeler, however, was able to shut the Mt Gambier hitters down in the 5th to give Dandenong the edge with an eventual score of 11 – 8. Ringwood then took care of Geelong with a confident 9 – 5 win and City came back over Dandenong with a 3 run last dig to win 5 – 4.
In Division 2 Latrobe played Sunraysia on Diamond 1 and Junior, Donnie Poole, looked set to deliver his team the win when it was 5 – 0 going into the 4th. However Sunraysia turned it on late and scored 9 runs in a single inning to win 9 – 5. North East then defeated Dandenong’s U23’s on Diamond 3, scoring a respectable 6 runs in the first inning and never looking back from a 10 – 2 victory. They then backed it up with a win over a valiant Sunraysia who mounted a come back in the bottom of the 7th that fell just short, ending in an 8 – 6 NEBA win.
Day 3 turned out to be a particularly cold morning but the teams were up bright and early, ready for a big day of finals. City and Geelong took off on Diamond 2 at 9am for a spot in the grand final against Ringwood. It was the battle of the lefties, with Dennis Neale again starting for City and Josh Lee on the mound for Geelong. The game was tied up at 1 all until a single to right field scored the go ahead run for Geelong, who ended up winning 2 – 1. Dandenong and Mt Gambier battled it out for fourth place on Diamond 4 in a game was featured plenty of offense. Mt Gambier launched a late come back in the 5th inning but it wasn’t enough to topple a potent Dandenong team, with the game ending 18 – 9.
North East and Dandcenong U23’s played off at 9am in a 1 vs 4 clash for a spot in the Division 2 grand final. Dandenong held the lead briefly until North East launched a 3-run 5th inning to blow past their opponents for a 7 – 2 win. Over on Diamond 3, Sunraysia and La Trobe were also playing for a spot in the Division 2 final and it was Sunraysia who came away with the win, scoring in every innings to take the game, 10 – 2.
By 11am the two grand finals were set; Ringwood would play Geelong in Division 1 on Diamond 1 and North East would play Sunraysia over at Saint’s Baseball Club on Diamond 4. Ringwood again started Travis Blackley, who despite struggling with some minor soreness, through a complete shut out. Geelong went with Josh Lee again, who had just thrown the semi final against City and he kept up with the ABL star until Ringwood opened the scoring in the 5th inning. Ringwood added an insurance run in the bottom of the 6th and with that, they came away with the win, 2 – 0. Over on Diamond 4, Sunraysia got off to an early lead and never really let up. North East mounted a late come back to pull within a run but it would ultimately not be enough as they fell to Sunraysia, 7 – 6.
Four excellent teams and two hotly contested finals. Baseball Victoria would like to thank all the teams, managers, coaches, executive officers and scorers for being a part of such a great tournament and for making it such a success. To Tony McPherson, Guild Baseball Club, Saints Baseball Club and the entire Geelong Baseball Association, thank you for hosting this year’s State Senior Winter Championships – your hospitality and ground management were impeccable. To Julie Jones, who helped manage the competition and all the other volunteers, thank you for your time and hard work. To the family, friends and fans that came down, thank you for coming down and creating a great atmosphere and to our sponsors, Ausport and Viva, thank you for your continued support.
The next State Winter Championships will be the Under 16’s and then the U18’s, being held in Morwell followed by the U12’S and U14’s in Mildura in July.