Lions roar to crushing title win
15 September 2018
Withstanding an early challenge from Newport Rams, Guild blew the GBA season decider apart with a blistering six-run fourth innings and forged away for a comprehensive 14-5 win in the A Grade Grand Final at Geelong Baseball Centre this afternoon.
Showing great character to rebound from a setback in the Qualifying Final a fortnight ago, the Lions have now posted their eighth A Grade title win in the past ten years – a remarkable record of club achievement that may not yet have run its course.
While resilient big man Brad Egan was again a leonine hero in pitching a complete game to augment his already mind-boggling achievements at this level, it was top order hitters in Tony Kilfoyle, Ryan Stewart and Troy Snarey who provided the offensive impetus against a gallant Newport side that came up just short after an impressive return to this league.
A GRADE GRAND FINAL: GUILD 14 defeated NEWPORT 5
It was a somewhat nervous opening for both clubs, as unearned runs in part contributed to a frenetic first innings that was completed with the Rams holding a one-run lead that was reversed in the top of four – when Troy Snarey swatted a one-out, two-RBI single, a blow from which the Lions never looked back.
While Brad Egan settled into his work with typical aplomb, Newport starter Jayde Thorne appeared to be struggling with fitness and he came under sustained offensive fire in a game-defining top of four – although he was not helped by defensive miscues as the Lions blasted a half a dozen and Jason Lester was called from the Newport pen to stem the flow.
To his credit, Lester was able to contain the Guild hitters while his own side drove in a couple in the bottom of five before the Lions again stretched the lead – on a Ryan Stewart solo bomb in the sixth – before two late walks, a HPB and a Snarey sacrifice placed the game well out of reach of Newport after eight.
Although the Rams were ultra-competitive behind Lester over the final five frames, the pitching plaudits were well and truly earned by Guild evergreen Egan – who built on his outstanding record of success at A Grade level by posting his seventh winning Grand Final with the Lions after leading East Belmont Saints to a title back in 2008.
“Brad is like a good wine – just getting better and better with time,” said ecstatic Lions Manager Jason Peoples after guiding his club to back-to-back pennants. “It was a rocky start for both teams, but he just hung in there, doing what he does, and he was lights-out later in the game.”
While Egan was a standout player for Guild, he was not on his own, with catcher Ryan Stewart selected among several worthy individuals to be awarded Grand Final Most Valuable Player.
“Ryan was probably our best hitter on the day,” Peoples said. “He was sensational behind the plate, and he has been a real leader in this team – as he always is, but especially after the setback in the first week of finals.”
“He definitely deserved the MVP, although we are just so pleased with the whole team effort. Our defence was solid, Jarryd Wood had another fantastic game, Jarrod Durston was great, Snarey and Kilfoyle both stepped up with the bat when the game was on the line.”
For Newport, Thorne (two hits and two RBIs) was again prominent in offence, along with Lachlan Condie, Troy Malthouse and James Walshe – although they were out-slugged by a Guild side that hit its peak over the past two games while the Rams appeared to run out of steam for this contest.
“We knew we had to turn things around after the loss to Newport two weeks ago,” Peoples said. “We played angry that game is probably the best way to put it. We spoke about it afterwards and committed ourselves to getting back to what we do best – having fun and just enjoying the contest.”
“It has been a fantastic year for the club,” Peoples said. “A Grade flags are the ultimate, but it was a real bonus to have four senior sides in grand finals to win two of them. Our A Reserve side was really competitive and B Reserve – our thirds - was just beaten by a team far better than anyone else.”
Still a relatively young playing group – notwithstanding sustained success at this level – Guild will almost certainly be a force to be reckoned with again in 2019.
“We have had a great run,” Jason Peoples said, “and it has always been the result of a whole lot of people working really hard around the club – especially on bringing kids through.”
“We will keep doing that – working hard - for as long as we possibly can. We don’t take anything for granted.”
Congratulations to the Guild club on another A Grade title – its eighth in a decade. Well done, too, to Newport Rams, who returned to Geelong Baseball Association after a lengthy break and had an outstanding season at the highest level.
GUILD 2 0 2 6 0 1 0 3 0 (14) 2 errors
NEWPORT 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 (5) 4 errors
Guild: R.Stewart 3 (inc home run), Jarryd Wood 2, J.Durston 2, T.Kilfoyle, T.Snarey, H.Levy, T.Luther-Wilson
Newport: J.Thorne 2, L.Condie 2, R.Longstaff, A.Green, T.Malthouse, J.Walshe
Guild: T.Kilfoyle 3, R.Stewart 3, T.Snarey 3, H.Levy 2, J.Durston
Newport: J.Thorne 2, A.Green, T.Malthouse, J.Walshe
Guild: B.Egan 9 inn, 8 H, 8 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HPB, 3 ER
Newport: J.Thorne 3.2 inn, 9 H, 4 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HPB, 6 ER
J.Lester 5.1 inn, 2 H, 6 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HPB, 4 ER
IN OTHER GRADES.....
In search of its first-ever A RESERVE flag, Bellarine plated three in the second and responded to a Guild comeback by blasting a six-spot in the third to make it super-tough for Lions – who were unable to make further inroads against Josh Crotty, who tossed a complete game for the Bears. Amassing twelve hits to seven in the 12-3 result, Bellarine had several contributors in offence – including Matt Taylor, who belted a three-run bomb in the fifth to ice the contest.
Clearly the best two sides in B GRADE all season, Sunshine and Alfredton were evenly matched early, before the Eagles of the city variety gained a break through consistent and timely hitting against Alfredton hurler Dan Hamilton. Although Hamilton stuck to his guns, Sunshine was irrepressible in offence - scoring in six of seven innings played - as Earl Byrne conjured up a quality complete game on the hill for Sunshine, a comfortable 13-1 winner to cap off a dominant season.
Unbeaten in B RESERVE all season, Corio was never going to let this one slip against a Guild outfit that was competitive early on but unable to mount a serious challenge against Corio pitcher Blake Witham – who was a standout as his side built a couple of huge offensive innings (notably ten in the third) to notch a 17-1 win against a Lions outfit whose youngsters will have derived plenty from the experience against a very good side at this level.
Atop the C GRADE table for all of its season, Mounties had been troubled most by Guild, and today was no exception – as the Lions gained an early break and forging away through later innings for a well-deserved 17-4 win over a club that struggled to apply offensive pressure on the day.
Scroll down for a selection of images from Grand Final Day 2018. Congratulations, again, to all premier teams!
GRAND FINAL PREVIEW
11 September 2018
A GRADE GRAND FINAL:
NEWPORT RAMS versus GUILD LIONS
Geelong Baseball Centre, Saturday 15 September, 2.00 PM start
Weather: windy with showers, strong westerlies and 14C
Although the weather is expected to be less than kind for Grand Final day, ten association teams across five grades will be primed to produce their competitive best as they strive to achieve the ultimate team honour in what shapes as another huge season finale at Geelong Baseball Centre on Saturday.
Qualifying for the big dance by downing Guild in the A Grade Qualifying Final, Newport Rams will face a return stoush with the Lions – who overcame adversity to rebound with a stirring Preliminary Final win over Bellarine Bears, who entered that game favoured by many yet faltered in one game-defining second innings.
Having beaten the Lions in three of four clashes this winter season, Newport can lay claims to entering the Grand Final as favourite, although anyone who has been around this game for a while will understand that a two-way contest in team sport so often can produce the unexpected.
Whichever team wins the game – and earns the mantle of 2018 A Grade premier – history will have been made, although in a vastly different sense.
A powerful club in Baseball Victoria Summer League, Newport has maintained a chequered engagement with Geelong Baseball Association since it first played in A Grade competition in 1979 – when it finished well adrift of Guild, which that year won its second of five consecutive titles at the highest level.
A regular competitor in A Grade during the nineties, Newport achieved its best finish – third – in 1992, and it last played in 1999 when it finished in fifth as a Newport/Werribee combine.
By contrast, Guild has constructed a remarkable league record, having won 23 A Grade titles since 1963 – including seven of the past nine. This Grand Final will be the club’s tenth A Grade Grand Final appearance on the trot – not to mention a multitude of honours earned at all lower levels.
Should we read anything into all of that history lesson? Well, not much other than the bleeding obvious – which says that Guild, with its club depth and with so many of its current personnel closely involved for much of the past remarkable decade, has a proven capacity to win big games when it matters most.
The Lions demonstrated that capacity in the Preliminary Final, when they dispensed with Bellarine even without suspended pitching ace Brad Egan and one of its emerging superstars in Tyler Luther-Wilson – who was otherwise unavailable.
Despite qualifying comfortably for the post-season and getting past Guild in the first week of finals, Newport remains something of an enigma – at least to GBA supporters who have become accustomed to locally well-known outfits in Guild, Deakin, Bellarine, Saints and Lara featuring in the majority of finals series over the past fifteen years.
In a very real sense, the Rams are the new kids on the block – although “kids” is largely a misnomer given the credentials and the quality of the team roster. Led by inspirational utility Aaron Green, Newport can boast a terrific balance of experience and gifted young players. The club has been given magnificent service by Jayde Thorne and classy Troy Malthouse (from a wonderful Newport baseball family), along with ever-enthused warriors in Justin Charles and David Asp.
Expected to again line up with the dangerous designated hitter Zac Seipolt, Heath Black and serious talents in Reece Longstaff, Mason Wray, James Walshe and Lachlan Condie, Newport is poised to make its own history in this league and to provide a real fillip for its summer campaign.
It proved a winning formula in the Qualifying Final, so the Rams are likely to again go with Asp as their starting option - although Thorne is believed to have recovered from injury and will offer great support along with Jason Lester, whose command of his pitches appears to have improved noticeably from earlier in the season.
Guild was well in the contest right throughout the Qualifying Final, although it was rocked with the ejection of starter Brad Egan with scores level at the end of the fourth innings – forcing James Wood to be summoned into action somewhat earlier than the club would have preferred. Wood went on to throw a solid five innings – despite being tagged for two runs in the top of the last – and he was highly impressive over six in carding the win as Guild eliminated Bellarine Bears in the Preliminary.
Barring famine, flood or pestilence, a refreshed Egan will take the start for Guild - which will be hoping for six, seven or even more quality innings from their ace before they call upon James or Jarryd Wood to apply the clamps through the later innings. Should the game go to extra time – as a thrilling Grand Final did last year – then both clubs appear to have the pitching depth to remain in contention.
Both clubs have proven to be consistently polished defensive outfits - with Guild committing just 28 errors and Newport 27 over a twenty-one game regular season. Both will be relying on their defence to again hold up under pressure while they strive to convert scoring opportunities that may be limited – especially early in the game.
Although Newport holds a 3-1 winning edge over Guild on the season, the Lions will enter this contest on an offensive high, with its key contributors in dazzling form. Ryan Stewart was brilliant with the bat early in the Preliminary Final - when the game was up for grabs - while league-leading slugger Anthony Kilfoyle (hitting 0.563) has enjoyed a stunning winter along with Jarryd Wood, Jordan Lekkas, Chris Durston, Jarrod Durston, Troy Snarey and third-sacker Harry Levy.
Newport has constructed an exceptional season in its return to Geelong Baseball Association competition. The club has injected a breath of fresh air to the league and it would be a worthy winner of the championship after consistently laying down the gauntlet to established clubs. For Guild, getting four of its five senior teams into Grand Finals is a sensational effort that says plenty about the administration and the playing personnel at a club that continues to make the very most of its first-class facilities and enhance its prestige within the local baseball community.
This result is a tough one to pick. Those of us not directly involved with either club but who have an interest in winter baseball should just head on down to the stadium, kick back, grab a drink and enjoy what looms as a great contest between quality combatants. For me – over an anticipatory shandy while writing this – it might be the Lions to win by four. Or it might not.
Whatever the outcome, league history will be in the making. While one club will inevitably be disappointed by Saturday evening, best wishes to Newport and Guild – worthy finalists, both, who will undoubtedly give it their all in the season decider.
On a massive day for Guild – with four of its senior teams qualifying for Grand Finals – the Lions will face a tough assignment in A RESERVE when they come up against Bellarine, which has led the table all season and qualified with a hard-fought win a fortnight ago. Although the Bears will have their customary solid club support and a full book of available players now that A Grade is out of contention, the Lions were ultra-impressive in thrashing Deakin in the Preliminary Final. The Bears by a couple, although it will be tough going.
Sunshine has made the B GRADE running all season and deserves to enter this clash as a short-priced favourite given its narrow win over Alfredton in the Qualifying Final. Fielding a team of just eight players – through urgent work commitments – the Ballarat-based Eagles edged past Bacchus Marsh to earn another crack at their namesake from the western suburbs of Melbourne. While Sunshine will fancy its chances after a strong season, Alfredton has standout players in B Grade Most Valuable Player Dan Hamilton and its Manager Nathan Yates who are capable of turning this contest in favour of Alfredton. It should be a ripper game. Perhaps Sunshine by a narrow margin again.
Undefeated through the B RESERVE regular season and Qualifying Final, Corio has had the week off and is likely planning its celebrations for a comprehensive title win that would cap individual honours earned by league MVP Blake Witham and Runner-Up Garry Kevelham. Although Saints appeared the team most likely to threaten the Tigers, Guild produced some stunning form to post a massive Preliminary Final win and qualify for a showdown with a Corio outfit that it is hard to see getting beaten. Corio comfortably.
Qualifying for the C GRADE Grand Final through its win over Mounties in the first week of the post-season, Guild will have to do it all again against the Ballarat club, which suffered a few flutters of uncertainty before dispensing with Corio in the Preliminary. Although they led the table all season, Mounties have struggled against the Lions and will need to produce their very best in offence against another side capable of scoring heavily and often. Mounties by two or three in a see-sawing affair.