It's the year of the Bear!
14 September 2019
Bellarine has snapped a twenty-four year drought in A Grade competition with a stunning 15-7 win over East Belmont Saints in a spirited and at times fiery Grand Final at Geelong Baseball Centre this afternoon.
Bursting to a substantial early lead, the Bears withstood a mid-game challenge from Saints before again scooting away – compliments in large part of a belligerent Bears offence led by Wayne Visser and Daniel Stott and steady pitching in the form of starter Lachlan Hockey and evergreen Simon Murry.
Capping a memorable day for the club, the Bears had earlier dispensed with Guild 6-2 to snare back-to-back A Reserve titles, while Sunshine went back-to-back in B Grade with a 13-11 extra-innings result over Colac, North West Titans - in its first season in the league - nailed the B Reserve pennant 13-2 over Deakin, and Deakin edged out Ballarat Royals 10-9 in a C Grade thriller.
Played in picture-perfect conditions – and with eight different clubs represented for the deciding game - Grand Final Day drew a massive crowd of supporters to the five games scheduled. Despite the inevitable disappointment that would be felt by losing teams and their supporters, this really was another superb demonstration of the very best in winter baseball – played in the passionate, uncompromising albeit fair manner that we expect of finals sport.
Congratulations to the winning teams! May they party hard and long. Well done to the runners-up – all worthy competitors who will lick their wounds and should reflect positively upon seasons which took them this far, to the brink.
Scroll down for a selection of GBA images from Grand Final Day. THESE A GRADE IMAGES were kindly supplied by Mark Lazarus.
A GRADE GRAND FINAL: BELLARINE 15 defeated SAINTS 7
The tone of this contest was set early, when Bellarine starter Lachlan Hockey retired the first three hitters he saw and his side edged to an early lead with a bleeder dropping in behind first base and Wayne Visser driving a two-out double off the rightfield wall to score in the bottom of the first.
Held scoreless after loading the bases in the top of the second, Saints paid dearly for an offensive miscue in the equaliser, when six hits – including doubles by Cameron Brown and Lewis Weldon – gleaned an unearned five-spot that was to prove pivotal in the contest.
Although Luke Sherwell walked and ultimately scored on an error in the third, Bellarine replied to stretch the lead to seven runs after four – although Saints had other ideas than a tame capitulation as the game hotted up and both clubs looked to their bullpens.
Conceding a solitary hit over four, Hockey came under fire in the top of five, when a defensive error and two tattooed batters provided the catalyst for a two-out rally that produced five for the haloes – including a bases-clearing double by Connor Hughes.
While Visser knocked in a ninth run for Bellarine in the bottom of the frame – for a three-run break – the game remained up for grabs and both teams went scoreless through the sixth as the pressure was ramped up a notch or several.
Relieving Hockey after five innings of quality work for no earned runs, Simon Murry was his typically poised self, assisted big-time by a game-breaking four spot by Bellarine in the bottom of seven – including another timely Weldon double.
When Murry smacked a two-RBI single in the bottom of eight it was effectively curtains for Saints, whose lower order manufactured a run without their side ever really threatening to make serious inroads against a massive lead held by the Bears – whose supporters were now beside themselves in anticipation of their club posting just a second A Grade premiership in the Geelong competition.
While both clubs conceded their share of unearned runs, that is often the nature of finals baseball as sides are placed under sustained pressure over a nine-innings contest - and it was Bellarine that proved the more capable of shaking off adversity and moving forward with real intent.
Between them conceding just one earned run, Hockey and Murry were key factors in this game – both on the hill and as leaders with the bat in a blistering team total of twenty hits.
Visser (four hits and three RBIs), Daniel Stott (four hits), Grand Final MVP Hockey (three and three), Murry (one and three), Weldon (two and two), Kris Kiefel (two and one) and Patrick Brackley (two hits) did serious offensive damage for the Bears, while Tyler Huisman (three hits and an RBI), Hughes (two and three), Josh Lee (two and one) and Dion Kirchner (two hits) were the best of a brave Saints side that was always playing catch-up.
Congratulations to Bellarine, again, on a comprehensive and very well deserved premiership win – one that will be especially savoured after club disappointment of the past few years. After a terrific home and away season, Saints came up just short when it mattered – though one expects that this proud club will be already planning for atonement in 2020! BELLARINE FACEBOOK SAINTS FACEBOOK
SAINTS 0 0 1 0 5 0 0 0 1 (7) 2 errors
BELLARINE 1 5 1 1 1 0 4 2 x (15) 3 errors
Saints: T.Huisman 3, D.Kirchner 2, J.Lee 2, C.Hughes 2, S.Fox, W.Brennan
Bellarine: W.Visser 4, D.Stott 4, L.Hockey 3, P.Brackley 2, L.Weldon 2, K.Kiefel 2, C.Brown, S.Murry, L.Stott
Saints: C.Hughes 3, J.Lee, W.Brennan, T.Huisman
Bellarine: L.Weldon 3, W.Visser 3, S.Murry 3, L.Hockey 3, C.Brown 2, K.Kiefel
Saints: E.Rickard 3 inn, 11 H, 2 Ks, 0 BB, 0 HPB, 2 ER
C.Anderson 1 inn, 2 H, 2 Ks, 0 BB, 0 HPB, 1 ER
J.Lee 3 inn, 6 H, 2 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HPB, 3 ER
C.Hughes 1 inn, 1 H, 2 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HPB, 2 ER
Bellarine: L.Hockey 5 inn, 5 H, 2 Ks, 2 BB, 3 HPB, 0 ER
S.Murry 4 inn, 7 H, 2 Ks, 0 BB, 0 HPB, 1 ER Bellarine A Grade team shot supplied by Mark Lazarus. MORE IMAGES
Doing it tough earlier in the season without conceding very many runs, Bellarine finished its winter campaign on the best possible note in A RESERVE – plating early runs for a break that proved beyond reach of a Guild club that enjoyed a fine season at this level but was downed 6-2 when it mattered most.
What shaped as a tough and competitive B GRADE Grand Final turned out exactly that way in a see-sawing affair that pitted the reigning premier with an experienced and skilled Colac club accustomed to success at this level. With the lead changing several times, this was a ripper contest that stretched into twelve innings, when Sunshine was able to gain the break and hold on for a 13-11 win.
Atop the B RESERVE ladder for much of its season after being promoted from the lower grade, North West Titans conjured up an overpowering performance against Deakin, which had done especially well to make the Grand Final. In the end, though, quality pitching, timely hitting and aggressive base-running proved unstoppable for the Titans – who emerged a 13-2 winner.
In another seesawing affair in C GRADE, Ballarat Royals conceded a lead mid-game before rebounding as they have done so well for much of this season. However, faced with a deficit late in the game, it was Deakin that was able to close ranks and exploit its opportunities in emerging a 10-9 winner.