Grand Final Preview 2019

Kingsley Collins

10 September 2019

With the weather looking favourable and the grounds presented in their customarily pristine condition, there is serious anticipation building for Geelong Baseball Association Grand Final Day on Saturday 14 September.

 

Eight clubs will be represented across five grades, with the action starting at 11.00 AM and running through until completion of the A Grade feature - which will start at 2.00 PM on the main diamond.

 

The Geelong Baseball Association Board extends its congratulations to all teams on progressing to the final week of winter competition. The Board extends its very best wishes to teams, their supporters, to club volunteers and to our intrepid umpiring personnel for a day of entertaining and hard-fought contests that exemplify the very best in playing skill, competitiveness and sportsmanship.

 

May the best teams win!

 

A GRADE GRAND FINAL:   BELLARINE versus SAINTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 14 September, Geelong Baseball Centre, 2.00 PM start

Weather:  mostly sunny, 18C, with mild south-westerly breeze of 15-20 kmh

 

Finishing first and second in the regular season, these two clubs well and truly earned an appearance in the Big Dance – Bellarine by virtue of its narrow Qualifying Final win and Saints on the rebound by overpowering Guild in the Preliminary Final.

 

In eliminating Guild from contention, Saints have created a history-making scenario that may have changed the landscape of Geelong winter baseball – from one in which the Lions and fourth-placed Lara have exercised A Grade dominance for much of the past fifteen years, aside from Saints and Deakin nailing pennants along the journey.

 

This will be the first time in twenty-five years that Bellarine and Saints have met in an A Grade Grand Final – creating a fascinating match-up between clubs that have contrasting histories at this level.

 

A league powerhouse even in its less successful onfield years, the haloes have won thirteen A Grade titles since the early nineteen-sixties – either as Saint Bernards or as the rebadged East Belmont Saints. Yet after squeezing home 1-0 over Lara to take the 2008 pennant, Saints have remarkably not made a Grand Final appearance since – until now.

 

A younger baseball club in the scheme of things – not playing in A Grade until the late 1970s – Bellarine was runner-up for the two seasons prior to winning its only A Grade pennant in 1995. Overall the Bears have finished second on six occasions, and they were expected by many to do better than a third finish in 2018.

 

Earning a Grand Final berth in any team sport is an achievement in itself. For Bellarine and Saints, this Saturday presents a wonderful opportunity for one club to savour the ultimate team prize.

 

While winning may not be everything, it is certainly preferable to the alternative – at any level, including grassroots winter baseball in our own humble winter league.

 

Bellarine and Saints are great community clubs, who continue to serve sporting needs in the Geelong area with style and grace. Both are worthy participants on this auspicious occasion. A win for either club would be equally embraced across the Geelong and broader baseball community.

 

Boasting an illustrious playing history, East Belmont is a leader in engaging young people in the sport, in developing its own magnificent facilities and actively expressing its social conscience through its Go Pink for Cancer Day and other initiatives. Based at the wonderfully bucolic Wallington Reserve, Bellarine has built an increasingly high community profile through its commitment to facilities development and inclusion in sporting activity – personified in particular by creation of the league’s first women’s team.

 

There appears to be no particular factor that points to either club as being a more likely winner, although the Bears have won on three of four occasions that the teams met this season. Saints prevailed 3-0 in their first clash before Bellarine turned the tables 2-0 in a rain-shorted Round Nine game, then a 10-2 result in the final round - followed by a 3-0 win in the Qualifying Final.

 

In that particular post-season game, Lachlan Hockey and Patrick Brackley were outstanding in sharing pitching duties for the Bears, who are likely to again go with the same combination, while Saints will no doubt be pondering how they might best utilise their talented pitching trio of Cody Anderson, Josh Lee and Emerson Rickard.

 

While Anderson spent some time on the hill in Round Nine, he did not pitch in the Semi-Final, where Saints went instead with Lee over six and Rickard towards the end. Anderson and Rickard were super-efficient against Guild in the Preliminary Final – with Rickard posting a skinny ERA of 1.578 on the season to take league A Grade pitching honours.

 

How Saints handle their pitching options will be interesting – and it will be a daunting challenge, as team management will be acutely aware of the offensive capacity in a Bellarine lineup looking to Lewis Weldon, Cameron Brown, Wayne Visser, Lachlan Hockey, Simon Murry, Daniel Stott and Kris Kiefel to provide the scoring conversion of which they have proven eminently capable.

 

Hockey and Brackley stifled Saints offence to the tune of just three hits in the Semi-Final, and a repeat performance would obviously help the Bears big-time in their effort to nail that second elusive A Grade pennant. However, Saints are coming off a confidence-building win over Guild – one in which Trevor Elliott, Dion Kirchner, Steven Fox and youngsters Keenan Spence and Will Brennan played crucial supporting roles against a quality opponent accustomed to finals success.

 

Seasoned, tough competitors in Anderson and Lee will also be poised to play key roles with the bat for East Belmont – who can collectively do real damage when they put it all together.

 

THE VERDICT. While it may be something of a cop-out, this game really is too hard to call – which in a real sense is the way that Grand Finals should be! With the game expected to be played in near-perfect conditions for baseball, there will be no excuses for anything that goes amiss for either team in defence or on the hill. Although it is difficult to see either club scoring a bag of runs – given the quality of the pitching personnel – Bellarine appears to boast the more damaging offence and it has a capacity for the long ball that is provided by Weldon and Brown in particular. However, Saints have built into an ultra-competitive unit that is capable of holding the Bellarine offence to a manageable score. Whether they can generate enough in response is the issue. Bellarine by two or three in a ripper game.

 

OTHER GRADES

 

With its A Grade out of contention, Guild will be focused on directing all available club resources towards a strong A RESERVE showing against Bellarine, which is in search of back-to-back pennants. Guild had the wood on Bellarine this season this season, with three wins and a draw from four meetings, including a 13-3 result late in the season – which may or may not tell us anything, other than suggesting a Guild capacity for heavy scoring when it gets on a roll. Bellarine to win its second A Reserve pennant.

 

It was a somewhat up and down B GRADE season for Sunshine, which produced its very best in a thumping win over Corio in the Preliminary Final. With a number of its former A Grade stalwarts still suiting up for the club, the Braves smashed Sunshine 12-1 earlier in the season, though that result was reversed with a 5-0 Sunshine win in the return encounter. While Colac edged out Corio by a couple in the Semi-Final, Sunshine flogged the Tigers in the Preliminary Final – suggesting the Eagles are flying high at the point end of the season. Sunshine to go back-to-back, by one or two in a hard-fought contest.

 

Promoted to B RESERVE after a dominant first three games in a lower grade, North West Titans have enjoyed an excellent first season in the GBA and they qualified comfortably for the Grand Final with a solid win over Corio. However, while it has been an impressive first-up season for the Melton outfit, they will be up against a seasoned Deakin club that seems always to excel in post-season in the lower grades. The two clubs won one apiece in two tight games during the regular season - but coming off a run feast to eliminate Corio last Saturday, Deakin will be difficult to contain.

 

Enjoying a degree of success in all grades for its inaugural season, Ballarat Royals demonstrated a capacity for finishing games strongly in C GRADE, including their last-gasp win over Corio in the Qualifying Final. For its part, Deakin did just enough to make the playoffs and it beat the Royals 14-6 in a Round Five clash before the Ballarat club posted an 11-6 result in the return game. Both clubs will field sides with a blend of youth and experience, and Deakin will clearly be buoyed by its gutsy Preliminary Final win over Corio Tigers. A settled unit all season, Royals should win this one.
 

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