Depleted Lions savage Bears in Preliminary
8 September 2018
Shrugging off the loss of pitching ace Brad Egan and delivering a remarkable show of offensive power with a seven-spot in the second, Guild brought a shuddering end to Bellarine’s season with a thumping 10-5 win in the A Grade Preliminary Final at Geelong Baseball Centre this afternoon.
Although the Bears scored first – off starter James Wood - the Guild hitters made their intentions clear at the outset – smacking three hard-hit balls in a scoreless first before chasing Bellarine rightie Lachlan Hockey from the hill with the subsequent match-defining outburst that held up against a mid-game challenge.
While it was surely a heartbreaking loss for the Bears – who have been so close to snaring the ultimate team prize over recent years – the decisive win demonstrated both the character and skill of a Guild club that will enter its Grand Final clash with Newport in buoyant mood.
A GRADE PRELIMINARY FINAL: GUILD 10 defeated BELLARINE 5
Cleanly-struck line drives by the first three Guild hitters of the game were ominous, although they amounted to naught and it was the Bears who gained a break – in the top of the second – when a Simon Murry single, a Lachlan Stott walk and a sacrifice bunt set the table for Chris Barker to swat a two-RBI single.
While that blow would have given Bellarine early encouragement, the excitement evaporated very quickly – after Ryan Stewart doubled to lead off the equaliser for Guild, initiating a chain of offence that included a fielder’s choice, a HPB, an RBI walk, a Jordan Lekkas infield hit, a Jarryd Wood sacrifice fly, a Jarrod Durston RBI-single and a Tony Kilfoyle walk to load the bases with two out and four already scored.
An productive foray was bloated further when Stewart – coming to bat for a second time – tugged a bases-clearing triple into the rightfield corner against a stunned Bellarine outfit that had gone from chocolates to boiled lollies in a trice before summoning Murry from rightfield to mop up on the hill.
With Wood settling into his work to spin four ensuing scoreless frames, Troy Snarey, Chris Durston, Lekkas (sacrifice fly) and Wood (RBI single) combined in the fifth to stretch the Guild lead to seven, seemingly more than enough to ice the contest, although the Bears had other ideas – conjuring up three runs of their own in the seventh as Barker (double), Brock Wells (triple) and Lewis Weldon all hit safely.
A sacrifice fly by Harry Levy in the seventh gave the Lions a further buffer before Jarryd Wood closed out the game with two innings of scoreless work that assured the Lions of another crack at Newport Rams in the Grand Final next Saturday.
While both clubs played solid defence and Bellarine matched Guild on hits (eleven to the Lions’ twelve), the damage was done in that one frenetic half-innings, when the Lions made the very most of their scoring opportunities against a shell-shocked opponent that was unable to recover from the onslaught.
Stewart (two hits and three RBIs) was an inspiration with the stick for Guild, who had other grand contributors in Chris Durston (three hits), Lekkas (two hits and two ribbies), Snarey (two hits) and Levy (two RBIs), while Barker (two and two), Wells (two and one), Weldon (two and one) and Matt Sage (two hits) were very good for Bellarine.
Carding the win for Guild, James Wood was accorded terrific support by Jarrod Durston before sixteen year-old Jarryd Wood collected the save after another superb all-round effort that has characterised his winter season as one of the league’s outstanding young players.
Qualifying for another A Grade Grand Final appearance – this time against a well-credentialed Newport Rams – the Guild club will be delighted with an all-round club effort that has earned four of its five teams the crack at a title. Again coming up just short of doing great things at the highest level this winter, Bellarine continues to develop as one of the leading, progressive GBA clubs and it will certainly enjoy great support as it competes for the A Reserve championship.
BELLARINE 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 (5) 1 error
GUILD 0 7 0 0 2 0 1 0 x (10) 1 error
Bellarine: B.Wells 2, L.Weldon 2, M.Sage 2, C.Barker 2, C.Brown, S.Murry, L.Stott
Guild: C.Durston 3, R.Stewart 2, T.Snarey 2, J.Lekkas 2, J.Durston, T.Kilfoyle, James Wood
Bellarine: C.Barker 2, B.Wells, L.Weldon, L.Hockey
Guild: R.Stewart 3, H.Levy 2, J.Lekkas 2, Jarryd Wood, J.Durston, James Wood
Bellarine: L.Hockey 2.2 inn, 5 H, 3 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HPB, 7 ER
S.Murry 4.1 inn, 6 H, 3 Ks, 0 BB, 0 HPB, 3 ER
J.Crotty 1 inn, 1 H, 0 K, 0 BB, 0 HPB, 0 ER
Guild: James Wood 6 inn, 7 H, 2 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HPB, 3 ER
J.Durston 1 inn, 2 H, 1 K, 1 BB, 0 HPB, 2 ER
Jarryd Wood 2 inn, 2 H, 0 K, 1 BB, 0 HPB, 0 ER
IN OTHER GRADES.
Guild Lions have won through to an A RESERVE Grand Final rendezvous with Bellarine after dispensing with Deakin 13-3 in a contest that was tight enough early before blowing out as the Lions plated two in the third, three in the fourth and a game-breaking five runs in the sixth to force a mercy-rule call.
Competing in the B GRADE Preliminary Final with just eight players – through emergency work contingencies – Alfredton was able to muster enough for a 4-3 result over Bacchus Marsh, which had a terrific second half season but was unable to peg back an Eagles outfit that rotated Manager Nathan Yates with pitching ace Dan Hamilton to effect in the Eagles battery.
Holding second for much of the B RESERVE season behind Corio, a youthful Saints team proved no match on the day against Guild, which earned a Grand Final berth with a 14-3 win that was set up by five in the first, followed by another three in the fourth and a decisive five-spot in the last.
Coming off a C GRADE Qualifying Final loss to Guild, Mounties conceded early runs to Corio before exploding with the bat for a ten-run lead through the middle innings before the Tigers hit back late and made this game a real contest against an ultimately relieved Ballarat club that held on 14-11.
PRELIMINARY FINAL PREVIEW
Kingsley Collins (5 September 2018)
A GRADE PRELIMINARY FINAL:
GUILD LIONS versus BELLARINE BEARS
Geelong Baseball Centre, Saturday 8 September, 2.30 PM start
Weather: Mainly sunny, light north-north westerly winds, 18C
And then there were three.
With Newport earning direct entry to the Grand Final, Geelong Baseball Association focus moves to a Saturday showdown between Guild Lions and Bellarine Bears – the former a league powerhouse of the past nine years and the latter something of a bridesmaid when it has looked the goods during its most recent campaigns in efforts to snap a twenty-three year drought at A Grade level.
Administrative action over three ejections in the Guild Semi-Final loss to Newport had the potential to disrupt the Lions’ bid to qualify for its tenth Grand Final appearance on the trot – and a possible eighth A Grade title for that incredible playing era. However, although the Lions will be without their pitching ace for the Preliminary Final, we can be assured of a quality contest between clubs that already enjoy a wonderful rivalry.
Guild won two of the three encounters with Bellarine this season – the first a 7-1 result back in Round Two and the third a 6-0 whitewash in Round Thirteen. In between, the Bears rode terrific pitching by Lachlan Hockey and Simon Murry to edge home 4-3 in Round Seven.
While Hockey and Murry did a solid job in the Round Thirteen loss, the Bears conceded five unearned runs on defensive errors and could muster just one hit as Brad Egan spun a complete game pearler for the Lions – to replicate his starring role in the Round Two clash, when Guild amassed ten hits to three by Bellarine.
Of statistical note, too, was the offence provided in the first two games by Jarrod Durston, who picked up three hits on both occasions – including a home run at Wallington - to be a standout for Guild among a super-dangerous roster that overall led the league clearly on runs scored while conceding the fewest against.
Given Egan’s record against Bellarine this season – and over the past couple of finals series, for that matter – one cannot overstate his fundamental importance to Guild, who will be forced to go to Plan B or Plan C with the big rightie not being available.
Without Egan, the Lions will need to conjure up nine innings of work against the Bears, an assignment that may place greater reliance on Jarryd Wood (who has enjoyed an outstanding all-round season), his older sibling James Wood, possibly Jack Smythe and youngster Angus McNee – who spun four innings of hitless work in the narrow Round Seven loss to the Bears.
Cleared to play in this game after a Semi-Final ejection was deemed sufficient, Troy Snarey (a former Colac teammate of Egan) will be a vital cog in the Guild offence, which hits one through nine, runs the bases aggressively and has several players who have put up big numbers over the season – including Tony Kilfoyle (averaging well over .500), Jarryd Wood, Ryan Stewart, Chris Durston, Jarrod Durston, Tyler Luther-Wilson, Jordan Lekkas and Harry Levy, should the regular third-sacker have recovered from injury.
Although the Lions’ record against Bellarine is impressive this season, they will be coming up against a club that has developed great depth through its firsts and seconds and has approached the finals series with steely determination – evidenced by the strong all-round game against Deakin in the A Grade Semi-Final at Wallington last Saturday.
Led by Manager Cameron Brown, catcher Lewis Weldon, slugger Wayne Visser, the versatile Simon Murry, Brock Wells and Lachlan Hockey in the upper order, the Bears just might be poised for an offensive break-out in this game – one that will exploit any uncertainty or disruption in a proud Guild camp accustomed to success against the very best.
Hockey, Murry and Pat Brackley have all had terrific seasons on the hill for Bellarine – who will be able, if required, to call on bullpen support from their reserves side, which has already qualified for the big dance and will be out in force to bolster the senior contingent.
However the two sides line up at the stadium on Saturday – and team structure remains more of a challenge for Guild than for Bellarine - eighteen competitive and clearly motivated players with two arms and two legs will be taking the field for what should be a ripper game between clubs replete with proven performers and baseball talent.
While baseball is a team game, loss of Egan for this contest is unquestionably a body blow for the Lions. No-one would argue otherwise. In their two regular season wins over Bellarine, Egan threw a combined fourteen innings of work for Guild to concede a total of four hits and just one run – an outstanding return by a big occasion player who has compiled an extraordinary record of success at A Grade level, both with Guild and East Belmont Saints. His absence will be sorely felt by the Lions, who will be forced to reconsider their pitching strategy – a task made even more difficult because their A Reserve side will also be playing to keep its championship hopes alive.
Does the loss of Brad Egan make Bellarine the favourite going into this game? Well yes, probably. And there is no doubt that the Bears will be savouring the prospect of entering the contest without their recent nemesis on the hill – and with a somewhat makeshift Guild pitching roster having to shoulder the responsibility of getting their club through to a showdown with Newport Rams.
Should Guild be written off as a realistic chance in this game? Hardly.
Beware the injured player, goes an old adage in sport. The Bellarine club would be well advised, this time around, to beware not so much of any afflicted player, but of the injured club – the arguably aggrieved and challenged organisation that will be without its pitching ace but which can boast serious club depth and a certain solidarity of spirit that will still make it tough to beat.
Guild has set the bar for this winter league for many years – on and off, but especially over the past decade. This game will provide one of the sternest tests that the club has faced in recent times, especially against an opponent that has built a strong and proactive community sporting entity that aspires to and deserves playing success at the highest levels.
This should be an interesting clash, hopefully a brilliant game and a ripper contest that will tell us plenty about both clubs – and about individual players cast into roles that may not have been anticipated. I sense that Bellarine will have the wherewithal to win by three or four, but it would be no surprise if the Lions did enough to claw their way into another Grand Final.
Having already nailed an A RESERVE Grand Final berth, Bellarine will watching on with interest as Guild matches up in the Preliminary Final against Deakin – who lost to the Lions 13-3 in Round Nine before posting a 7-1 win in Round Sixteen. While this game could clearly go either way, I am tipping Deakin to come from fourth in the regular season to earn a crack at Bellarine in the decider. The Blues to get away late in the game for a decisive win.
With Sunshine through to the B GRADE Grand Final, Alfredton will be regrouping for its Preliminary Final clash with Bacchus Marsh, an A Grade force of not that many seasons ago which has finished its season strongly – including a Semi-Final victory over Saints. However, on shown form, the Eagles look the goods – having won all four games against the Tigers this season (15-1 in Round Two, 6-3 in Round Five, 14-2 in Round Ten and 11-1 in Round 14. Alfredton by five.
As anticipated by most, Corio retained its undefeated record and qualified for the B RESERVE Grand Final with its win over Saints last Saturday. Saints were right in the contest, however, and will enter their Preliminary Final clash against Guild with a degree of confidence – especially given their season record in what were invariably high-scoring, tight contests. The clubs drew 7-7 in Round Four, before Saints won their Round Eight encounter 12-8, Guild turned the tables 12-7 in Round Fifteen and the haloes triumphed 15-13 in Round Nineteen. Saints in another nail-biter.
Taking the rest this week after qualifying for the C GRADE Grand Final, Guild dealt a rare defeat to semi-final opponent Mounties, which led the table all season but will face another stern challenge against Corio – which steamed into the finals. In their three encounters this season, Mounties won 11-7 in Round Four and triumphed 12-8 in Round Eleven before Corio went on a roll and smacked the Ballarat club 17-3 in Round Eighteen. On late season form, Corio to win this game by a margin.
Best wishes to all teams contesting Preliminary Finals in what shape as very pleasant conditions on Saturday.
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