Semi-Finals Preview 2019
28 August 2019
With the weather predicted to be unusually pleasant – considering what we have been subjected to over recent times – all is in readiness for a cracking weekend of Geelong Baseball Association Semi-Finals action at home grounds across the league.
Best wishes to all for great contests, great skills and great baseball enjoyment!
Our Semi-Finals Preview offers the verbal meanderings of one person in the scheme of GBA matters. As always, the league neither offers nor accepts any liability for inaccuracies, misinformation, misjudgement or errant nonsense (of which there is likely to be plenty). It recommends that our supporters “act responsibly” on any tips provided herein.
A GRADE QUALIFYING FINAL: BELLARINE versus SAINTS
Saturday 31 August, at Wallington Reserve, 2.00 PM start
Weather: Partly cloudy, 19C, northerly 15-20 kmh breeze
Runner-up twice and third three times over the past five seasons, Bellarine was again among the A Grade pace-setters during 2019 – establishing a clear break at the top of the table with a record of fourteen wins and five losses. East Belmont had a tough start to the season, dropping its first three before developing consistent winning form that secured second placing - and a double chance – on its ten wins, two drawn and seven losses.
In their first meeting – on 11 May – Emerson Rickard and Josh Lee combined for a two-hitter to help set up a 3-0 win for Saints in a high quality defensive contest. After a mid-season washout, Bellarine reversed its fortunes against the haloes by way of a 2-0 win in a rain-shortened clash in Round Nine before posting a comprehensive 10-2 result in the final home and away round – admittedly a dead rubber, though most would argue that any win is preferable to being on the losing end.
The Bears scored a total of 137 runs and conceded 89 over their nineteen games – a tally just marginally better than Saints, who amassed 125 runs compared with 98 on the debit side.
Hitting safely a total of 150 times, the Bears posted a team batting average of 0.288, with six of its regular players clocking over 0.300 on the season. For much of the winter missing its former Manager Cameron Brown (who played just three A Grade games) and Brock Wells (who is pursuing a college career), Bellarine enjoyed quality offensive production from Daniel Stott (twenty-one hits), Manager Lewis Weldon (nineteen) and Wayne Visser (eighteen), with Simon Murry, Lachlan Hockey and Kris Kiefel among others who are certain to have an impact during the playoff series.
With a team batting average of 0.307 built around 157 hits in its nineteen games, Saints had eight of its regular players averaging over 0.300, with Trevor Elliott (twenty hits), Dion Kirchner (nineteen), Keenan Spence (sixteen), Luke Sherwell (fifteen) and Josh Lee (fourteen) the leaders in a team offence that can reasonably expect telling contributions from Connor Hughes, Tyler Huisman, Steven Fox, George Polley and Cody Anderson.
Both clubs have qualified for A Grade and A Reserve semi-finals on the same day, at the same ground – facilitating the re-entry option should it be required. While that may open up strategic choices for clubs in a game situation, it will not impact on the interesting decisions that might be made in regard to deployment of pitching personnel.
Likely to go with Josh Crotty to start the A Reserve game, Bellarine will be looking to Lachlan Hockey, Pat Brackley and Simon Murry to share mound duties over the nine innings A Grade contest, while Saints will have a left-armed arsenal to draw from in the persons of Cody Anderson, Josh Lee and Emerson Rickard, with Connor Hughes available if required.
TIP.... Forget about the Round Seventeen result. The Saints club has been a real improver this season, with its experienced players showing the way for its younger brigade. If the haloes can make some early scoring inroads in this contest – albeit a tough ask against likely Bears starter Hockey – then it is in with a real chance of nailing a Grand Final berth that has eluded the club for eleven years.
A GRADE ELIMINATION FINAL: GUILD versus LARA
Saturday 31 August, at Geelong Baseball Centre, 2.00 PM start
Weather: Partly cloudy, 19C, northerly 15-20 kmh breeze
Grand Final appearances in each year of the past ten – for an extraordinary eight A Grade pennants – is a self-evident reflection on the recent dominance of the Guild club, which wrested that mantle from Lara Wildcats, who enjoyed a golden era of their own through the noughties. These are changing times, however, and both clubs experienced their highs and lows during the 2019 season before securing a place in the post-season – with its opportunity of creating lifelong memories of sporting success alongside mates.
There is a contrasting dynamic between the two clubs, with the Wildcats again relying heavily on a nucleus of quality, vastly experienced players while the Lions continue to create opportunities for emerging stars to come through the ranks and be mentored by older heads who appear to have lost little of their appetite for the contest.
The clubs met four times this season, with Guild winning their first encounter 15-5 after the Wildcats had started the season strongly but fell away mid-season and remained in or near the cellar until the Senior Winter Championship break. However, a Round Eight draw with the Lions was perhaps a portent of things to come, as the Wildcats mounted a steady ascent on the A Grade ladder that included an 11-6 win over Guild in Round Nine and a 9-4 result in the final home and away fixture.
Finishing third on the season, Guild scored 160 runs – the highest in the league – while conceding a fairly generous 128, perhaps a reflection on the impact of departing Brad Egan prior to the season. With 131 runs scored against its opponents’ 135, Lara was similarly subject to some heavy losses whilst enjoying some more substantial winning margins along the journey.
Carding an impressive team batting average of 0.355, the Lions had eight of their regular players hitting over 0.300 – headed by Troy Snarey (twenty-eight hits), Jarrod Durston (twenty-six), Ryan Stewart (twenty-three), Tyler Luther-Wilson (twenty-two) and Ben Jensz (eighteen) – while regular, invaluable contributions were forthcoming from Chris Durston, Angus McNee, James Renouf and young hurler Hayden Peoples.
While the Wildcats recorded an eminently respectable team batting average of 0.282, just five of their regular players hit over 0.300 and much of the heavy lifting was delivered by the likes of Dan Anson (twenty-five hits), Stuart Forbes (twenty-four), Jarrod Fraim (twenty-four) and Ross Wilson (nineteen). However, the late-season Lara drive towards the finals was heavily assisted by Cameron Forbes (thirteen hits in eight games), Mitch Miller, Travis Arandt and utility Jared Berman, who may yet play a massive role in the Wildcats post-season campaign.
Failing to qualify for the reserves finals, Lara will be able to direct all of its pitching resources towards the Elimination Final. Handing starting duties to off-speed hurler Chris Lewis for most of this season – and probably continuing to do so this week - the Wildcats have a number of options in cobbling together nine innings that will certainly include three or four innings from Cameron Forbes, maybe a couple from Mitch Miller, Dan Anson or even Gregg Anderson if required.
Pitching is where Guild may be susceptible. On a pitch count, Hayden Peoples will surely take the start, with relief assistance provided by Jarrod Durston – who has enjoyed a terrific overall season – and Travis Duxson, although Jarryd Wood might be a further option if he is not required for the reserves contest against Ballarat Royals.
TIP.... On sheer hitting capacity, Guild looks a good thing to win this one. However, the Wildcats have been around the block a few times and they are eminently capable of placing enormous pressure on the younger Guild pitchers. One big innings – either way - will decide this game.
Reverting back to a single team in A RESERVE this season, Guild nailed the minor premiership as testament to continuing club capacity to bring developing players through its ranks under the tutelage of a few older heads. For this particular final, though, the Lions face a real challenge from a free-scoring Ballarat Royals, which outscored Guild on the season (151 runs to 141) and which won all three encounters – a 16-15 win early days before two comprehensive results later in the season. With its A Grade team not making the playoffs but with a number of established players qualified for this match-up, Royals will go in as favourite.
Gunning for back-to-back reserves titles, Bellarine began the season sluggishly – losing its first three games while restricting opposition sides to minimal scoring. Saints won the Round Three encounter 6-1 between these clubs and there was a washout in Round Eight. Just last weekend, though, Saints flagged its potential as a title contender by downing the Bears 4-2 to seal an Elimination Final berth at the expense of Deakin Blues. While one should never underestimate the defensive capacity of the Bellarine side – which conceded a league lowest number of runs (just sixty-four in sixteen games) – it will need to up the ante on offensive production if it is to eliminate a haloes unit that averaged nearly seven runs per game over the winter.
TIP. Royals to book a saloon passage ride to the Big Dance: Bears to be sent into hibernation.
Bolstered from just five teams last time, B GRADE developed into a highly competitive division – especially among the top four teams, who proved themselves to be a cut above the rest as the season progressed. Earning the minor premiership, Corio edged out Colac 9-6 early in the season and followed up with a 16-1 trouncing of the Braves in Round Fourteen – a result that would justify Corio being favoured to qualify directly for the Grand Final.
While Corio scored a massive 185 runs on the season – an average of over eleven per game – it was outslugged marginally by Sunshine, which will undoubtedly feel aggrieved in losing the double chance in the last regular season game. Sunshine will have a chance to atone in the Elimination Final, where it plays host to its Eagles cousin of the Alfredton variety. With the clubs having tied an early season meeting and with a subsequent washout, it is difficult to extrapolate anything much from the form line – other than to note that both clubs have more than their share of hard-nosed competitors who will ensure this clash is an absolute ripper.
TIP. Corio will be too strong for Colac and Sunshine will edge home against Alfredton in a high-flying, low-scoring thriller.
It was only in the last few weeks of B RESERVE competition that the leaders gained ascendancy over the pack in a relatively large field that kept the baseball pundits guessing. Promoted from C Grade after its barnstorming start in the GBA, North West Titans thoroughly earned top billing and they will meet a tough Corio unit in the Qualifying Final. This will be a fascinating contest, given that both can boast consistent winning form but have not yet played each other because of a washout in their only scheduled clash.
The Elimination Final fixture between Bellarine and Deakin equally remains something of an enigma, with the Bears having prevailed by a couple in their only meeting early in the season before both toiled away doggedly behind the Titans and Corio. On paper the more productive offensive unit, Deakin might have the edge on Bellarine in this encounter – although it is a Sunday fixture at Wallington, where the Bears faithful will surely congregate en masse to support their team, one of three to be representing this terrific club in finals.
TIP. The Titans to squeak home and nail a Grand Final berth, while Bellarine will do enough to eliminate Deakin from contention.
The dominant club in C GRADE all season, Corio strung together twelve wins on the trot – including a hard-fought win over Royals, its Qualifying Final opponent – before dropping off ever so slightly for a late season draw with Lara and a one-run loss to Deakin. While the Royals combination of youth and experience has gelled to construct a terrific season, it will be tough going against a club that has scored the most runs and has conceded the least over its season.
Also renowned for its heavy scoring, Lara faces an Elimination Final stoush with Deakin, who the Wildcats have twice beaten comfortably (12-3 and 13-2) – interspersed with one of the many washouts that have occurred this season. Both clubs boast a nucleus of very experienced players who are accustomed to finals baseball and who are no doubt keen to add a little more silverware to the trophy cabinet before directing their attentions to Masters baseball over the next decade or several.
TIP. Corio will be too strong for the Royals, who have enjoyed a great season. Lara will keep its season alive with a free-scoring win over Deakin.