Versatility a key to GBA championship prospects
5 June 2018
Formerly delivered by the Victorian Provincial Baseball League before unification under the Baseball Victoria banner in 2009, the time-honoured Senior Winter Championship – with a history dating back over eighty years - will again be held at Geelong Baseball Centre over the Queen’s Birthday Weekend.
The first of five Winter Championships to be organised by Baseball Victoria over coming months, the senior tournament has attracted nine teams from across the winter leagues.
Seeking to go back-to-back after its stirring win in last year’s Division One final, Geelong will again be pitted against some tough winter leagues – including Dandenong, Ringwood, City and Mount Gambier, a valiant runner-up last year.
Preliminary games will be played as a four-match round-robin series. All games will be of two hours duration, with the highest placed side after the round robin to qualify for the Monday afternoon final. Second and third will play off to decide their opponent, while fourth and fifth will match up to determine the other overall placings.
Managing the Geelong squad for the first time, Bellarine catcher Lewis Weldon will be ably assisted by East Belmont Manager Charles Thompson and Guild patriarch Craig Durston.
“We believe we have struck a fine balance between youth and experience with this squad,” Lewis Weldon said after his own club’s strong win over Saints on Saturday. “We will be relying on our speed, our agility and the versatility of our players to give us a real shot at another championship.”
Geelong will be looking to its seasoned pitching staff in David Asp and Josh Lee to play a pivotal role, along with the likes of Newport’s Jayde Thorne and emerging tyros Lachlan Hockey from the Bellarine club and Guild’s Jarryd Wood – although there will be other capable options available, including Mounties starter Gavin Smith, who is coming off an outstanding complete game club win over Deakin.
“We have players from nearly every A Grade club,” Weldon said, “so we are taking a genuinely representative team into the weekend.”
While Weldon and Bears teammate Cameron Brown – the hero in last year’s extra innings championship win – will be key factors for the GBA squad, there will be opportunities to shine for many other form players including Brock Wells, Chris Durston, Kobe Greenhalgh, Lachlan Stott, Matt Sage, Luke Sherwell, James Renouf, Tyler Comben and Tyler Luther-Wilson, who is enjoying a terrific season for Guild.
“We are looking to our pitching and defence to do what we know they are capable of, but we have other options and will be able to move players around in different roles as we need to,” Weldon said.
Image: Geelong Baseball Association
With two games scheduled for Saturday and two for Sunday, Geelong will need to finish in the top three to be a contender for the championship decider on Monday afternoon. Although final squads are still to be posted by Baseball Victoria, Lewis Weldon expects especially tough opposition from the City side – with whom he played when the Melbourne-based team won in Geelong two years ago.
“City will be strong, no doubt about that,” he said. “We know the Formisano brothers will be pitching for them, and they have a quality list that includes players like Oliver Box and Daniel Chircop.”
“We meet them first up on Saturday. We will be trying to get an early jump on them then, especially if they have had a late night on Friday,” he quipped.
As those who have been around winter baseball for a while can attest, the Senior Winter Championship – or the Provincial Carnival as it used to be widely known – has changed significantly in dynamic over the past thirty years, especially since summer baseball has taken on a greater focus for many people.
However - as always - the Senior Winter Championship provides opportunities for regional and metropolitan baseballers to partake of the rare opportunity to play representative baseball against their peers at elite level.
While disappointment has once again been expressed over the ongoing absence of Diamond Valley – which has historically represented powerhouse clubs in in the northern suburbs of Melbourne - nine teams from regional associations across Victoria reflects very well on the strength of winter baseball and its capacity to generate high-quality sport for an elite playing group.
Again scheduled at one of the very best baseball facilities in the land, the championship invariably balances intense onfield competition with enthusiastic social engagement and the opportunity to catch up with old baseball mates over what is always a memorable baseball weekend.
Regularly participating regional leagues epitomise what is the very best about this tournament.
Dandenong, Geelong and Bendigo were three of the founding associations when the Carnival was first played, in 1938 - under the auspices of Victorian Provincial Baseball League. The fourth was Ballarat, a notable absentee at the tournament for several years now.
Other long-term supporters of the Winter Championship in City, Ringwood, Latrobe Valley, Northeast, Mount Gambier and Sunraysia have a history of enthusiastic involvement in the series dating back many years, while the Dandenong Under 23 entry will once again provide a great opportunity for the DBA to demonstrate its playing depth at all levels.
Launched in book form at the 2017 Senior Winter Championship, “VPBL – a rich and colourful history” is now available as a PDF file accessible via the link below. The publication provides an overview of the history and the culture that underpin the Winter Championship. NOTE: a small number of the histories will still be available in book form, free, at the 2018 championship (speak to David Rice, MWBL Administrator).
The 2018 Senior Winter Championship will be played at Geelong Baseball Centre over the Queen’s Birthday Weekend, with games starting at 9.00 AM (Saturday and Sunday) and 10.00 AM on Monday. Finals will be played on Monday afternoon.
While Baseball Victoria will provide its own updates and expert reporting, Geelong Baseball Association will aim to supply modest day-to-day coverage, along with some action images. Local supporters or followers of other regional teams are invited to provide us with news or images for inclusion in GBA coverage of the series (email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or text 0488 735297).
Your contributions will be much appreciated.
In expressing its support for Lewis Weldon and our playing group, Geelong Baseball Association wishes all teams, all officials, volunteers and supporters the very best for what should be another outstanding State Winter Championship.
TOURNAMENT PROGRAMME (when available from Baseball Victoria)
Image: Geelong Baseball Association