By Sean Talbot
In what was a terrific day for baseball under brilliant blue skies, the Upwey Ferntree Gully Tigers picked up a much-needed win over the visiting Malvern Braves at Kings Park which will no doubt buoy the members of the yellow and black attack after a pair of tough losses to lower ladder dwellers Sandringham and Port Melbourne.
The Tigers were led by staff ace Jarrod Turner who was magnificent on the day, scattering 7 hits and 1 walk whilst striking out 8 Braves hitters in what is certainly his best outing of the season to date. Never allowing the visitors to get settled, Turner worked quickly and efficiently, only needing 89 pitches to fall two outs shy of a 9-inning complete game, mixing speeds and showing plenty of velocity from the first pitch of the game and only getting stronger in what were incredibly encouraging signs from the big right-hander.
Putting Malvern starter Sean Cruz to the sword from the jump, the Upwey hitters used doubles from Jack Ratcliffe and Staci Rogers as well as singles to Jordan Elliott, Wade McConnon and Andy Kane to put 4 on the board in the bottom of the 1st and give Turner all the run support he would need for the day, before adding another run in the bottom of the 3rd, capitalizing on a lead-off hit batter to Elliott before Rogers came through with his 3rd RBI of the day with another safe hit. Turner continued giving the Braves little-to-no chances on offense, as he settled into his work and progressively got more and more efficient, needing just 10, 8, 7 and 8 pitches to get through innings 4 through 7. The Tigers put the game away for good in the 6th and 7th innings, scoring runs 6, 7 and 8 through a combination of sloppy Malvern defence, wild pitches, stolen bases, base hits and walks in what was truly an all-around dominant game for the reigning premiers.
“I’m very happy, the boys are playing how we want them to. They showed their passion and their energy in how they played which is really good to see,” remarked coach Donovan Hendricks in his post-game comments. “I think we really fed off the 2s, they had a really good energy, and we ran off that. There were some items we had at training, trying to make sure we bought that energy to today and to do that was really impressive. Sundays are a 9-inning game with the mid-week being only 2 hours so to jump with the energy we did was really good for us, to get a jump on Malvern was outstanding, and to score 4 in the first and then 3 times later in the ballgame was great”.
The Tigers were of course led by Turner with his 8 1/3 inning start with Sean Meldrum throwing the final 2/3 inning. The offense was led by Staci Rogers (2 hits, 3 RBI) and Jordan Elliott (3 hits, 1 HPB, 1 RBI), while Malvern’s best came in the form of former Tiger Rydge Hogan, who went 2-4 with an RBI and 4 innings on the mound. The win sees the Tigers jump into equal 10th tied with Fitzroy, Sandringham and Williamstown, with what is sure to be an acid test against ladder-leader Waverley away on Tuesday before travelling to Berwick to take on the 2nd place Dodgers.
The Upwey 2s continued their white-hot start to the season, easily dispatching of the visitors 14-5 in what was an all-around dominant performance by one of the league’s leading offenses, themselves rebounding after an uncharacteristically sloppy loss to 10th placed Sandringham away last weekend. Boosted by the addition of left-hander Wes de Jong who was dropped to get some innings in, the Tigers batted around in the first innings putting up 5 runs before adding an additional 4 in the bottom of the 2nd to put the game beyond reach before Malvern were even able to react to what happened. A continual flurry of hard-hit balls, aggressive baserunning and a flat-footed Malvern defense saw the Tigers scoring at will throughout the game, scoring multiple runs in 4 of the 5 innings played.
de Jong was miserly on the mound, mixing speeds and taking advantage of an undermanned Malvern team who were simply outplayed by the ladder leader on the day, with the only hiccup for the home team being the 4th innings which saw de Jong see 5 potential outs for the inning which featured several bloop singles and some miscommunication in the outfield that allowed 4 runs to score, however the Tigers came straight back at the Braves, scoring 3 in the 4th and then 2 in the 5th to put the result well beyond reach.
The offense was lead by veteran Michael Oxworth with multiple hits, with Matt Cameron, Manning Davison, Randy Senn and Ash Geary-Smith all dangerous in the box. The win sees the Tigers retain shared top spot with Geelong sporting a 6-1 record as they look ahead to next weekend which will see them on the road to 8th placed Berwick.
The Men’s 3s travelled to Wadsworth Field and were promptly turned away at the gate by the second-placed Braves who, to their credit, have a 10+ year run of dominance throughout both the former Divisions 1 and 2 and are still very much a force to be reckoned with. To their credit, the Tigers did not roll over and hand the over the win, but in the end the Braves experience and years of playing together as a unit was too much for the visitors to overcome, falling 8-3. The result sees the Tigers take sole possession of 5th place sporting a 4-2-1 record, whilst Malvern vault clear into 2nd with a 6-1 record. The Tigers will host the visiting Dodgers next week in what will surely be another entertaining game, but one the Tigers will want to win to stay in the hunt for finals.
The Men’s 4s were also on the road to Wadsworth Field but enjoyed a much happier ride home, winning a game that would’ve been better ending with a mercy kill rather than a mercy-rule, the end score of 22-0 highlighting the quality of the visiting team who have been nothing short of dominant all season and sitting in equal 1st with a perfect 7-0 record and a run for/run against differential that would make the New York Yankees blush. To their credit the home time threw absolutely everything they had at the Tigers, but it just wasn’t enough, as they scored early, often, and continually to easily run out winners. As mentioned, the win sees the Tigers improve to 7-0 in equal first place with Essendon in what will surely be the clash of the season when these two clubs eventually meet closer to Christmas. Looking ahead to next week, the Tigers host last placed Berwick who are still looking to register their first win of the season but may find the going tough against an Upwey team hell-bent on running over everyone in their path.
The Metro League East 5s welcomed the visiting Mulgrave with open arms and base hits as they showed no restraint running up the scoreboard and winning a fairly one-sided game 14-6 that was pretty much over halfway through the 2-hour game time. The win sees the team alone in 6th place on the ladder as they have gone strength to strength in the last few weeks as they look ahead to next week and shape up 8th place Doncaster Gold.
The Metro League South 6s didn’t share the winning feeling, fielding an undermanned team against a Bonbeach team full of veterans who showed what is possible when all things go your way as they more than comfortably cruised to an easy 17-2 win. To their credit, the Tigers ensured the Blue Jays had to earn their runs, but the team of veterans were more than up to the task, putting the game away for good in the 2nd innings against a Tigers team that will lick their wounds and attempt to rebound next week against last placed Pakenham.
In a game for the ages, the first-placed Lady Tigers squared off with the first placed Chelsea Dolphins in a meeting of the league leaders that promised fireworks and offensive production, and those in attendance at Kings Park on Saturday were treated to that, as the Dolphins jumped the home squad early, putting up multiple runs at a time and taking an early commanding lead. However, as the late great Yogi Berra once said, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over” and the Lady Tigers began chipping away at the deficit, slowing pulling themselves back into the game and cooling off the potent Chelsea offense, but doing so as they slowly looked to be running out of time. Finding themselves in the bottom of the last inning and staring down a 13-6 scoreline, the Lady Tigers showed why they are the team to beat as continued pressure on Chelsea’s tiring pitcher combined with patient at bats saw them begin to push runs across the plate, all the while shrinking the lead. Stepping to the plate in a 2-out, bases loaded situation with the winning run on 3rd base (itself a situation every player has dreamed about finding themselves in), Jessica McDonald wore one for the team and the win, taking first base on a hit batter to force across the winning run for a walk-off, 14-13 win in front of a raucous home crowd.
The improbable win sees the Lady Tigers now stand clear of the competition in sole possession of first place with a still perfect 7-0 record, while Chelseas fall to second owning a still damaging 6-1 record. The Lady Tigers now look forward to next week as they take on the combined forces of Sandringham/Berwick (2-5) in what will definitely be a game they will look to lock down and continue to maintain their iron grip on the top of the ladder.