Tigers sweep Cougars, Lady Tigers winners yet again

Upwey FTG Head Coach Donavon Hendricks, Picture: Adam Battye

By Sean Talbot

In sweltering conditions on the afternoon of Sunday 4 February, the Upwey Ferntree Gully Tigers swept the Berwick Cougars at both Kings Park and Cyril Molyneux Reserve, piling up the runs to outscore their opponents 38-3 to post four comprehensive wins against a club that was simply outplayed, outmanned and outgunned on a weekend they will be keen to move on from.

Taking the start again for the Premier League 1sts, Jarrod Turner was at his mercurial best despite the conditions, going 8 strong innings whilst scattering seven hits, one walk, one earned run and striking out nine in yet another example of why he is the leagues’ premier starting pitcher. The Tigers sent out a lineup that was missing Jack Ratcliffe (overseas), Nick Rice (injury) and Josh Hendricks (funeral), however they were still more than up to the challenge of their opponent on the day.

Facing left handed starter Matthew West after Craig Bertrum moved to Boston for work, the Tigers scored a one-out walk to Wade McConnon but were unable to capitalize, as Jordan Elliott struck out and Donavon Hendricks grounded out to strand McConnon at 2nd base. Turner in turn made quick work of the home side, sitting the Cougars down in order quickly put the Tigers back on offense. A one out reach on error to Randy Senn and a two out walk to Andy Kane were again unable to be converted to runs, as West got Staci Rogers to ground out before striking out Manning Davison and Ryder Wilson to hold the Tigers scoreless through 2. Turner again sat Berwick down in order, inducing two flyballs and a weak groundball to keep the hosts wondering how they would be able to manufacture a run as Turner looked firmly in control of his arsenal and the Berwick hitters.

Looking to create some momentum and get on the scoreboard, McConnon again drew a one-out walk after Pete Schroeders flew out, before West came back and induced a rare 1-6-3 double play to quickly end the inning and snuff out any possibility of offensive production for the visitors. Aaron Ouwehand led off the 3rd inning to put the Cougars in position to get a run on the board, however Turned did what he does best and killed the rally in quick succession, striking out Lucas Taylor and Elliott Anderson before Ouwehand was thrown out attempting to steal 2nd base. West subsequently continued to keep Upwey off the scoreboard, working around a two-out Senn single to get Davison to ground out to again keep Upwey out of the run column.

Liam Madden led off the 4th inning with a long double that Davison appeared to lose in the Berwick sun in right field. Aidan Willis grounded out to Hendricks at first base to move Madden to 3rd before a soft Kurt Trotter single to left field scored Madden and put the Cougars on the board with the opening salvo. Undeterred by now trailing the hosts, Turner was able to get Jesse Hunter to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to keep the score at 1-0 after 4 complete innings. Looking to force a pitching change whilst running up West’s pitch count, Upwey were again unable to capitalize on a free runner, as Ryder Wilson reached base after West took his time on a comeback groundball which the speedy Wilson managed to beat out, however Schroeders flew out to rightfield and McConnon grounded out to 2nd to again see the Tigers held scoreless. The Cougars in turn threatened to bust the game open in the bottom of the 5th as Cain Hillier walked with one out before Ouwehand singled to McConnon who was caught covering 2nd base on Hillier’s steal attempt and was unable to field what would normally be a routine groundball to him at shortstop.

The Cougars found themselves getting greedy to score a second run as Taylor singled sharply to left field where Kane lay in wait to make an impact on the game. With Hillier being sent home by his 3rd base coach and with no help from his teammates at the plate, Kane unleashed a one hop rocket to Elliot to throw Hillier out by at least 10 feet as the Cougars were reminded that the arguably best outfield arm in Premier League wears a Tiger uniform and should not be challenged. Anderson was sat down on strikes to end the inning, with the Cougars seeing their two on, one-out rally killed by two of the biggest impact players in the Tiger lineup.

Taking the ball from West in the top of the 6th inning after due to a ballooning pitch count and the extreme heat, Luke Anson looked to keep the visitors off the board and was successful in doing so as he induced two flyballs to leftfield from Elliott and Hendricks before Rogers single to centerfield to put a runner on 1st with two out, however Senn grounded the next pitch to 2nd base to end the inning. With the Cougars looking to regain the momentum they cost themselves in the 5th, Madden led off the bottom half with a single to Rogers at 3rd base, Willis popped out in foul territory to Hendricks, Trotter roped a line drive to Kane in left before Hunter flew out and John King struck out to again leave runners on and another missed opportunity struck against Berwick.

Deciding being shut out for 6 innings was more than enough, the Tigers finally broke into the run column in the top of the 7th inning as Davison singled to centerfield, Kane laid down a picture perfect sacrifice bunt to advance him to 2nd, Wilson singled to left field to put runners on the corners before Schroeders, being the consummate teammate ensured he capitalised on the runners on base, hitting a slow roller to Hunter at 2nd base to score Davison before McConnon grounded out to Hunter. While the scoreboard now showed a 1-1 game, the momentum was now firmly with Upwey as they had broken the shutout and were now firmly poised to take things up a gear as they looked to put the screws to Berwick with a style of play that has won them countless games in their previous two premiership winning seasons. With Turner having benefitted from the extended hitting inning and kept cool out of the sun, he took the mound again in the bottom of the 7th with a full head of steam, sitting Berwick down 1-2-3 and forcing them to make a secondary pitching change.

Handing the ball to former Minor Leaguer Blake Cunningham in the top of the 8th, the Tigers indeed kicked into a higher gear as Elliott led off with a hard hit single to Hunter, Hendricks hit a booming double to right field before Rogers lined a ball to Hunter’s right that scored Elliott and advanced Hendricks to 3rd. Senn must’ve been wondering which of the baseball gods he ticked off in warm-up as he squared up a ball back up the middle, however Cunningham showed off his athleticism and snatched the ball on the line, inducing the second 1-6-3 double play for the afternoon which forced Hendricks to throw on the brakes and stay at 3rd, before Davison grounded out to 3rd. The damage had been done however as the Tigers now held a 2-1 lead and were continuing to pour on the pressure with Turner still in complete command on his side of the ball, surrendering only a two-out error to again shut down the Cougars offense and send the game to the 9th with the Tigers ahead 2-1.

Sending Max Hunter to the mound in the 9th, Kane lead off with a walk before Wilson laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Kane to 2nd before Schroeders singled to left field to put runners on the corners with one out. Catching the Berwick infielders flat-footed, McConnon executed a safety squeeze bunt which scored Kane from 3rd to push the score to 3-1. Elliott was hit by a pitch with two out to put runners at 1st and 2nd, however Hendricks’ flyball to rightfield could not find grass and the Tigers were unable to push across any further runs. Taking the ball from Turner after his herculean effort, Wes de Jong went right to work to wrap up the game, getting Hunter to ground out to Hendricks, King to ground out to Rogers who made a gorgeous throw from deep in the hole at 3rd on a long hop to Hendricks before Andrew Gibbens (pinch hitting for Hillier) struck out to end the game and see the Tigers run out victors 3-1.

As mentioned, Turner was absolutely outstanding in his role, keeping the Berwick hitters off balance all day in one of his best starts of the year before de Jong slammed the door shut in a role he figures to see more time in at the pointy end of the season. Rogers was the pick of the hitters for Upwey registering another two hit game, with Schroders, Elliott, Hendricks, Senn, Davison and Wilson all adding one apiece.

The win sees Upwey continue to retain their hold on 3rd place on the Premier League ladder behind Waverley (14-3) and Essendon (11-6), both of whom lost their respective games over the weekend. The Tigers will host Berwick in a midweek game on Tuesday night at Kings Park before travelling to Billabong Park to take on Blackburn, with the Tigers looking to avenge their early season loss and the Burners wanting to post a win in front of what promises to be a stellar home crowd as the club celebrates their 60th anniversary.

Looking to end their three game skid and get back on the winners list, the 2nds found themselves in a dogfight in the sun against fourth placed Berwick who looked to claim a major scalp and reduce the gap between themselves, and the third placed Tigers. Getting the start for Berwick, Hudson Hyde used a two-pitch mix to keep the Tiger line-up off balance as he worked his way out of trouble, surrendering only a 3rd inning double on a hanging curveball to Michael Oxworth whilst walking 3. Countering with two-way budding superstar Ryder Wilson, the Tiger fireballer was greeted with hostility as he was tagged for five hits and three walks across his 2+ innings, however he was able to weave out of trouble in the 1st and 2nd innings as the home side were simply unable to capitalise on their chances to open their account.

Walking a leadoff walk in the 3rd inning, Shaun Irvine was sacrificed to 2nd on an Ash Geary-Smith bunt before Oxworth’s double gave him plenty of time to score the opening salvo for the visitors. Matt Cameron and Stuart Milz were unable to add to the damage however, as they both struck out to leave the score at 1-0. Looking uncomfortable in the bottom of the 3rd, Wilson was tagged for singles by Max Hunter and Andrew Gibbens before motioning to the dugout that something was wrong, drawing manager Simon Ratcliffe to the mound for a discussion with his young righty who was indicating the discomfort was in his throwing elbow, a dangerous injury for all pitchers. Looking to avoid any further potential damage to his starter, Ratcliffe called Sean Meldrum from the bullpen to attempt a Houdini-esque escape to the inning. Walking Rhys Bumpstead (who was at bat when Wilson was replaced), Meldrum struck out Sam Watson looking before Luke Anson lifted a sacrifice fly ball to centerfield to score the Cougars first run. Noah Toplis then walked to load the bases for the second time for the inning, however Meldrum was more than up to the task, striking out Joel Anson to strand 3 Cougars on base and the score at 1-1.

J Anson took the ball in the top of the 4th inning, walking leadoff hitter Mark Jones before striking out Will Richardson, Jones was thrown out by Toplis attempting to advance to 2nd, Austin Thorne walked and Ethan Jenkins flew out to shallow centerfield. Meldrum began to settle into his appearance, ensuring a leadoff walk and two-out error did not cost the Tigers, striking out Rhys Bumpstead to leave two on and the score at 1-1 after 4 complete.

Irvine again led off with a walk in the top of the 5th inning before a bizarre play saw him come around to score from 1st without the ball being put in play by Geary-Smith who was up to bat. On the play, Toplis attempted to catch Irvine leaning the wrong way off of 1st, however the throw caught first baseman David Mulhall and right fielder Anson completely off guard as it sailed down the line and into the right field corner. Anson was unable to find a handle as the ball bounced around, and Irvine motored around the bases to score the Tigers’ second run, taking the lead in the process, and making the score 2-1 (for those keeping score at home, the play was marked WT 2-3 with an E9 thrown in for good measure).

Anson settled himself from this point, getting Geary-Smith to ground out on a bang-bang play at first and getting Matt Cameron to ground into a 1-4-3 double play after Oxworth was hit by a pitch. Meldrum continued to apply the screws to the Berwick hitters as he utilized his entire arsenal of off-speed pitches, racking up strikeouts and ensuring the hosts could not mount any kind of meaningful rally the remainder of the game.

Collecting the win for the Tigers, Meldrum was outstanding as he went 4 innings, surrendering two hits and two walks whilst striking out 6 after being called on in an unenviable spot and ensuring the game did not get out of hand. The Tigers took full advantage of their six walks and one HPB, however they registered just the one hit by Oxworth, giving them bragging rights whilst posting two hits on just one hit. J Anson took the loss for Berwick in a tough result as he threw three innings, giving up three walks and a HPB but no hits, with the lone run coming on the Toplis/L Anson errors in proof that baseball can indeed be a very cruel game sometimes.

The win sees Upwey leapfrog back into first place on the Premier League Reserves ladder with a 9-5 record ahead of Essendon (7-4-1 with 2 washouts) and Sandringham (7-4-3). The Tigers will travel to Blackburn next week to take on the sixth placed Burners as they look to build momentum and create some separation between themselves and the rest of the pack coming into the finals campaign.

Hosting the seventh placed Cougars at Kings Park, the 3rds were simply too much for the visitors from the jump as they scored early, often and without remorse on their way to a 13-1 scoreline in hot and windy conditions at the Tiger Dome. Sending Kole Halupecki to the mound, the visitors were kept well in check by the young hurler as the experienced Tiger lineup went about putting the Berwick pitchers to the sword, taking full advantage of all their opportunities, and inflicting maximum damage.

While the Cougars certainly have not had the best season to write home about, they did their best to remain competitive throughout the game, however the Tigers were simply too much for them, especially coming off their hard fought 3-3 draw against Essendon last week which saw them go toe-to-toe with one of the leagues deepest and most experienced lineups and not blink once. The win sees the Tigers improve to 8-3-2 on the season and retain their stranglehold on 2nd place on the Premier League Thirds ladder, trailing only the 9-3-1 Blackburn side whom they will square off against next week in a game that is sure to be full of action as two of the leagues’ heavyweights battle for first place and momentum coming into the back end of the season.

In the curtain raiser, the 4ths put the game away in the bottom of the 1st inning and then continued to pile on in every inning thereafter, beating the visiting Cougars senselessly to the tune of a 20-0 belting in a bullying of the cellar dwellers that wouldn’t look out of place on a school playground. With Oscar Monagas getting the start for Upwey, the righty sat the visitors down in order in the top of the 1st before the Tigers went about proving why they are heavy flag favorites and owners of a perfect record on the year. Sending eight hitters to the plate in their first turn at bat, the Tigers got one-out hits from Steve Williams and Paul Sadler before a two-out single from Matt Smith loaded the bases for Monagas unloaded on a triple to deep left field, driving in all three runners and putting himself in scoring position with one swing of the bat. A Chris Chalmers walk put runners on the corners before a wild pitch in Riley Johnson’s at bat scored Monagas and plated the fourth Upwey run of the inning before Johnson grounded out to end the frame.

Taking the hill in the 2nd inning with plenty of momentum (though slightly out of breath after his 360ft sprint around the bases), Monagas made short work of the Berwick 4, 5 and 6 hitters, needing just nine pitches to record all three outs and put the visitors back in the field for more punishment. Chris Dean was struck out to lead off the bottom of the 2nd inning, however the ball got away from the Berwick catcher who made a subsequent error on the play which saw Dean advance to 2nd base. Blake Halupecki popped out the Berwick catcher in foul territory before Sean O’Halloran bunted safely to 3rd base before Williams grounded out to Berwick’s pitcher Shane Rigby, a play which saw Dean score and O’Halloran advance from 1st to 3rd. Sadler grounded out to end the frame, but not before the Tigers pushed their lead to 5-0 after 2 complete.

Finding himself struggling with command to kick off the 3rd inning, Monagas walked the first two hitters to put runners at 1st and 2nd with no outs, however a 6 pitch 5-3 double play from Halupecki to Richard Ferguson at first base halted the Berwick momentum in its tracks before Monagas struck out Josh Austen to end the frame. Looking to add to their growing lead, Ferguson lead off the inning and reached on an error by Clayton Ashby at 3rd base and made it to 2nd base before a single to Smith scored Ferguson to push the lead to six. Monagas worked a five pitch walk and Chalmers was tattooed by a pitch to load the bases for the Tigers with none out in a situation that threatened to turn ugly in a hurry, however Riley Johnson hit an infield fly to Berwick’s 2nd baseman to give the visitors hope they could turn a double play and escape the jam. It was not to be however as Dean walked bringing home Upwey’s 7th run of the game before Halupecki singled to 2nd scoring Monagas, however Chalmers was caught also trying to score, putting runners on the corners with two outs. O’Halloran did his best to bunt in another run however he was unable to get it in a position do so, grounding into a 2-3 force out to end the inning.

Monagas continued his miserly start, again sitting Berwick down in order to end the 4th inning with minimal fuss or worry as Upwey looked to stretch their already large lead. Williams walked to lead off the bottom of the 4th before Sadler grounded into a fielders choice which saw Williams out at second, however the throw got away from Berwick’s first baseman and Sadler advanced to second on the play. Sadler stole third before Ferguson was hit with the seventh pitch of his at bat putting runners at the corners before Tarquin Booth roped a line drive to left field to score Sadler while Ferguson went first to third on the play. Monagas and Chalmers were unable to advance the score any further however as Rigby got both hitters to fly out and keep the score at 9-0.

Taking the ball from Monagas, Johnson plunked Berwick’s leadoff hitter before striking out Ashby and Dale Nicholls before running into trouble with two out, surrendering Berwick’s first base hit of the day and a two out walk to load the bases as the Cougars threatened to get off the schneid, however the young righty induced a ground ball to leave the bases loaded and snatch Berwick’s last chance at scoring before the wheels well and truly fell off in the bottom half of the inning. Not content with the 9-0 scoreline, the Tigers sent 15 hitters to the plate in an inning that saw them score 11 times, five of which came with two outs in a demonstration of team baseball. Helping his own cause, Johnson lead off with a single before Dean hit a sharp groundball to shortstop which forced an error and allowed Johnson to score all the way from first with Dean taking second on the same play. Dean subsequently took third on a wild pitch before Halupecki singled to center field to push the score to 11-0, still with no outs.

O’Halloran walked to again put a runner in scoring position before Williams singled to right field to load the bases, setting the stage for Sadler to crank a triple to right field and score Halupecki, O’Halloran and Williams and balloon the score to 14-0. Ferguson wanted in on the action hitting a single to right field to score Sadler and add another to Upwey’s tally. Booth and Monagas were unable to advance Ferguson as they flew out and grounded into a fielders choice respectively before Upwey again showed their dominance, beginning an extended two-out rally to well and truly eliminate any doubt as to the result. Chalmers singled to Ashby at 3rd base before Johnson collected his second hit of the inning, this one a shallow fly ball to centerfield to again load the bases. Dean became the third hit batter for the afternoon, bringing home Monagas to push the score to 16-0 before Halupecki torched Upwey’s third triple of the game, scoring Chalmers, Johnson and Dean and moving the score to 19-0. An O’Halloran single then scored Halupecki to score Upwey’s 20th run for the game before Williams flew out to right field to end the inning and the game due to time constraints which must’ve been more than welcomed by the visitors.

The end score more reflected an NFL game than a baseball game as the divide between first place and eighth place on the Premier League Fourths ladder was well and truly on display. To his credit, Rigby could not be faulted for his efforts on the day as he threw all five innings in the heat, conceding 17 hits, five walks and three hit batters for 20 runs (12 earned) over a lionhearted 136 pitches. Monagas and Johnson in turn were simply outstanding, allowing only one base hit and three walks for the afternoon. Halupecki was the pick of the Upwey hitters on the day, registering three hits and five RBI with Monagas and Sadler adding three RBI’s apiece due to their bases loaded triples.

The Tigers now look forward to their clash with the fourth placed Blackburn next week as they look to continue their golden season and maintain their undefeated record against a Burners team who are more than capable of taking the Tigers to the limit.

Hosted ladder leaders Waverley Red, the Metro League East 5ths had a day to forget as they were soundly defeated by the Wildcats, being jumped at the go and eventually conceding a 13-1 defeat in a game that does not reflect on how well the Tigers have played down the stretch this season. Surrendering the lead early, the Tigers were never really in the game as the Wildcats poured it on with authority and ensured they took the points back to Napier Park.

The loss sees Upwey fall to 8-4-1 on the season but retain their hold on fourth place on the ladder, a full game ahead of Research Maroon who they touched up last week. The Tigers will ironically travel to Waverley next week to take on Waverley Black in a game that will see 2nd v 4th and one that promises to be an absolute blinder and a potential finals preview for both squads.

Travelling to Bonbeach where vandals had unfortunately torched the clubrooms during the week, the Metro League South 6ths were not well received by the Blue Jays who proceeded to seemingly take their frustrations for the fire out on the visitors, belting them without mercy to the tune of an eventual 20-1 scoreline. The Tigers can take to heart that while they are Upwey’s 6th side, they faced off against the Blue Jays 3rds in a game that certainly provided a mismatch of abilities, however it is a game the visitors will be keen to quickly move on from.

The result sees Upwey’s record on the season fall to 5-9 as they drop to sixth place on the ladder as they host seventh place Pakenham next weekend at Kings Park.

Travelling to A.W. Oliver Reserve and looking to continue their perfect season, the Lady Tigers set about immediately setting the tone for the afternoon, plating the maximum seven runs for the inning on a leadoff error, a Jess McDonald walk with hits to Claire Williams, Sally Light, Zienna McCulloch, Victoria Chinn and a circus act of errors off the bat of Caitlin Kiel saw the score jump to 6-0 before Chelsea Mosbey hit a ground ball to plate the seventh run for the inning. Using the opportunity to rest usual starter Mosbey, the Lady Tigers handed the start to Hayley Mather in her first appearance of the year as she aimed to shut the Lady Panthers down. It was a less than ideal first inning however, as the home side scored six of their own runs as Mather struggled with her control and base hits ensuring that runners continued to cross the plate. Mather managed to escape the inning with the lead intact, however the Lady Tigers were held in check in the top of the second inning before the Lady Panthers again took advantage of Mather’s control issues, plating a further three runs to run the score to 10-7 and see the away side trailing for one of the very few times this season.

Looking to respond in kind, the visitors saw McDonald force a one-out walk before Williams reached on a two base error to put two runners in scoring position and the hear of the Lady Tigers order coming to the plate. Team mum and veteran Light singled to left field to score McDonald and move Williams to 3rd to close to gap to one, before Chinn singled to centerfield after a Z McCulloch strikeout to score Williams and Light and put the Lady Tigers ahead 10-9. Kiel worked a walk after Chinn stole second base and Elinor Jack singled to left field, however Mosbey was unable to capitlise further, grounding into a fielders choice to leave the bases loaded and three runners stranded.

Taking the ball from Mather to start the bottom of the third, Mosbey surrendered a leadoff single and a walk before striking out Alice Millington in a sequence of events that saw Taylor Kain score from 3rd on an error by Z McCulloch behind the plate. Undeterred the tied scoreline, Mosbey induced a 6-4-3 double play to escape the jam and leave the score tied at 10. Looking to again take the lead in the fourth inning, the Lady Tigers exploded for another seven runs as they below the game wide open. Mather grounded out the lead off, but Eloise Holden singled, Tamika Brooks and Billie McCulloch walked to load the bases before McDonald walked to score the go-ahead run, bringing Millington to the mount as she looked to find a way out of danger. It was not to be however, as Williams and Light also walked with the bases loaded to push the score to 13-10 before Z McCulloch unloaded on a missile to left field and showing off her wheels, racing around the bases and completing an inside-the-park grand slam to force the end of the inning.

Now working with a lead, Mosbey worked around an error and two walks to tightrope out of danger and keep Moorabbin off the scoreboard as the Lady Panthers saw their last chance to tie the game slip right between their fingers as the premiership favorites showed just why they are the measuring stick in the league. Not content with a seven run lead, the Lady Tigers took full advantage of a single to Chinn, who promptly stole second and advanced to third on Kiel’s base hit to centerfield. Jack was unable to advance the runners and was struck out, Mosbey walked to load the bases before Mather battled but was ultimately struck out, however Holden came through in the clutch and lifted a single to centerfield to bring home the Lady Tigers 18th and final run for the afternoon, bringing an end to the inning and the game as time was called.

Z McCulloch and Chinn were the standouts for the Lady Tigers, with the former collecting two hits and five RBI and the latter three hits, three RBI and two stolen bases, however they were more than ably backed up by Light and Kiel (one hit and two RBI apiece) and McDonald (three walks), while Mosbey was again outstanding on the mound after taking over from Mather.

The win sees the Lady Tigers again retain their stranglehold on first place on the Women’s Metro South ladder with a still perfect 13-0 record as they continue to flatten any obstacle in their way, whilst Moorabbin fall to 6-5-1 but retain fourth place. Upwey will play host to the Cheltenham Lady Rustlers next week as first meets seventh in a game that the hosts will look to put away early and run away with on their way to their 14th win of the season.