Round Fourteen 2014

ROUND FOURTEEN:   Saturday 2 August
***   Scroll down for images from today's action   ***

A pleasant Saturday dawned upon the league after a polar blast had afflicted south-eastern Australia in recent times. While some junior fixtures and a couple of games at senior level were unable to proceed, terrific baseball was again on display as Geelong Baseball Association entered its final weeks of regular season competition.

Those of us who were not there can only reflect in awe at reports of a scoreless A GRADE draw between Bellarine and Deakin that featured stunning performances by pitchers Simon Murry (Bears) and Kelii Zablan (Blues), both of whom conjured up complete games for their club. Striking out twenty of twenty-seven hitters retired, Zablan will surely have earned a place among the pantheon of great individual league outings of any GBA era.

The split result was not all that helpful to either club. Still third – but facing tough games against Guild and Ballarat – Bellarine is by no means assured of a finals berth, while Deakin retains a head to head advantage over the Bears but will need to win both remaining games (against Bacchus Marsh and Werribee) and it will need to hope for favourable results in other games.

What we do know for sure is that Guild – which crushed Corio this week – will finish on top of the A Grade table, while Ballarat will almost certainly finish second and can go no lower than third even if the wheels fall off.

While Bellarine appears vulnerable, Lara – with the bye next week - may yet miss the playoffs for the first time in a decade if it drops its last-round game to Saints. Lurking in fifth, Bacchus Marsh still has a realistic chance, although it would first have to beat Deakin next week and then face off against Guild in the last round.

Club officials will be assessing the various possibilities as we head into a fascinating last two rounds. Results next week will be pivotal. Guild and Ballarat are safe. The other two placings may yet be decided on head-to-head advantage – or even on subsequent criteria as mandated by the league.

An interesting fortnight ahead.

At the time of writing this, details for B GRADE and B RESERVE were still in abeyance.

However, A RESERVE this week brought some significant developments – notably the Mounties win over previously undefeated Guild Lions, the Alfredton result against third-placed Saints and a draw between Lara and lowly Ballarat Brewers that has forced the Wildcats out of contention to defend its A Reserve title.

GUILD 18 defeated CORIO 3

While Corio has had its moments this season – especially with some improved offence in recent times – the club was no match for Guild, which continues to highball along undefeated at the top of the A Grade table.

Starting for the Lions, Brad Egan was his usual methodical self over four innings of work before handing the pill to James Wood to close out a game that was already well in the bag when Guild blasted four in the first, five in the second and a game-breaking eight in the third.

Lion-hearted Scott Brackley was placed under enormous pressure by the Guild offence before Joel Hughes and Karl Willmott both took turns in seeking – in vain - to contain the likes of Chris Durston (who had a day to remember with four hits and five RBIs), Lee Harty (three and three), Ryan Stewart (three and one), James Wood (two and one).

With two hits and two ribbies, Blake Witham was a shining light for Corio, which again slipped up in defence to gift a string of unearned runs.

Cruising to another finals appearance, Guild will be away to Bellarine next Saturday, while Corio will wrap up a difficult season by playing host to Ballarat Brewers.

CORIO 0 0 0 1 2 0 0   (3)   6 errors
GUILD 4 5 8 0 0 1 x  (18)  2 errors
Corio: B.Witham 2, S.Brackley, J.Hughes, P.Brackley, K.Willmott, A.Flowers
Guild: C.Durston 4, R.Stewart 3, L.Harty 3, J.Wood 2, J.Durston, T.Snarey, J.Smyth
Corio: B.Witham 2, K.Willmott
Guild: C.Durston 5, L.Harty 3, T.Snarey 2, R.Stewart, J.Wood, B.Egan, J.Smyth
Corio: S.Brackley 2 inn, 9 H, 0 K, 1 BB, 1 HPB, 8 ER
  J.Hughes 1 inn, 5 H, 0 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HPB, 2 ER
  K.Willmott 3 inn, 1 H, 0 K, 1 BB, 0 HPB, 1 ER
Guild: B.Egan 4 inn, 3 H, 3 Ks, 0 BB, 0 HPB, 0 ER
  J.Wood 3 inn, 4 H, 4 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HPB, 2 ER
DEAKIN 0 drew with BELLARINE 0

League historians might be poring over the archives to determine the last occasion when an A Grade game went scoreless over nine innings, with both sides using just the one pitcher.

No doubt there have been such occasions, though no individual effort in any such game could be more emphatic than the outing of Deakin and Geelong Baycats superstar Kelii Zablan, who struck out twenty while conceding three hits and tattooing one hitter on the way to allowing just five Bellarine runners on base (the other was on an error in the first).

While the vaunted Bellarine offence was uncharacteristically subdued, Deakin had its chances – notably in the first and the ninth - but was thwarted by solid and at times brilliant defence in support of Simon Murry, who was super-efficient in tossing just 112 pitches over nine innings of work.

Wade Balzer, Chris Webb and Zablan all posted a pair of hits for the Blues, who would rightly feel that they had the better of their opponent on statistics but were unable to break the deadlock.

Facing a tough couple of weeks, third-placed Bellarine will need at least one win – against Guild or Ballarat - to be assured of finals action, while Deakin makes the trek to Bacchus Marsh next Saturday in the knowledge that it will need to win both remaining games to be in with a shot.

Even then, there is no certainty.

BELLARINE 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0  (0)  1 error
DEAKIN 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0  (0)  1 error
Bellarine: L.Hockey, J.Lowe, B.McKentish
Deakin: W.Balzer 2, C.Webb 2, K.Zablan 2, N.Warren, G.Morris
Bellarine: nil
Deakin: nil
Bellarine: S.Murry 9 inn, 8 H, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HPB, 0 ER
Deakin: K.Zablan 9 inn, 3 H, 20 Ks, 0 BB, 1 HPB, 0 ER

Needing this win to keep its finals aspirations alive, Bacchus Marsh strode to an early lead and withstood a challenge in a game marred by defensive errors on both sides.

Only ten of twenty-two runs for the game were earned as starters Chris Porter (Bacchus) and Simon Riches (Werribee) came in for some early scoreboard action against their names.

But while the Marsh was able to call upon a strong relief effort by Tayler Rowe, the Werribee defence – which made seven errors – was under enormous pressure by an opponent that continued to score freely and wrapped up the result with a six-spot in the seventh.

A standout for Bacchus, Porter amassed three hits (and three RBIs), while Dan Wilkie (two hits and two ribbies), Aaron Wallis-Taylor, Jarrod Warwick and Earl Byrne were dangerous for the visitors.

Riches, Evan McPherson and Matt Collins (all with two hits) were the best of a Werribee offence that made a belated charge in the sixth but was never really in the hunt.

Bacchus Marsh will be at home to Deakin next Saturday for a clash that will eliminate one club altogether from finals contention, while Werribee will play host to East Belmont Saints coming off the bye.

BACCHUS 2 4 0 2 2 0 6  (16)  3 errors
WERRIBEE 1 0 2 0 0 3 0   (6)   7 errors
Bacchus: C.Porter 3, D.Wilkie 2, A.Wallis-Taylor 2, S.Hornstra, E.Byrne, J.Warwick, J.Jassen, T.Rowe
Werribee: S.Riches 2, E.McPherson 2, M.Collins 2, D.Hartigan, K.Hartigan, S.Whitney
Bacchus: C.Porter 3, E.Byrne 2, D.Wilkie 2, J.Warwick 2, S.Hornstra, J.Norquay, J.Jassen, A.Wallis-Taylor, T.Rowe
Werribee: S.Riches, E.McPherson, D.Hartigan, K.Hartigan, B.Bavdek
Bacchus: C.Porter 3 inn, 4 H, 3 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HPB, 2 ER
  T.Rowe 4 inn, 5 H, 6 Ks, 0 BB, 0 HPB, 1 ER
Werribee: S.Riches 4 inn, 8 H, 1 K, 4 BB, 0 HPB, 5 ER
  D.Hartigan 3 inn, 5 H, 3 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HPB, 2 ER
BALLARAT 4 defeated LARA 2

Shaping as an especially crucial game for the Wildcats, this contest saw both clubs lining up at something approaching full strength – with two of the best in Rory Meddick (Ballarat) and Cameron Forbes (Lara) going head to head on the hill.

The Wildcats were out of the blocks early, with Stuart Forbes, Steve Baumann and Ben Hammer all hitting safely for a run in the first - with none out – although the Brewers played desperate defence to get out of the innings with minimal damage.

Taking the attack to Forbes – a former professional and a consummate operator at all levels – the Brewers replied with a couple of their own in the bottom of the frame before conceding the equalising run in the third.

Both starters were commanding as the game remained deadlocked through five, when the Brewers called Ross Hipke into the fray and the visitors sent Joel Ricketts to the hill in relief.

Going hitless over two, Hipke was given great support by his side’s offence – which initially struggled with the Ricketts offspeed offerings before plating a run in the sixth and another in the seventh to record a hard-fought win.

Baumann and Hammer were multiple hitters for the visitors, while Adam Irons (two hits), Dan Hamilton (two) and Leigh Ashmore (two) were best for a Brewers outfit that out-hit the Wildcats ten to five in an intense contest between quality opponents.

Appearing assured of finishing second, the Brewers will be away to lowly Corio next Saturday while Lara – with the bye – may find its destiny for this winter campaign rests in a last round clash with East Belmont Saints.

LARA 1 0 1 0 0 0 0  (2)  2 errors
BALLARAT 2 0 0 0 0 1 1  (4)  2 errors
Lara: S.Baumann 2, B.Hammer 2, S.Forbes
Ballarat: A.Irons 2, D.Hamilton 2, L.Ashmore 2, R.Hipke, S.Kerr, H.Pfeiffer, S.Kugele
Lara: B.Hammer
Ballarat: L.Ashmore
Lara: C.Forbes 5 inn, 6 H, 7 Ks, 0 BB, 2 HPB, 1 ER
  J.Ricketts 1.1 inn, 4 H, 3 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HPB, 2 ER
  R.Wilson 0 inn, 0 H, 0 K, 0 BB, 0 HPB, 0 ER
Ballarat: R.Meddick 5 inn, 5 H, 7 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HPB, 1 ER
  R.Hipke 2 inn, 0 H, 2 Ks, 0 BB, 0 HPB, 0 ER
SAINTS have the A Grade bye this week