By David Searle*
THE Raine & Horne Hobart Summer Baseball League 2016/17 season has ended with a thrilling grand final in which the Dragons claimed their second title by defeating the gallant Banjos Orioles Orange 6-3, in extra innings.
Tim Holland was judged MVP of the final by the officiating umpires and awarded the President’s Medal.
Dragons 2016/17: Adam de Cotter; Dean Chamberlain; Chris Harris; Tim Holland; Brendan Adams; Patrick Miller; Fiona Don; Shane Davies; Michael Blake; Shannon Davies; Leigh Johns; Aaron Jarvis.
In a surprise move, which ultimately proved to be a masterstroke, Adam de Cotter chose to start the game with Patrick Miller. After a one-two-three top of the first by Harney Burgess, out trotted Miller to start the bottom of the first.
The potential issue for the Dragons in the final had been finding a third pitcher to support Tim Holland and Brendan Adams in a nine innings game and if Miller could pitch a couple of innings without leaking runs, the Dragons would be hard to beat.
This innings proved crucial to the game as, with one out, the Orioles had the bases loaded only for Miller to get a strikeout and a fly-out to centre to end the threat; against a team like the Dragons, you could not afford to miss these opportunities.
Top of the second and Holland led off with a double, moved to third on a fly-out by Adams but was stranded there as Burgess collected the next two outs. Burgess led off the bottom of the second with a double of his own and also ended up at third, but Miller continued to shine by getting two strikeouts and once again, the Orioles missed opportunities.
Top of the third and Burgess continued on his merry way and when Adams came on to pitch in the bottom of that innings for a one-two-three effort; we were all tied at 0-0.
Bottom of the fourth and a drive to left field by Andrew Dykes plated Jimmy Clout for the first run of the game, then when a fly to centre-field by Burgess drove in Dykes, the Orioles had taken a 2-0 lead. Clout took over from Burgess in the top of the fifth, but it was in the top of the sixth that things began to unravel for the Orioles. An error saw Fiona Don reach base and when Clout walked Shane Davies with no-one out, the Orioles were in serious trouble. Clout bounced back with two strikeouts and it looked like he would get out of the innings unscathed, however, a drive to centre-field by Leigh Johns drove in Don and Davies came in behind her on a wild throw; scores were tied again at 2-2.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Orioles would reclaim the lead when Dykes drove in Clout, but the Dragons levelled it up immediately in the top of the seventh when a two out error allowed Chris Harris to score.
The score remained tied at 3-3 as we went into the bottom of the ninth and with the top of the Orioles order up to bat, they had a real chance to win the title. Holland was on by this stage and he demonstrated the class pitcher he is by striking out the first two batters then induced the dangerous Clout to fly out to first.
Off to extras we went and under league rules, if a grand final goes to extras, each team starts with the last batter out at second and one out recorded.
With Miller at second, Don reached on a fielders’ choice and both scored on a drive to centre-field by Davies. When Davies scored after a wild throw, the Dragons had one hand on the Hubble Edwards Shield as they led 6-3.
Bottom of the tenth and with Clout having moved to third on a passed ball and Robins having walked after fouling off eight pitches, the Orioles were right in the game but with a fly out to centre-field and a runner advancing too far off first base; the Dragons were champions for 2016/17.
*David Searle is the president of Baseball Tasmania
Caption: Peter Hubble, left, and David Edwards presenting the Hubble Edwards’ Shield to the winning manager, Dragons’ Adam de Cotter, centre. Photo credit: Josh Byrne.