By DAVID SEARLE
SUNNY weather and a good crowd were the order of the day as the top two sides, the Eastern Athletics and the Dragons Softball team, met in the Hobart Summer Baseball League 2013/14 grand final at Claremont’s Shoobridge Park.
While the Athletics were in the pursuit of their third title in a row, the Dragons were seeking a win in what was their first year in the competition.
These two teams had battled each other for top spot on the standings throughout the season and had made it through to the grand final in differing ways. As minor premiers, the Athletics had an easy victory over the combined Sox side while the Dragons came from behind to win a thriller against the Blue Jays.
Boasting equally powerful batting line-ups, it quickly became apparent that each team’s pitching and defensive capacities were going to prove crucial in the grand final standoff.
The Athletics jumped out to an early 7-1 lead after the first innings, with Brett Szymanski contributing to a two-run single, but the score could have been considerably less were it not for some uncharacteristic fielding errors and decisions by the Dragons.
Throughout the season, the Dragons had shown a “never say die” attitude and this was on display as they responded immediately with six runs of their own, highlighted by a huge two-run home run by Michael Blake and a two-run single by Adam De Cotter.
In the game of baseball, allowing a batter a free pass to first base via a walk can prove disastrous and such was the case in the bottom of the second innings. After getting two quick outs, the Dragons then issued two walks to load the bases and Steve Lovegrove made them pay by driving in two runs to extend the Athletics’ lead to 9-7.
Both teams scored a run in the third innings but it would be the fourth that would ultimately prove decisive. After Andrew “Sully” Sullivan had pitched a scoreless top of the fourth for the Athletics, Szymanski and Lovegrove again came to the fore as they drove in the runs in the bottom of the innings to increase the Athletics’ lead to 12-8.
The Dragons scored a run in the top fifth innings but were unable to hold the Athletics in the bottom of that innings with walks again haunting them. With two more runs added to their tally, the Athletics proceeded into the top of the sixth innings with a potentially winning 14-9 lead.
Anyone who witnessed the Dragons’ great win in the semi would know that nay game in which they are involved is never over until that final out.
After a quick out, Dragons skipper De Cotter launched a solo home run to reduce the lead to 14-10.
One more out and speedster Pedro Rodriguez found himself at third base via a single, a stolen base and a wild pitch, with second innings hero Blake at the plate.
The tension mounted but Sully and the Athletics remained calm and when Blake grounded out to second, the title was theirs.
The Dragons were awarded the inaugural Hubble Edwards Shield, named in honour of two Tasmanian baseball stalwarts, Peter Hubble and Dave Edwards.