By Sean Talbot
On a weekend that threatened to wash away any chances of a game, the Upwey Ferntree Gully Tigers took full advantage of the sunny conditions on Sunday at Kings Park, scoring early, often and without restraint as they belted the visiting Sunshine Eagles to the tune of a 12-2, mercy-rule shortened game that showed off the Tigers continuing purple patch of form as they look to turn their season around after a less than stellar start for the two-time defending champions.
Sending staff ace Jarrod Turner for his eighth start of the season, the right-hander was simply outstanding, scattering 6 hits and 2 earned runs over 7 innings while issuing no walks and striking out 4 while continuing his incredible season at the head of the Tigers rotation. The Upwey hitters gave Sunshine starter Jamie Young no ability to settle into his work, jumping the hulking righty for 3 runs in the bottom of the 1st as Peter Schroeders walked a 9-pitch walk, Jack Ratcliffe doubled to put runners at 2nd and 3rd and giving Tigers cleanup hitter Josh Hendricks the ability to cash in on a hanging slider, hitting a booming double to left-centre to score Schroeders and Ratcliffe, before coming round himself to score on Wade McConnon’s RBI single.
It was more of the same in the 2nd for the Tigers, as Schroeders, Ratcliffe and Jordan Elliott all singled before Schroeders and Ratcliffe were chased home by Staci Rogers’ 2-run, 2-out double. Skipper Donavon Hendricks walked to load the bases, however the Tigers left the bases loaded after McConnon flied out to deep right field.
After Turner conceded two runs to the Eagles in the top of the 3rd after a string of base hits, the Tigers answered in kind as Nick Rice and Andy Kane both singled, advanced on an error by Sunshine third baseman Jeremy Young off the bat of Schroeders before a single to Elliott and a bases-loaded walk to Rogers plated 2 further runs, chasing starter Young from the game. Connor Hughes took the ball for the visitors in the 4th, working out of trouble in the 4th and 5th innings to keep the lead from blowing out, before the Tigers opened the floodgates again in the 6th, scoring 3 runs after a flurry of base hits and walks to D. Hendricks, McConnon, Kane, Schroeders, Ratcliffe and Elliott.
Turner finished his day after a scoreless 7th innings, needing only a handful of pitches to sit the Eagles down in order. Adam Irons took the mound for Sunshine, holding the Tigers scoreless in the 7th to ensure the game saw an 8th inning. Sean Meldrum took the ball for Upwey in the 8th, working around a leadoff base hit to sit the next 3 Sunshine hitters down, before the Tigers decided they had enough for the day and invoked the 10-run mercy rule after another Schroders hit was followed by another Ratcliffe double and a hard hit ball from Josh Hendricks which the Sunshine infielders couldn’t get a handle on, resulting in Ratclife scurrying home to score the 12th and game ending run.
As mentioned, Turner was again sensational in his start, working around lead-off hits in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd innings to keep the Eagles hitters at bay, while the offense was lead by Schroeders (3 hits, 2 RBI), Ratcliffe (3 hits, 1 RBI), Rogers (2 hits, 3 RBI), McConnon (2 hits, 1 RBI) and Kane (2 hits), though it truly was a whole team effort to secure the points.
The win sees Upwey improve to 6-5 and remain tied for 6th with Sandringham, Moorabbin and Blackburn and well within striking distance of the Top 8, a spot required to ensure they are able to play off for a three-peat come the back half of the season. The Tigers host Moorabbin on Tuesday before travelling to Williamstown in what promises to be a competitive matchup between the defending champions and last seasons Division 2 runners-up.
Looking to rebound after a tough loss last weekend against Berwick, the Upwey Reserves also hosted a Sunshine team looking to approve on their abysmal 1-6-1 record. The hosts scored first in the bottom of the 1st inning, exchanging a scoreless 2nd before the Sunshine hitters jumped starter Wes de Jong in the 3rd inning for 3 runs, catching the Upwey defense flat footed while taking advantage of some batted balls that found grass that could’ve arguably been caught. To his credit, de Jong shook it off and went back to work, throwing 3 scoreless innings to finish his day with a crafty 6 innings of work. The Upwey hitters also responded in kind after the lead change, scoring in the 3rd, 4th and 5th innings to stretch the lead back to a 5-3 Upwey advantage, with reliever Josh Yung ensuring the Tigers ran out winners in what was an incredibly competitive game.
de Jong was outstanding in his start, going 6 innings to scatter 5 hits and 1 walk while punching out 6 in what is sure to be an encouraging sign for Coach Hendricks for his veteran left hander as he battles for innings behind Turner, before Yung continued to dominate his relief appearances, giving up 1 hit and striking out 1 in his only inning of work. Ethan Jenkins and Randy Senn lead the way with the bats for the Tigers with 3 hits and 1 RBI each, ensuring the Tigers kept the pressure on Sunshine pitchers Griffin Weir and Earl Byrne all day.
Suffering through an interesting scheduling choice by the governing body, the Tigers 3rds and 4ths were penciled in to play on Saturday rather than Sunday, and as such were unable to take the field due to the heavy deluge of rain that fell over Melbourne, resulting in a pair of washouts that must’ve been a welcome result for the hosting Eagles, who were most likely staring down the barrel of getting belted in a pair of games that shaped up to be overly one-sided. The Tigers host the visiting Williamstown Wolves this weekend as they look to continue their dominant starts.
Hosting Melbourne, the Regional Metro East 5ths came out in top of a see-saw game, escaping with a 7-5 win that was never beyond the reach of an upset. The Tigers hitters were unable to put the game beyond doubt, however they ensured that they kept enough runs on the scoreboard to weather the storm and take the points in an entertaining and competitive game at Kings Park on Sunday. The win sees the team improve their record to 5-4 and sit clear in 4th place, a full game clear of Monash Uni in 5th. The Tigers are back on the road next week as they travel to the aforementioned Monash Uni in what promises to be another great game.
Also at home but hosting Blackburn, the Regional Metro South 6ths took no mercy on their local rivals and ensuring the drive back to Billabong Park (or Billabong Lake after the weekend) was an unhappy one as they inflicted a 10-3 loss on the Burners. The visitors were never truly in the contest as Upwey jumped them from the get and kept going, putting no doubt to the result as they continued to score and widen the gap as the game went on. The win sees the Tigers now sit with a 5-4 and clear in 3rd place before hitting the road and travelling to Chelsea to take on the Dolphins next weekend.
Also falling victim to the rain, the Lady Tigers were also unable to get a game in, ensuring the latest chapter in the storied Upwey v Waverley rivalry will have to wait another day. The team continues to sit in 1st place with a perfect 8-0 record as they look ahead to next Saturday as they find themselves back on the road to take on Pakenham White.