Tigers fall to Burners; Lady Tigers simply unstoppable

Upwey Women’s team member Jess McDonald. Picture: ADAM BATTYE

By Sean Talbot

On a day of celebrations for the Blackburn Burners as they celebrated their 60th anniversary, the Upwey Ferntree Gully Tigers were unable to put a dampener on the party as they fell in heartbreaking fashion, coming up on the wrong side of a 5-4 walk-off win for the hosts in front of a raucous home crowd.

The Tigers sent their ace and season workhorse Jarrod Turner to the mound as they looked to lock up another win and maintain their stranglehold on second place on the Premier League ladder.

With Blackburn sending their own ace in Michael Cabeza to the hill, the game started in typical miserly fashion as both righties traded a scoreless first inning.

The Tigers were first to break through on the scoreboard as they manufactured a run in the top of the second to take an early 1-0 lead.

Answering right back in the bottom of the second, Ben Aslett doubled to right field on a ball that was lost in the sun before Dion Di Battista doubled to left field to score Aslett and level the score at 1-1.

Advancing to third on a wild pitch during Koetsu Sakamoto’s at bat, Di Battista came around to score Blackburn’s second run on Mitch Whiting’s two-out single to push the score to 2-1 in favour of the home squad.

Rogers walked on four pitches before Senn, attempting to lay down a sacrifice bunt to move Rogers to second base, managed to find himself on as well as his bunt found the Blackburn defense out of position and saw Upwey now threatening with two on and none out.

The red hot Kane stepped to the plate and lined a ball to centerfield, scoring Rogers and moving Senn to third on a throwing error by Sakamoto to level the scores at 2-2.

Harvey Chinn was called upon to pinch hit off the bench, taking some very aggressive swings before eventually grounding out to the pitcher while advancing Kane to second as he looks to come back from an ACL tear during the winter.

With the Upwey line-up flipping over, Schroeders came to bat and successfully laid down a squeeze bunt, scoring Senn and moving Kane to third to put Upwey back in the lead sporting a 3-2 scoreline before Wade McConnon struck out to end the inning.

With the top of their lineup due up and the heat starting to become a factor, Blackburn fancied their chances to get back on the board and tie the game up again.

Leadoff hitter Taichi Nagano popped out to Schroeders at second base before evergreen Andy Tierney laced a ball to right-centerfield, putting the home side in position to make something happen as their 3-4-5 hitters were due up.

Ben Leslie was walked as Turner ensure the hulking first baseman did not get a pitch he could drive, setting up the double play for the Tigers as they looked to find a way to Houdini themselves out of the inning.

It was not to be, however, as catcher Chase Hodgkinson singled to right field, scoring Tierney, and moving Leslie to third.

Aslett grounded into a double play to end the threat, however the score was again deadlocked at 3-3 coming into the 8th inning.

As Blackburn handed the ball to Andrew Jones, Jordan Elliott was hit with a pitch to lead off the inning before stealing second base during Josh Hendricks’ at bat, during which he grounded out to Nagano and was unable to advance Elliott.

Donavon Hendricks singled to right field to move Elliott to third where he was held by coach Dan McConnon before Rogers struck out for the second out, however Senn laced a ball that was too hot for Aslett to handle at third and scored Elliott.

Upwey looked to create some pressure in the top of the 9th as Schroeders reached on a throwing error by Nagano, however he was thrown out at second base after a pickoff move by Jones.

McConnon promptly walked and was himself thrown out at second, this time with Hodgkinson credited with the assist.

Elliott was unable to create any two-out momentum, grounding out to Aslett to end the inning and see the home team with their last chance of the day.

Striking out Nagano to lead off the inning, the power hitting parade in Tierney, Leslie, Hodgkinson and Aslett were due up and ensured de Jong was given no ability to relax with the game on the line.

Tierney walked on five pitches before Leslie worked a seven-pitch walk, but not before attempting to end the game with a couple of full-blooded hacks that thankfully did not connect.

Hodgkinson, now batting right-handed, laced a ball to centerfield to score Tierney and advance Leslie to third to bring Aslett to the plate with the game on the line.

Aslett lined a single to rightfield over the leaping J Hendricks to score Leslie and send the Blackburn squad into jubilant celebrations around first base where they mobbed Aslett.

The loss sees Upwey slip to fourth place on the Premier League ladder with a 14-8 record after beginning the day in second place, highlighting just how little separates second from fifth as Blackburn, Essendon, Upwey and Sandringham all chase Waverley and look to lock up a finals berth.

In the curtain-raiser, the Reserves were unable to hold a four run lead, surrendering a five spot in the bottom of the 4th before clawing the tying run back in the top of the 6th that saw the game end in a 5-all draw.

The draw moved the Tigers record to 9-5-1 on the year and sees them tied for second place with Sandringham (8-4-3) with both sides just a half game behind Essendon (8-4-1).

Also on the road at Billabong Park due to the Blackburn 60th anniversary celebrations, the 3rds were jumped in the bottom of the 1st inning and surrendered a lead they never were able to recover on their way to an eventual 9-2 loss.

A fielders choice that did not result in an out and three successive singles saw the score quickly balloon to 5-0 before an out had been recorded, however Halupecki struck out the next two hitters before another single plated the sixth run of the inning for Blackburn.

Kept well in check by the Blackburn pitchers, Upwey managed to finally score in the top of the 4th inning as Daniel Williams reached on an error, Sam Griffiths doubled and Mitchell Thorne lifted a sacrifice fly to score Upwey’s first run.

Steve Williams followed this up with a single to bring home Griffiths to plate the Tigers second run, however they were still facing an uphill battle as they were on the wrong side of a 6-2 score.

Dan Smith, who took over for Halupecki in the 3rd inning, did everything in his power to keep his side in the game as he navigated his way through Blackburn’s potent hitting order and keeping the Burners scoreless until the 6th inning when they strung together base hits and capitalized on some slopping Upwey defense to push the score to 9-2 and ice the game.

The loss sees Blackburn jump into first place on the Premier League Thirds ladder with a 10-3-1 record, while Upwey maintains its hold on third with an 8-4-2 record.

Playing away and looking to extend their perfect season, the 4ths were unable to peg back a Blackburn side that scored runs in the first, third, fifth and sixth innings on the way to hanging the first loss against the ladder leaders for the season in a game the Tigers must’ve favoured their chances in.

Firing the opening salvo in the top of the first inning on a Richard Ferguson sacrifice fly, the Tigers would be remiss for thinking this game would be like all others that came before it.

A scoreless second inning gave way to the third where Blackburn tacked on their fourth run of the game, this one off of reliever Oscar Monagas who took over pitching duties at the start of the inning.

Finding a way to claw their way back into the game with two runs in the top of the fifth inning to get within one, the Burners immediately answered back with two runs of their own in the bottom of the 5th to push the deficit back to three runs as the scoreboard showed a 6-3 Blackburn lead after five complete.

Upwey pushed another two runs across the plate in the top of the 6th inning to again pull within one run, however Blackburn put reliever Russell Ferguson to the sword and scored a further three times to run away with the game and a 9-5 final scoreline.

The Premier League East 5ths hosted second placed Waverley Black and were left hoping they didn’t, finding themselves on a receiving end of a 19-2 belting and left to recover after being bullied by a Waverley team for the second week in a row.

Despite the Wildcat onslaughts the previous two weeks, the Tigers are still in fifth place on the ladder and well within striking distance of the top four coming into finals.

The Metro League South 6ths will be looking to quickly move on from their result on Sunday, as Pakenham rolled into town and promptly rolled right over the Tigers, headed back to the east with a 14-1 win under their belts.

Quite simply the Tigers were outplayed in every facet of this game and were defeated by a superior team on the day.

Also taking a perfect record into their Saturday clash with Cheltenham, the Lady Tigers were the only Upwey team to register a win (albeit a nail biting one) as they hosted the Rustlers and took full advantage of the home conditions, running out eventual 10-9 victors in a result that was a lot closer than would’ve been expected on paper.

Take the chance to again give regular starter Chelsea Mosbey some rest, the Lady Tigers handed teenage sensation Caitlin Kiel the ball for her first start of the season, however the young righty was left shellshocked after the Rustlers exploded for five runs in the top of the first, taking full advantage of five free passes and pairing them with three hits and an error to ensure their baserunners were moving at all times and kept the pressure on the home team.

Upwey responded with four runs in the bottom of the 1st courtesy of a leadoff walk to Billie McCulloch, base hits to Jess McDonald, Clare Williams, Sally Light, Zienna McCulloch and Elinor Jack whilst keeping on the move around the bases due to a series of wild pitches from Cheltenham’s starter.

The Rustlers ensure the inexperienced Kiel was made to work for her outs as the first six hitters of the innings all reached base via a walk to plate two before a hit batter and a single scored two more.

Upwey exploded for six of their own runs in the bottom of the second as Mosbey lead off with a single before stealing second and third and scoring on Eloise Holdens groundball.

The offense got started again as Hayley Mather singled, B McCulloch walked, McDonald singled, Williams singled, Z McCulloch singled and then scored on a catchers error.

A scoreless third inning saw the score remained at 10-9 and left Cheltenham with one last roll of the dice as time had nearly run out for a late rally, however Billie McCulloch was more than up to the task at hand, navigating her way around two walks and an error to leave the tying run on third and nail down the win for Upwey.

The win ensures the Lady Tigers maintain top billing on the Women’s Metro South ladder with a 14-0 record.