There was a hint of “be careful what you wish for” after thoroughly enjoying the resurgence of our Wildcats offense at Upwey on a somewhat warm and balmy afternoon. Although I haven’t enjoyed the paucity of our offense over the first two weeks of the season, it did make for a much shorter and easier game report – no such luck on this occasion after a deluge of offense, yet you won’t hear this writer complaining about that! It was a genuine joy to behold…
To begin with, our visit to the foothills at Upwey was a bit like “old home week” with long-time Waverley favourites – new manager Donnie Hendricks, brother Josh Hendricks and Ian Geduld all in Tigers’ uniforms, along with another popular recent Waverley player Daryn Cassidy. There were also familiar friendly faces among the parents of those players – we really miss them at Napier Park!
I happened to be chatting with Waverley icon and Life Member Meg Clarkson during the early innings and she was quick to remind me that we had scored five runs in the first inning of a losing cause last weekend and I had to reassure her that there would be no repeat of that here. Without any disrespect to the Upwey pitching, it wasn’t near the same calibre as those we had faced in the first couple of games and there was also a noticeable buzz of confidence among our players right from the outset with an upbeat bench – albeit that the dugout surrounding had apparently blown away during the week – the “al fresco” conditions did our players no harm!
To get the pitching out of the way fairly quickly on this occasion we can only once again praise the sterling effort of our starter ‘Big Unit’ Jon Kennedy who simply goes about his job with little fuss and a total absence of histrionics. Jon stretched out to navigate six innings that flew by with only 79 pitches for a most efficient and effective performance – he struck out four and walked none to make sure that our early advantage on the scoreboard was never threatened. Kennedy was terrific again!
Tyler Dale followed with a tidy inning of work but, really, we should take little notice of the fact that late relievers Dan Page and Jarrod Turner were both tagged with a couple of belated runs. Without seeking unnecessary excuses, the game had descended into “junk time” with Waverley leading 12-2 after the top of the eighth and it was their job to pound the strike zone in order not to prolong the game any more than they had to – a few hits and runs were inconsequential.
So, take a breath before absorbing the glut of offence that saw 16 runs scored via 17 hits, plus four walks and seven errors gifted by our generous hosts. We also enjoyed a pair of homers among five extra base hits and four stolen bases. No fewer than eight of our batters hit safely and six of those feasted on multi-hit games. I suppose if you are going to have a break-out game, you might just as well do it in style… and so we did!
Only likeable Kiwi Pita Rona homered for Waverley in Division One last season, whereas two of our boys “went yard” at an Upwey diamond that doesn’t traditionally yield too many long balls. OK, we might suggest that the wind was a tad favourable, but let’s take nothing away from some sweet swinging of the lumber. Former pitcher Jamie Papanicolaou grasped the honour of our first homer of the season when he planted a three run jack over left field to spice that five spot in the opening stanza – welcome back ‘J-Pap’.
I took issue with my good mate J.J ‘Initials’ O’Connor because I lost my bet that he would be the first to homer for us last season and I had let the wager ride over to this summer. He looked pretty pleased to latch onto his two run bomb over much the same part of the left field fence, yet I had to remind him that he was one inning too late to get in before Jamie… We’ll take it! Papanicolaou also “snipped him” with 2-5 for five RBIs compared with J.J’s 2-5 for four RBIs.
Another young guy who hasn’t received much press so far is “quiet achieving” first baseman Matt ‘Holliday’ Homfray who had a busy day with both bat and glove. Homfray pounded a relentless 4-6 with a run batted in while gloving twelve tidy put outs. As far as I am concerned he can go about his business this “quietly” all season – and for the rest of his career… nice job!
I’ve already mentioned black cats and walking under ladders to Adam ‘Sterling’ Silva and his family as maybe the only silly reasons to explain the horrible run of hard luck he has experienced with injuries over recent seasons – hopefully they are now in his rear view mirror. He showed very good signs of pushing forward in this game with two hits, including a ringing double, plus a nice sacrifice fly to plate an important run in the key first inning… let’s go Adam!
Top of the order men Wade McConnon and Mitch Hayes had very “interesting” days, even though they shared just one hit. ‘Wadey’ had the one hit, plus a sac hit, yet he still managed to score three runs when he reached on an error in the first and he was also hit by a pitch. ‘Purple’ Hayes may not like the fact that he missed out on the hit parade, but he still managed to steal three bases and to score twice. He reached twice via errors and once via a fielder’s choice.
I deliberately left my personal best to last – how fantastic was it to see my old (sorry about the old!) cobber Kerry ‘KG’ Gassner back in full flight, just when you may have been forgiven for thinking he might have hung up his bat and glove. There he was, the very popular club stalwart, playing like a spring chicken at third base and knocking the ball all around the diamond with 3-6 and two RBIs – Hold the phone, what’s that? – gee, I’m really sorry, a closer inspection of the game stats reveals that it was not Gassner but the refreshing new face of American recruit Mitch Glasser!
Seriously, it has taken no time for Mitch Glasser to make new friends at Waverley – the ever smiling American has already added some positive energy to our dugout and the early indications are that he will also be a most productive player. Not only did he rack up the three base knocks mentioned, but he showcased some very impressive defence at hot corner… welcome to Waverley Mitch!
I cannot end this report without mentioning a couple of quality youngsters from the Waverley nursery who grasped an early opportunity for a big league debut in a blowout game. Fifteen-year-olds Oliver Dunn and Chase Hodkinson both came into the game as defensive replacements and both featured in solid put outs… Oliver at short stop and Chase behind the dish. We’ll certainly look forward to following their bright futures. Just enjoy the game boys!
Our next challenge arrives this Sunday 27 October when the Melbourne Demons visit our Napier Park home – Reserves 1:00pm – Firsts 3:30pm. After game meals will be available once again for players and supporters of both teams – all welcome! It will be another stern test for our lads…