Look, it’s far, far too early in the new season for panic or alarm, but already there arrives a stern test of character and resolve for our young Wildcats’ team and we loyal members of the ‘Waverley Nation’. We wouldn’t ever expect rival clubs to do us any favours, and neither they should, yet we have certainly run into some ultra-tough pitching in our opening two contests of the 2014 season.
Aside from the first inning, when we took a handy advantage of Blackburn’s little known starting pitcher Jesse Gavin, there have been a few painful similarities from these first two games. On each occasion we had only four players with a single hit apiece while our opponents had at least double that total as we allowed six runs in both games. As I said, we have been somewhat overmatched by our opposing pitching and our own defence has been questionable at best!
Quite clearly the course of the game changed dramatically after our buoyant five-run opening frame when Blackburn clawed back two runs in the second inning and Gavin was lifted from the game to be replaced by two of the most experienced arms in the Victorian State League. Manager Adam Bright is a former pro lefty who represented Australia at the 2013 World Baseball Classic and, when he was done, he was followed to the hill by current professional and Melbourne Aces’ righty John Hussey. That duo put a full stop to our scoring for the remainder of the game while striking out ELEVEN of our hitters – yep, the same number as the first round, plus one more in the first inning this time – it’s simply too many for our liking as those K’s are the ultimate rally killers!
Meanwhile, the Orioles were able to chip away at our early advantage to ultimately sneak ahead to impose a rather deflating one run defeat on home fans. Gallant Waverley starter ‘Big Unit’ Jon Kennedy may not have been at his very best but, once again, he was not helped by shaky defence that posted an unearned run in the first and some base stealing mayhem in the second that plated two more.
The day had started with a gloomy weather outlook as rain was still teeming down within an hour of the Reserves game starting – sadly the day would end with gloomy faces among the ‘Waverley Nation’. Not even a couple of rain delays could save us from what we hoped was not inevitable as our early lead in the game continued to be eroded. The weather finally cleared to allow a proper, albeit unhappy, nine inning conclusion.
Daniel ‘Bulldog’ Page took over in the fifth and, typically, he provided some stability with only one run scored during his two inning stint – however, it was enough to have the game tied at 5-5 when he handed over to ‘Massive Mitch’ Kennedy. In his first outing for the season Mitch produced some hopeful command improvement with ten of his sixteen pitches thrown for strikes, even after issuing a leadoff walk. In hindsight, Kennedy senior may have been worth another inning, yet it is pointlessly problematic whether he may have prevented the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth?
As it was, the loss was handed to Jarrod Turner when a one out walk and a “dumped single” into right field set the table for what was the winning run to score via a ground ball out. Jarrod kept the game within range by pitching a tidy 1-2-3 ninth, but there was not much genuine hope of a walkoff win as Hussey closed out the game to collect the win for himself and his team.
Unfortunately I don’t have much to enjoy reporting offensively so far this season, yet I have no doubt that our inexperienced hitters are trying their very hardest to make an impact against a standard of pitching that would sorely test any team. Tyler Dale added a walk to his single for one RBI, while Benny Aslett walked twice even tough he didn’t manage a hit. It is vitally important that the lads keep a positive mindset and keep persisting because, as mentioned, other teams will not be making anything easy for us. It will always sound too obvious at a time like this, yet it remains true that only hard work and a positive attitude will turn around our fortunes.
Perhaps more importantly we really need to help our young pitchers by supporting them with improved defence. I know that there is nothing wrong with the quality of our young glovemen, but a lack of confidence can often cause errors to multiply like a plague of locusts. It’s a painful habit to get into and one that we really must get out of before too many games slip away. To repeat what I started with, it is far too early for panic or alarm – it’s nothing that a good win won’t fix!
Once again the ‘Waverley Nation’ needs to rally early in support of our lads when we head for the hills to visit the Upwey Ferntree Gully Tigers this Sunday 20 October – Reserves 1:00pm – Firsts 3:30pm. Let’s hope that vital win is on the horizon right now!