What had been a dark and murky morning had become quite pleasant to herald the arrival of the unbeaten table topping Melbourne Demons to our Napier Park haven – or is that heaven? Unfortunately the outcome of the day in terms of results would not match the optimism that pervaded the ‘Waverley Nation’ after our uplifting win at Upwey the previous Sunday. Like the worst of those age old fishing tales we were left with arms outstretched trying to explain the size of the catch that had got away from us on this occasion… it was quite deflating I’m afraid.
To begin with a rather crucial moan of misfortune, our young Wildcats commenced the game with an immediate setback when young star Adam Silva had to be a late withdrawal due to a reported hand injury – we sincerely hope that it is not a recurrence of his recent hand issues that had sidelined him for far too long – our best with that Adam! In any case it caused a very untimely re-shuffle of the deck chairs on the Titanic as scheduled relief pitcher Jarrod Turner was asked to play as designated hitter while he also pitched late in the game – let’s just say that those fickle “baseball gods” did not smile upon Jarrod on this day – we feel for you mate!
Once again Waverley’s starting pitcher ‘Big Unit’ Jon Kennedy deserved much better than another gallant loss because he allowed only four hits and one run from his big hearted six inning effort. As I have said continually, and I will again, big Jon is a marvelous credit to himself for taking it all in his considerable stride and persisting to give his all for a team that is still “punching above its weight” in terms of age and experience in this tough league. No doubt his time will come as a dominant force in future years and there is plenty ahead for him.
Cousin Tyler Dale was steady once again for his inning of middle relief and big brother Mitch Kennedy was on his game again with two strike outs featuring during his incisive one inning of work. As I touched on earlier, it was never going to be a red-letter day for Jarrod Turner for a couple of reasons, and we can surely sympathise with him for being somewhat “unsettled” when he gave up a couple of insurance runs to the Demons. These broke open a skin tight 0-1 game with a brace in the top of the ninth. Baseball, as we well know, can be a heartless game at times!
After Melbourne had plated a valuable opening run in the top of the second, there was absolutely nothing to separate these two teams who jabbed and parried at each other for the next six-plus innings without either being able to land a decisive punch. The vastly more experienced Melbourne lineup probably threatened more seriously at times, while the canny pitching of Aces’ stalwart Andrew Mann saw far too many of our rallies snuffed out by looking at called strikes. This, of course, was a perfect scenario for Mann who will chew you up and spit you out if you don’t swing the bat to apply pressure – he is always around the zone.
Anyway, the crux of this tight contest arrived in the bottom of the seventh when our lads finally found some traction against Mann’s pitching as his pitch count was heading into the red zone. Emerging star Matt Homfray came through with a big leadoff single, Benny Aslett was hit by a pitch with one out and Jarrod Turner’s single loaded the bases still with just the one out. You could only point to inexperience and a touch of stage fright when, on a wild pitch, Homfray appeared to “freeze” and he did not come home for the tying run. Worse was to follow when he was then tagged out (narrowly) at home plate on the ensuing play.
As our old mate and former manager Dan McConnon would have said, “the circus music was playing as they sent in the clowns” because the subsequent events had everyone in the Waverley clubhouse scratching heads and flicking through the mental rule books. A second out had apparently been made on the same play and the inning that promised so much was over much too prematurely with Melbourne still clinging to their 1-0 advantage. To cut a long story short, following post game discussions with those on the field, it seems that Jarrod Turner – perhaps not too familiar with running bases – had incorrectly understood that he was given out when originally running to second base and, honest young fellow that he is, he felt that he must leave the diamond. When the Melbourne players realised their good fortune they alerted to umpires who had no option other than to call him out! As I said, it is little wonder that he may have been a tad distracted when he was later required to pitch.
In a game where there was not much hitting on offer for either team, our young first baseman Matt ‘Holliday’ Homfray distinguished himself for the second week running as Waverley’s only player with two hits. Homfray likes to keep a low profile, but he may find it much harder to fly under that radar if he continues this quality of batting on a regular basis.
Courageous young catcher Andy Hayes also merits special mention after batting 1-3 with our only walk and our only RBI for the game. Not only did he do all we could ask with the stick, but he once again demonstrated his bravery as a young catcher among some big men when he held his ground on a bone-jarring collision at home plate to make an important put out at a critical time. As I have mentioned with respect to others at times in these reports, our youngsters will store these memories for battles later in their careers when they have their own turn to be the big dogs!
Finally, I could hardly fail to mention the galaxy of former stars gracing the Waverley clubrooms after the game. It is tough to be critical of our boys for battling manfully against, as I said, the pitching of Aces’ star Andy Mann – in addition to the fact that five of Melbourne’s eight hits came from the enormously experienced duo of Matty Kent and Adam Burton who are both former MVP players of our national league past and Australian national team players at Olympics and/or World Baseball Classics.
About an hour after the game, these guys were joined at the bar by other Melbourne coaches and former big league stalwarts David White (our own drought breaking 2007 Championship manager) and the ageless pitcher Dave ‘Skinny’ Simpson. They enjoyed re-living the grand old days with our own Australian baseball legends and current coaches Phil Dale and Dave Clarkson – boy do those guys have some stories to tell. It was an interesting end to what was a pretty sombre day for the Wildcats.
One brief very last mention of another Waverley Baseball Club icon – legendary junior coach and mentor DAVID WARREN – who was not at the game because he was celebrating his 80th birthday with his family. I regret having to sneak away early from his party to cover this game, but I can assure you that he was sorely tempted to come with us to his beloved Napier Park. Many happy returns from the ‘Waverley Nation’ David.
Things get no easier for our lads when we next travel to Farm Road to play the vastly experienced Cheltenham Rustlers this Sunday 3 November – Reserves 1:00pm – Firsts 3:30pm. I hope to get back for the game after traveling to Canberra for the opening series of the 2014 ABL season. The ‘Waverley Nation’ must keep the faith more than ever right now!