2011 NSW State Little League Championships Report – Illawarra Little League
The Illawarra Little League (LL) team competed in NSW State LL Championships from 16-20th April at Bensons Lane, Richmond (Sydney).
The highest placed Country team subsequently competes in the Australian LL Championship on the Gold Coast from 26-29th May.The winner of the tournament on the Gold Coast heads off to Guam to take on the best teams in Asia-Pacific region & then possibly onto the World Series in USA in August.
With 7 players of last year's successful team within, we had a little more confidence heading to this years State tournament but there are a range of variables to take into account and certainly nothing is guaranteed (especially when we are intermixed with the Sydney associations who traditionally are a little stronger than their country counterparts). With 13 teams from across the State it's certainly an eye opener for any newcomer to the tournament.
Game 1: Against Hills South (last years runners up), we nearly pulled off a huge upset & gained a lot of admirers in the way we played in the rain. We ended up losing 11-12 & had loaded bases when the last out was made. In fact we left 9 runners on base & out hit them 9-3 although a few more walks given up by our pitchers (hard to blame them given the conditions we played the game - both teams & supporters left the ground drenched). Jack Hawkins in his first official Illawarra rep game had 3 hits from 4 at bats. Connar Grozde also had two hits from his 4 at bats (including a double).
Given the grounds had suffered with the rain, the Sunday games were cancelled, with the tournament to resume on Monday - which meant some of the pitching calculations now opened up a little more for various teams given the day's break.
Game 2: This was a match-up against our 'interaction' opposition throughout the summer season, Macarthur. If we could win this one we'd assure ourselves of 2 points & based on an earlier game put us head-to head with Central Coast for what would effectively be the Country title. Alas it wasn't to be & we went down 5-7. We certainly started well putting on 4 runs in the first innings but a couple of key outs at the wrong time stranding a total of 11 batters on base + we only made 2 defensive errors in the game but each one cost us a few runs. Another game that was so near....(NB: Macarthur went on to finish 3rd in the tournament).
This left us having to win all our remaining games to be a chance to progress to the Gold Coast, no small feat in this competition.
Game 3: Up against Newcastle (whom we beat last year for the country title, we expected a tough game). They skipped out to a 2 run lead after the first innings & we certainly had a fight on our hands. Although a triple to Jack Faulks in the 3rd innings with 2 outs to score 3 runs finally ignited us a little & we subsequently continued to put on runs in the remaining innings to run out 9-2 victors. The pitchers Mitchell Davis & Joel Thompson did a great job in shutting down the Newcastle batters only giving up 2 walks for the entire game, whilst striking out 7.
Game 4: This time up against Greater Western (Sydney association), who earlier in the tournament had a very close loss (0-1) to Central Coast. We traded runs & the lead through the first 5 innings. As we headed into the 6th innings we were one run behind. We got the tying run across the plate & a couple of others on base; up stepped Jack Hawkins with a double to the left-field fence to put us two in front going into the bottom of the innings & we shut them down. With our pitching stocks starting to dwindle a little due to the tournament restrictions & the two games the day before, Corey Rower did a sensational job thru the first 3.2 innings & then Alex Osborne retiring the last seven batters in order to close out the game for a 9-7 win.
Game 5: As other game results worked out, it came down to a schedulers dream having Illawarra v Central Coast playing the final of the Consolation Pool for the title of the Country winner & an opportunity to progress to the Australian Little League tournament on the Gold Coast. At the beginning of the game we even had the players recite the Little League oath "I will play fair and strive to win, But win or lose I will always do my best", the national anthem played & players called onto the field in their fielding positions which put a nice touch on the game by BNSW organisers.
A minor hiccup was encountered pre-game with our starting catcher Jack Faulks not feeling well & being sent to hospital by the medics, this resulted in a quick shuffle to the planned line-up but with some flexibility in the team we adapted well with Jackson George doing a great job behind the plate.
Central Coast started with some great hits & at the end of the 3rd innings held a 2 run lead. Although both teams after 4 days of games were starting to hurt a little in their pitching options. With the forced change in pitchers by both sides, it was at this point we started to make a move. Jack Hawkins as our reliever shut them down in order in the 4th & 5th innings, whilst we were able to put on 7 runs in the same time (with some good selective batting & base running). This provided us with a 5 run lead going into the 6th & whilst they were able to score a run, we are able to run out 9-5 winners without needing to bat the bottom of the innings. In doing so booked ourselves a trip to the Gold Coast as the CountryNSW Little League champions for the 2nd year in a row.
The first day's weather/conditions tested everybody (players/coaches/spectators alike), but the sun came out thereafter & overall a fabulous tournament with some great games of baseball played. The lead changed in every game we played; the two games we lost were very close results with only a key hit/catch away from actually winning them. The base running was great & the overall fielding was very good for this age group. There are certainly 14 excited kids, who ALL played their part in the games across the 4 days, keen to head to the Gold Coast in May to take on the other teams from around Australia.
Team: Angus Bottomley, Daniel Bridges, Jayden Clark, Brendan Davis, Mitchell Davis, Dave Dugan, Jack Faulks, Jackson George, Connar Grozde, Jack Hawkins, Alex Osborne, Dylan Rower, Corey Rower, Joel Thompson.
2011 Australian Little League Report - Illawarra
From the 26-29th May our Illawarra team competed in the Australian Little League tournament played at Surfers Paradise Baseball Club on the Gold Coast. After our success in the NSW State Little League tournament we were now up against the best 12 Little League teams from around Australia.
With the coaches & 7 players returning from the year before we were hoping for a reasonable showing, without any serious expectations of winning the tournament. Although the draw was changed from previous years with the 12 teams split into two pools. Our pool (A) was pretty tough, which showed in the final results when 1st & 2nd overall came from our pool & then in the cross-over games the remaining pool A teams beat the respective pool B teams, which highlighted the slight imbalance in the draw.
By virtue of all the teams staying in the same complex the team had a fantastic opportunity to meet some other players from around Australia & forge some new friendships.
After 4 days we came away in 12th place, without a win, which was a slight disappointment as felt we were better than this but we simply didn't play our best in a 'whole' game & the teams making it to this level are all quite competent. There were plenty of isolated good performances, although in each game there was typically an innings where things unravelled for us & resulted in the loss, which hopefully the players learnt from (ie. the need to concentrate for the full 6 innings, swinging at the right pitches when in the batters box, not dropping the head when things go wrong during the game & simply being supportive of fellow team-mates irrespective of game/tournament situation).
Off the field they were well mannered, dressed & behaved throughout the tournament. We even had many favourable reports from the Tallebudgera (accommodation/meals) staff about our team.
At the conclusion of the tournament the team took the opportunity to spend the following day at Dreamworld & enjoy the activities/rides on offer (intermixing with a few of the other teams as well) before the flight home.
A summary of the games played:-
Game 1 (Day 1): Opening game of the tournament against Brisbane South with a 8am start. After the excitement of arriving at the Gold Coast & adapting to their shared accommodation, we looked a little tired & gave up too many runs early on with Brisbane jumping out to a 0-8 lead after 3 innings. Our starting pitcher, Joel Thompson, got hit in the head at the first at bat & had to be taken out of the game which meant a slight shuffle in our planned pitching rotation. We got a few runs back through the 4th & 5th innings, thanks to some good hits from Alex Osborne (3 from 3, including one just short of the centre field fence), to head into the 6th behind 6-10, although Brisbane then put on a further 6 runs in the top of the 6th to run out winners (6-16).
Game 2 (Day 1): Against last year's runners up, Ringwood, we were expecting a difficult game. We gave up 7 runs in the first innings & a further 3 in the 2nd, to take the score out to 0-10 & it wasn't looking pretty. Jayden Clark, came to the mound & put the Ringwood batters off-balance with his change-up. Leaving them scoreless in the next 3 innings. In the mean time we got some hits together & got ourselves back to 9-10 with some momentum & a chance to cause an upset, alas they put on a further 4 runs in the top of the 6th & we weren't able to bridge the gap, losing this one 10-14.
Game 3 (Day 2): The Alice Springs team, like ourselves, finished in the bottom half last year, so we were expecting a fairly tight game. After 2 innings we held the lead 1-0. Although the Rebels then put on 5 runs in the 3rd innings with some good hits (& a couple of walks). This proved the main difference. Unfortunately we left our bats behind for this one & could only manage 3 hits for the entire game (to their 8 hits). The end result was a 2-8 loss.
Game 4 (Day 2): Up against last years champions (& this years eventual winners), Adelaide South All-Stars, it was always going to be tough. We eventually went down 4-15 after they put on 8 runs in the 5th innings to invoke the mercy rule but we stayed with them during the early innings including jumping out to a 2 run lead after the top of the 1st innings (courtesy of a triple, into the right field corner, by Daniel Bridges with 2 out to bring in both runs). Jack Hawkins did a great job on the mound getting into the 4th innings. Interestingly we had the bats working in this game registering 10 hits (with 3 to Joel Thompson), albeit we left the base runners stranded with a few too many outs at the wrong time that didn't really put our opposition under any real pressure about the final result. If only we could have got the bats working in the earlier morning game!
Game 5 (Day 3): Our final pool game where we were already resigned to 6th place in our pool, with Perth just having to win to hold onto a spot in the semi-final. This one was 0-0 after 3 completed innings, Perth hitting the ball but finding our fielders. A number of good catches at centre field by Jayden Clark & an overhead one by Brendan Davis at shortstop was keeping them at bay. We weren't registering too many hits ourselves. In the bottom of the 4th the flood gates opened a little & Perth put on 7 runs, eventually running out 0-8 winners. Not bad against the eventual tournament runners-up.
Game 6 (Day 4): We were now matched up against the 6th placed team in Pool B, Port Hedland who similar to ourselves hadn't come up with a win as yet. Unfortunately we didn't get off to a great start to the game walking a couple of early batters, which had the field under pressure & we coughed up 3 runs (it could have been more if not for two outs between 3rd & home). We then settled down a little, gave up the odd run whilst scoring 4 ourselves (2 of which came on the back of a Dylan Rower safe hit with 2 out & the bases loaded). So heading into the 6th we were down 4-5. We closed them out in the top of the 6th, but we were unable to put a run on ourselves & went down. Mitchell Davis doing a great job in relief on the mound through the last 3 innings, not conceding a run. Not much seperated the teams on a pitching/batting level, but the difference proved to be in the field. To Port Hedland's credit they made all the right options in the field, taking a number of good catches & making the plays when needed. They deserved to win the game, although we probably had the stronger overall line-up that simply didn't fire when we needed.
Daniel Ristic was covering the tournament on behalf of BaseballNSW, see below for his daily reports.