2013 NSW State Little League Championships Report - Illawarra
The Illawarra Little League (LL) team competed in NSW State LL Championships from 20-23rd April at Milton Park Softball Complex, Ingleburn.
The country teams were placed in their own pool & scheduled to play each other twice over the first two days to determine the 'Country' team that would progress to the Australian LL Championship on the Gold Coast from 1-5th June. The winner of the tournament on the Gold Coast will be the first Australian team to be part of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, USA in August.
We had 7 players that had been involved in the previous years NSW LL tournament, so they at least knew what to expect. As always though, our depth would be tested a little over 4 days of tournament baseball.
With 13 teams (10 city & 3 country) from across the State involved, it's certainly an eye opener for any newcomer to the tournament.
Day 1 (Sat): We arrived at 7:00am to prepare for our scheduled game against Newcastle, although overnight rain that continued into the morning left the diamonds very wet. This resulted in the first day of the tournament being abandoned. So Day 2 effectively became Day 1 in the tournament schedule.
Game 1: Against Newcastle, we came up with some timely hits thanks mainly to Carpenter (3/3) & VanLeeuwen (3/4) to lead 5-2 after 2 innings. In the 6th, we put on a further 5 runs give us some breathing room & eventually ran out 10-4 winners. The pitchers Carpenter, Rada, Clark & VanLeeuwen only giving up 2 walks across the 6 innings & the defence holding solid behind them. In fact Sam Rada got thru 2.1 innings in his 29 pitches, striking out 4 batters in the process (only throwing 6 balls). Jacob Davis also gloving the ball well behind the plate (including a couple of key foul tips for the strike out).
Game 2: Up against Central Coast, it was close throughout, finishing with a 5-4 win. Connor McNally closed out the last 2 innings. Helped by a timely double play by Ethan Teixeira in the top of the 5th with loaded bases & potential runs threatening. In the top of the 6th Central Coast had moved the tying run to 3rd base, although a strike out ended the innings & we didn't have to bat the bottom. We threatened with the bats throughout this game but just couldn't group enough of the hits together to turn a big innings. Whilst we only scored 5, we left another 9 runners on base. The fielders again quite tidy behind the pitchers, without an error.
Newcastle beat Central Coast in the final game of the day, which mean we'd finished the 1st day in the enviable position of two wins & a further win against Newcastle the next day would secure the Country title for us. Added to this we had all our pitchers, except McNally, available.
Game 3: v Central Coast (8:00am with warm-up at 6:45am). Whilst the result wasn't critical to us, a win would mean we could afford to lose the following game against Newcastle by a small margin & still be OK. Whilst Central Coast jumped out to a 2-4 lead after 3 innings, it was the 4th innings where we gave up 4 runs on two missed flyballs and a dropped ball at 1st on a bunt play - that we ended up paying dearly for. Whilst we got two runs back in the 5th it wasn't enough & we went down 4-8. Credit to the Central Coast pitchers & their shortstop who combined to stop most of our offence. On our side Ethan Teixeira came up with a number of good outs at 2nd base & pitched the last inning to shut down the opposition in order.
Game 4: v Newcastle. If we could beat Newcastle then we'd be the country champions. The first innings started very well with Rada on the mound throwing 8 consecutive strikes to retire the Newcastle side in order. We then took Newcastle's key pitcher for 31 pitches whilst scoring 2 runs (on a good hit by VanLeeuwen). Newcastle got two runs back in the 2nd to even up the scores, with a couple of balls falling just out of the reach of our centerfielder. Then with 2 out in the 3rd, Newcastle were able to get 5 runs (3 which came after a dropped ball at 1st base & pass ball on a dropped third strike with loaded bases). We clawed 4 of these back via the bats in the next 2 innings. Although it could have been so many more (in the 3rd, Majenta Collis hit a bouncing ball down the 3rd base line, which was called foul by an inch which would have scored two runners; the following innings with 2 runs already scored & runners at 2nd & 3rd with none out, 3 consecutive strikeouts when we only needed some contact into the field to potentially score either/both of them, certainly extinquished a little of the momentum). So at the end of the 4th innings Newcastle were clinging to a 6-7 lead. A missed regulation comebacker by the pitcher & another ball that got under the leftfielder's glove, resulted in another two unearned runs for Newcastle in the top of the 5th - providing Newcastle with a 3 run buffer. In the top of the 6th, Newcastle put on a further 5 runs (4 unearned via a couple of errors by ourselves), which resulted in them holding an 8 run lead. We were only able to muster a solitary run in the bottom of the last to get the final result to 7-14. Newcastle's 9 unearned runs obviously playing a major part in the game & left our players somewhat down beat, especially after fielding so well the day before.
Had the early starts & the back to back games taken their toll on some young bodies OR had they been a little complacent after the good results the day before & switched off a little - who knows but we were now left with our only hope being for Central Coast to beat Newcastle & it to be a high scoring game (as we'd then all finish on the same wins & the tiebreaker would be the least runs scored against each team) - those unearned runs that we given up over the prior two games could potentially hurt in this situation. In the end Newcastle prevailed in that game, as Central Coast seemed to wilt a little in the 2nd game of the day after their early start as well, coming up with a few errors themselves. So Newcastle were crowned the Country champion for the 4th time in the past 6 years of Little League (well done to them) - there certainly wasn't a great deal between any of the Country teams but Newcastle held it together when it counted.
So, we'd given it our best shot but come up short. The preparation in the lead into the tournament had been great and we demonstrated that to all on the first day of the tournament, although on the one day we need to maintain our effort a few things deserted us. Disappointing, yes BUT we all learnt some things about tournament baseball & the need to stay focused for the entire 6 innings game.
Game 5: On the final day, was a consolation game against one of the City teams (highest 4th placed team from their 'pools'). It turned out to be Cronulla South whom we played in an earlier trial game. We used this as an opportunity to give a little extra playing time to those that had smaller roles during the earlier games. Unfortunately the players were also a little flat from the day before & it showed in the first innings when we gave up 13 runs. Whilst we got a few back ourselves with the bat & with young Drew Behr pitching two scoreless innings in 27 pitches. The game finished after 4 innings with us down 5-18.
After the wash-out on Day 1 the Macarthur ground crew & the weather helped thereafter, we got the key part of the tournament in - Macarthur did a great job as hosts. It was probably a missed opportunity for us to make it to the Gold Coast especially after our start on Day 1 (& the baseball we played) but.....with kid's sport there is always a few extra unknown variables. All involved in the team learnt plenty & we hope will take the experience into their future play.
Team: Drew Behr, Max Bramble, Jared Briggs, Brendan Carpenter, Jack Chapman, Tyson Clark, Majenta Collis, Jacob Davis, Connor McNally, Daniel Moss, Sam Rada, Ethan Teixeira, Bailey VanLeeuwen, Jarrod White.