Penguins aiming for 4 from 5 flags but need to overcome The Stingers
By SALLY HEPPLESTON
HEATHMONT have booked a spot in the grand final next week after knocking of rivals Research in the preliminary final of the Melbourne Winter Baseball League 2016 A grade season.
After finishing on top and losing to second placed North Balwyn last week, who earned themselves the week off this week, Heathmont coach Matt Gourlay said he’d started to have a few doubts about his team, and wondered if they had what it took to go all the way.
But he said his fears were quickly put at ease in what he said was a quality game of baseball against quality opposition.
“It was a great game of baseball played at a very high standard. After last week, I was starting to have some doubts and wondered if we were really that good, but we’re definitely excited about next Saturday and feeling better about things now,” he said.
Gourlay said the solid 9-6 win helped restore some pride and confidence in his players. He said he took nothing away from Research who took the challenge right to them.
“Since I’ve been with the club Research have been our biggest rivals and I really can’t speak highly enough of them. Leigh McKay pitched his heart out for them today. It is unfortunate there can only be one winner. On their given day, either one of us could have won today,” he said.
Gourlay said his hitters helped secure the win with both Hayden Dingle and Ben Leslie strong with the bat, as well as Cooper Goodman who also played a great game at shortstop and Mitch Ayers who had a great day as catcher.
“I was also rapt with our pitchers. Matt Wilson had a rare bad game last week but came on for the last three or four innings today and only had one run scored against him. You couldn’t ask for more,” Gourlay said.
Research coach Tom Dicker also said it was a fantastic game of baseball that ebbed and flowed.
“Leigh McKay threw really well. Their pitchers kept our hitters off balance and it seemed like we scored, but then they’d score. They were able to score in multiple innings which was the difference. We knew it would be tough today,” Dicker said.
Dicker said he was proud of how his side had tackled the season as reigning premiers.
“It is always tough to go back to back. You become the hunted, not the huntees. We played 15 different line ups this year.”
Dicker said while it wasn’t a disastrous season, having bowed out in week two of the finals, their goal still was to go all the way.
“We wish both teams the best of luck for next week. But the league is sitting pretty at the moment, which is good to see,” he said.
Dicker said it wasn’t all bad news for the club on the day, with one of their E grade sides winning their grand final.
In other Melbourne Winter Baseball League news, Waverley defeated La Trobe University in the B Grade grand final and will go on to play Doncaster in the grand final next week.