It was a big weekend of softball at Leonard Park with scheduled games for Saturday and then a replayed round from the previous week when games were abandoned due to rain.
The two-day competition presented a challenge for most clubs with Christmas presentations, work commitments and availability of players for the two days. Well done to all clubs who, with some skilful management of club personnel, managed to get teams on the park. There would have been some stiff and sore players fronting up to work on Monday.
Saturday’s games were a stop start affair, there was an amount of concern as the day started with blustery conditions, rain, thunderstorms and lightning, but thankfully the full programme was completed.
Tigers faced a depleted Cats outfit and came out victorious with some determined, aggressive softball. It was a sister act for Tigers with Maddie Baldock pitching to Casey Baldock who were able to contain Cats battery. In the swirling and sometimes wet conditions, Cats capitulated giving away their innings far too cheaply. For Tigers – Chloey Dunstall set the tone again as a lead off batter and Shianne Short, although too eager sometimes to bat with disastrous results, attacked everything which came her way at third. Kahla Williams for Cats, thrown into the catching position after a long period in the outfield performed creditably.
It was a run fest in the Checkmates-Cougars game which would indicate that neither pitcher was on song. Checkmates started their first innings with an 8 run haul – nothing dramatic in the batting department, but simply patiently waiting for the right pitch. Cougars responded at the bottom of the first with slow and steady pressure on the Checkmates field. Cougars Emily Gonsalves hit a boomer of a home run and the tone was set for a good game. It turned out to be a bit of a fizzer, with neither side batting with any authority. Checkmates Sharon Ciampi and Cougars Amanda Steff led the way with 2 strong safe hits.
A home run from Checkmate’s Deanna Spencer, plus another safe hit was not enough to save her side from defeat at the hand of Cougars. After conceding their first innings without any runs, Cougars settled and put in 3 consistent innings, Tammy O’Brien leading the way with 3 safe hits and 1 put out.
It was the survival of the fittest in the Tigers – Solly Cats game – both sides could only muster 8 players for the game and then both sides were reduced to 7 with an injury to Robyn Murphy and Taylor Eglinton having to leave the game early. Cat’s secret pitching weapon Mandy Bridley bravely stepped up to the plate to fill an obvious void, her efforts were commendable and her moves on the mound should not be copied by any aspiring pitcher. None the less Bridley showed that she had not lost any of her batting brilliance from the very good pitching of Jess Finlayson for Tigers who is having a great season, not only on the diamond, but for the great work she is doing with her club. Tigers Raquel Noble deserves a special mention for her game in this higher grade.
Premiership favourites Cougars faced an improving Cats side, but Cougars did not show any fight or fire. Leading off in the first innings they could only muster 1 run and then two more innings of single digits. Katelyn Wilson and Abbey Marsland the only safe hitters for Cougars. Cats Michelle Williams not only credited with a win as the pitcher but chipped in with safe hits from 3 at bat, sharing this honour with Dora Blieschke. Cats set a high bench mark with a nine run first innings and comfortably held their lead.
Cats played the double header and recorded a couple of strong wins. Cats team is becoming very versatile with players being encouraged to learn different positions. A couple of improvers for Cats in their two games have been Edyn Manfield who is playing on the tough side of the diamond, usually at third or short stop. The feature of her game is her running speed around bases. The other improver worthy of mention is Mia Williams who is getting stronger with her batting and putting in a couple of safe hits per game. Cougars Marlee Biddell was their strongest batter and providing a safe glove at first. Checkmates have an abundance of players in this grade which is good for the club but a nightmare for the coach. Zephie Neil is showing potential and it won’t be long before she takes the field in a higher grade.
Ashtyn Skipworth-Taylor is improving in leaps and bounds – her game was exceptional for Cougars, even though her side went down on the day. Skipworth-Taylor notched up 2 safe hits and picked up a couple of K2’s along the way. Tigers Phoenix Griffiths was their best batter with 3 safe hits – way to go – this grade is getting better at batting – well done coaches and umpires. There are more boys coming into play in this competition and Cats most recent recruit Ryder Arnold hit the score book with two safe hits, but he was eclipsed by his best mate Beau Bridley who cracked a solid three bagger over centre field. This was a close game with Cats chasing down a 7-run inning from Checkmates. Careful batting put runners on bases, but Amelia Criccholia was prepared to have a bat which then puts pressure on the field – batting that’s what it’s all about.
Cougars started slowly against the accurate pitching from Tigers Jess Finlayson. In a 5 innings game Cougars could only bring in single runs in each innings. They rallied in their last dig to bring in 3 runs, thanks to a fine start from Alexis Hill who put a fine bat out to centre field. Tigers, on the other hand batted in 3 runs in their first dig courtesy some fine batting from Aimee Simmons. It was good to see Talisha Hillier back among the safe hits – a player with a lot of potential.
Jacqui Graham played a blinder for Checkmates at shortstop – for most of the game she was impassable. 6 outs, including a magical triple play from a sizzling line drive from Jo Houhagen caught, tagged out the runner and then put out the runner advancing from first base. Not to be outdone, but not as spectacular, Cats put up a double play courtesy of some smart play by Gus Cutler to Penny Lynch. Cats started with Jess Axon on the mound and Checkmates were held scoreless for the first 4 innings, Checkmates batters came good at the wrong end of the game as Axon tired.
Solly Cats and Checkmates played out a nail biter. Deanna Spencer from Checkmates can attest to the strong batting power of Sandra Neil after Spencer “wore” a line drive from Neil’s bat. Dom Fasciano for Cats started on the mound for Cats – after not having pitched since her under 17 days and she did a great job, testament to her versatility. Cats were able to use several juniors in this game and they did not disappoint. Kelsey Monaghan took over the important catcher’s role late in the game – her catching style is a sight to behold – so composed. Checkmates have a find in junior Delira Neil – she was not phased playing in a higher grade and, as every Sharyn Combe was the voice and inspiration for her side. It was a Cougars run fest – they simply were too strong for Tigers. Kerin Colgan was the glimmer of hope in the Tigers batting line up with one solid three bagger. The day, however, belonged to Cougars with Marlee Biddell and Kristy O’Neill notching up 3 safe hits. O’Neill’s consistency in pitching and with a strong field behind her, is the lynch pin in this Cougar’s outfit, she teams well with Ashlee Williams who is still reaching her full potential.
Cougars continued their run scoring spree against Checkmates recording a 7 and 8 run innings. What a pick up to have Merridy Fetherstonhaugh available 3 safe hits in her first game. Honours for the day went to Elissa Dix, Renee Wood, Cailey Pollard and Jody Langsford (4 safe hits) each. Checkmates Jo Munn toiled valiantly and contributed with a couple of safe hits – it just wasn’t Checkmates day, they do miss their dynamo shortstop Kirby Cricchiola who is out injured now.
The two games in this competition were played over two weeks, with the Cougars – Solly Cats game being played before rain stopped play for the rest of the day. The second game, which also involved Cougars was played on Sunday. Mixed results for Cougars – not disgraced against Solly Cats, going down by one run, and then a resounding win over Checkmates. The good news from these games is the growing in strength from some very good juniors who are showing their versatility, learning to play in different positions. Hannah Mark for Cats posted a home run as did Harper Bridley. Well done Paige Skelton for Cougars who was the only safe hit getter for her side for the game.
Cougars and Solly Cats fought out an exciting draw with both sides scoring 2 seven run innings. While Tigers ran away with their game against Checkmates. It’s great to see the improvement of players in this grade – players are now starting to bat the ball and are growing in confidence each time they go onto the diamond.
- BEV ARGENT