On Melbourne’s coldest baseball day for a number of years our hardy Winter Royals travelled through hail and rain storms to do battle at Pakenham on Saturday.
We were there as the Pumas celebrated their 20th Anniversary so we knew they would be keen to provide an upset victory for their club.
With the wind blowing in and light showers coming and going the game was a good battle between two sides at either end of the ladder.
The Royals got off to a suitable start with Josh getting aboard on a walk and then stealing second base. Called on to hit behind the runner Matt Kaplin drove a line shot into right centre to score our first run for the day. Steve Lester returned this week to push Matt around to third with a hit but Pakenham battled away and took the outs when presented eventually tagging out a sliding Matty K for the third out as he headed home on a pass ball.
In the tricky conditions and a mound that was less than ideal Ben Kaplin started for us as usual. Generating great pace Ben would have beaten most sides but his mechanics were not in sync on this freezing afternoon. We soon opted for the more genteel guile of our wily veteran Dave McKinnon who steadied the ship through the next 2 digs.
We gave up two runs without allowing a hit over the course of the afternoon. Trailing 2 runs to one into the second dig Cae Eason came to our rescue when he drove the ball deep into left centre for a well judged stand-up single…..take no risks. And Cae was right as the throw direct to second would have seen him well out. Taking second on a pass ball, 3rd on a Fielders choice, Cae then steamed home on another pass ball to tie up the game showing his years of experience in his base running decisions.
The Royals were battling hard to hit the front and secure our 8th win on the trot but it took until the fourth innings . Scott McLaughlin was struck by a pitch and then stole second, making third on a ball pass. Johnny Macs fielders choice scored the go-ahead run, with the innings ending after Marty who hit nicely to centre was out on an infield fly from Cae.
We called on our other young flame thrower , Josh Smith, in the hope he would be on target – and he was! A strikeout to start and end the Pumas 4th dig with two walks in the midst. Scott McLaughlin was again catching for us and doing a marvellous job highlighted by his dextrous flick back to the plate to see the tying run tagged out by Josh as the 2nd out in the 4th innings.
A late addition to the tough conditions was the low winter sun right behind the pitchers arm. Five of the last six outs in the game were strikeouts as the hitters struggled to pick-up the ball coming out of the glare. Another two Ks in the last saw us protecting our one run lead with the tying run on second base and three balls on the number 11 hitter. Yoiks….what could go wrong. The Smiths ( Marty and Josh) had been practising the next move for around six years when Josh pegged to Marty ,now at short, to catch the runner napping and end the game……well done fellas.
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