Congratulations to the players selected into the Womens NSW Team.
In a sensational display of baseball, NSW yesterday took out the coveted Australian Women's National Championship in Ipswich, Qld, defeating reigning champions and perpetual winners, Victoria 4-0.
The first game of the tournament set the scene for the rest of the week with a 4-4 draw between the arch rivals, then in the second round Victoria beat NSW (6-1) to go into the final the home team and favourite.
However for NSW, the final was what counted - and the NSW team came to play. From the outset NSW executed with the bat, in the field, on the mound and in the dugout while Victoria made errors in the field, and although able to put bat on ball despite the pace of Renee Straumietis, was not able to string their hits together or find gaps in the NSW defence. Victoria surprised the NSW team by not throwing previous starters Stokes and Tamburrino, perhaps thinking that the off-speed work of Ailsa Davidson would be off-putting for the power hitting NSW team used to more pace. NSW quickly showed it did not need to rely on its traditional big hitting to manufacture runs and demonstrated the all-round approach of a team effort, clocking up 8 hits for their 4 runs. The NSW fielding was outstanding with only one error off a hard hit comebacker that gave the crowd some light comic relief!
Highlights of the game included a superb pickoff from Straumietis to Vella at second, retiring Victorian lead-off Shay Lilywhite in the first inning. Straumietis' "spaghetti" move is very hard to pick, as a number of Victorians discovered during the course of the game, with more than one caught wrong-footed and some multiple times. In an outstanding pitching performance Straumietis struck out 5 Victorian batters and turned a double play with shortshop, Loren Vella. She pitched a full-game shutout with only 4 hits registered against her. Right fielder, Narelle Gosstray, closed out the 6th innings with a 9-3 off a Hamilton attempt to go opposite field. The final play of the game demonstrated the NSW confidence that the gold was in the bag, with Straumietis throwing her glove in the air before catcher, Tahnee Lovering threw out final Vic batter Jade Hough at first base. The rest of the team and crowd held their breath, and then pandemonium erupted in a huge celebration for and by the crowd favourites NSW in their second ever National Championship win.
In the lead up to the Gold medal game, it was obvious that NSW had a depth of talent in the squad that would mean that any player could have been part of the starting line up. NSW used 12 pitchers throughout the tournament with a combined ERA of 2.59, with the coaches biggest frustration being getting enough time on the mound for each to get their work in. Another interesting statistic is that the three leading hitters on paper for NSW were not part of the starting line up for the final. NSW coaches had these players lined up to pinch hit if needed and there was a strong underlying current of confidence in every player to do whatever was needed to secure the gold medal.
To round out the tournament the 2006 National team was selected. In a controversial line up 10 Victorians were chosen in the 18 person squad, with only 5 from NSW (Katie Gaynor, Renee Straumietis, Angela Catford, Loren Vella and Brooke Maclean), while Kellie Walbancke was named as part of the Shadow Squad. In a credit to NSW baseball in general NSW Country player, Julia Fellows, was named in the team, with team-mates, Kim McMillan and Samantha Saggus, also part of the shadow squad. All the NSW players selected in the Australian Team and Shadow squad are part of the NSW Women's Baseball League.
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