New South Wales storms home for championship title

Kingsley Collins

24 March 2019

 

Open to players eighteen years of age and younger, the annual School Sport Australia National Baseball Championship will be held at the magnificent Geelong Baseball Centre, Waurn Ponds, from 29 April to 4 May this year.

 

Showcasing the very best in promising baseball talent since its formal inception in 1989, the time-honoured National Schools Baseball Championship has been graced by literally hundreds of our emerging players – many of whom have gone on to higher honours.

 

Expected to this time again attract teams from Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Australian Capital Territory, the National Schools Baseball Championship continues to play an integral role in the development of our young talent base. 

 

Although the eastern states ran baseball competitions for schools since the 1940s, it took until much later for a coordinated approach to be developed – one that has enabled emerging young players to compete with their peers at a high-quality national event delivered by School Sport Australia with the support of state associations and Baseball Australia.

 

The National Schools tournament plays a crucial role in offering players another opportunity to represent their state as part of a team, while creating potential opportunities for college or professional contracts. Often the series will attract players who have missed out on the national under-aged tournaments but still have plenty to offer their particular states whilst mixing and meeting with their baseball peers - consistently leading to lifelong friendships.

 

While the emphasis is very much on representing one’s state and participating as part of a team, individual excellence is recognised through a range of personal awards – including Golden Glove, Golden Arm, Batting Award and Tournament Most Valuable Player.

 

Aside from providing elite playing opportunities and creating the environment for personal achievement and growth within a team setting, the National Championship has for many years served to bring the sport into focus for young players as a potential career path.

 

Arguably the most crucial service this tournament plays is that it provides young baseballers options for where they might ultimately see themselves playing baseball. Included in the programme this year will be an “educational day” which is being designed as a range of seminars which may include college information, a motivational speaker, the pro-player pathway and injury prevention. 

 

Although signing to a professional contract may still be the dream - the ultimate - for many aspiring young ball players, the college pathway is now being more widely encouraged as the best avenue for the majority of players to achieve their potential in baseball while securing academic qualifications.

 

While the number of our young players heading to college in United States has increased dramatically over the past twenty-five years – in part because of the exposure offered to the college option in a range of disciplines under the aegis of School Sports Australia – over one hundred and fifty Australian baseball players have signed professional contracts either during or after their participation in schools baseball.

 

It is an extraordinary statistic. And of that impressive total, a significant number have gone on to play Major League baseball, from Queenslander Cameron Cairncross (Golden Arm Award at the National Schoolboys in 1989) through to current Oakland staffer Liam Hendriks (who won the Golden Arm playing for Western Australia in 2006). Even earlier than, and since 1989 have been the likes of David Nilsson, Travis Blackley, Brad Harman, Josh Spence, Damian Moss, Peter Moylan, Chris Oxspring, Chris Snelling, Phil Stockman, Rich Thompson, Glenn Williams and Jeff Williams – all of whom played schools baseball and all of whom reached the pinnacle in professional sport.

 

There are more, many more household names in Australian baseball to have represented their state at National Schools level – including the likes of numerous current Australian Baseball League players and others who have gone on to achieve at high levels both here and overseas.

 

Of in excess of 150 young men known to be playing college in United States during 2019, many – probably most – represented their state at the National Schools Baseball Championship.

 

Inaugural winner of the National Schools Baseball Championship in 1989, Victoria has been victorious eight times, while Western Australia (three) and Queensland (two) have both won titles behind schools baseball powerhouse New South Wales, which has taken the honours seventeen times and which will again be drawing quality young players from both its city and regional competitions. 

 

While team and personal success at the National Schools Championship are admirable ends in themselves – opening up potential avenues for advancement in the sport - players this year will unfortunately not be afforded the opportunity of selection in a representative schools squad to travel overseas for competition.

 

International schoolboys playing tours were introduced with a visit to Japan in 1992, followed by a Canadian trip in 1995 and a Florida series in 2000. Since 2005, an international schools tour has been held every two years – the last being a jam-packed United States itinerary in 2018 under Head Coach Peter Giles and Tour Manager Neil Barrowcliff, both of whom have been long-term and exemplary contributors to the development of emerging Australian baseball players.

 

It is expected that a further tour will be held during September/October 2020, with a playing group engaged in fifteen to twenty games against college and high school teams in United States while immersing themselves in invaluable cultural interchange.

 

Funding of the National Schools Baseball Championship remains a constant challenge in a predominantly user-pays Australian baseball environment. Administrators, coaches and officials all readily acknowledge the role that supportive parents play in meeting the considerable costs of their child’s involvement, one which may in turn lead to exciting opportunities and certainly to significant personal growth.

 

“For any youngster selected to play in the National Schools Championship, it is just a fantastic opportunity – and a wonderful life experience – that should be taken up if at all possible,” long-term Victorian Manager Peter Giles told Australian Baseball Alumni prior to the 2018 tournament.

 

“We know that it can be a drain on finances for many families,” he said, “but participation in the tournament offers opportunities that we know from experience can have life-long, significant benefit for our young baseball people," he said.

 

 

The 2019 National Schools Baseball Championship will be played at Geelong Baseball Centre from 29 April to 4 May. Australian Baseball Alumni will seek to provide day-by-day reporting on the event, which we believe will be live streamed through School Sport Australia in conjunction with Baseball Australia, Baseball Victoria and local baseball interests.

 

LINKS:

 

SCHOOL SPORT AUSTRALIA HOME PAGE

SCHOOL SPORT AUSTRALIA BASEBALL PAGE

SCHOOL SPORT AUSTRALIA BASEBALL HISTORY

NSW STRIKES GOLD IN A NAIL-BITER (Alumni Report 2018)

AUSTRALIANS AT COLLEGE IN UNITED STATES 2019 (to our knowledge)

DAY SIX:   NSW storms home for championship title

 

Kingsley Collins

4 May 2019

 

Held scoreless through seven, New South Wales mounted a stirring comeback to down Victoria 7-6 in the Gold Medal final of the National Schools Championship decided at Geelong Baseball Centre this afternoon.

 

Recovering from a seemingly insurmountable deficit heading into the bottom of eight, New South Wales chipped away with a couple before drawing level in the ninth and plating the go-ahead in extra innings to snare a thrilling victory – the state’s nineteenth championship at this time-honoured tournament.

 

Congratulations to New South Wales on its courageous win against the trend of play! Well done to runner-up Victoria, to bronze medallist Australia Capital Territory and to all six teams on representing their state with distinction, grace and great sportsmanship.  

 

NEW SOUTH WALES 7 defeated VICTORIA 6

 

While both sides landed runners on base in the early innings, starters Jack Lee (NSW) and Lachlan Hockey (Victoria) were in total command, supported by some quality defensive work in intermittent drizzle – including a couple of double plays and some slick work that enabled both sides to escape jams in the third innings.

 

It was Victoria that broke the deadlock - in the fifth - when a walk, a hit, a stolen base and an infield error gleaned a first run before Lee was relieved after loading the bases in the sixth. When Will Tucker and Zak Skinner promptly drove back-to-back RBI-singles into leftfield it was three zip in favour of the Vics, who exploited successive HPBs and a base hit – with two out – to plate another in the seventh.

 

Successive doubles by Skinner and Reece Longstaff ignited a two-run eighth inning flurry for Victoria, drawing Ethan Keane from the New South Wales pen with his side facing a massive deficit. Not yet done, New South Wales bunched three hits in the bottom of eight – for a run – and Dante Caruso was summoned to the hill to replace Hockey, who had been outstanding for Victoria (7.1 innings for nine strikeouts).

 

A second run provided late hope for a never-say-die New South Wales, which loaded the bases in the ninth, with one out, scored another on a wild pitch and - with the game suddenly turned on its head - drew to within a run on a single up the middle. A flare into leftfield scored a fourth for the frame – and it was a brand new ball game, with the ball handed to Reece Longstaff to escape the innings with bases juiced.

 

Retired in order in the top of ten, Victoria was placed under enormous pressure in the bottom of the frame, when a New South Wales baserunner advanced on a sacrifice bunt, scooted to third on the play and crossed the plate – with one out – on a single into centrefield.

 

While it was surely a disappointing result for Victoria – while reflecting great credit on a quality New South Wales outfit – this was just an outstanding game of baseball that personified all the very best in our great sport. Well done to both teams.

 

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY 13 defeated WESTERN AUSTRALIA 12

 

ACT completed a pleasing tournament in taking the bronze medal over Western Australia, which fought back from a difficult position to fall just short of what would have been a remarkable win. After a scoreless first three, ACT broke clear with five in the fourth and four in the sixth to hold a six-run lead against a dogged opponent that blasted six in the top of seven to level scores.

 

Not about to let this one slip, the capital responded with three in the equaliser, which was still not enough to put the game away, as the W.A. offence continued to press with two in the top of nine – just not enough, though, to force the contest into extra innings. With both sides stretched for pitching depth and under sustained defensive pressure at the end of an arduous tournament, fifteen hits to ten in favour of Australian Capital Territory was a decisive factor in a thrilling win.

 

QUEENSLAND 7 defeated SOUTH AUSTRALIA 2

 

Queensland posted its third win of the tournament to finish fifth overall, a result that was in doubt when South Australia edged ahead in the top of the third. However, with a run in the equaliser and two more in the fourth, Queensland again assumed ascendancy in the contest before smacking a three-spot in the sixth and emerging a comfortable winner.

 

DAY FIVE:    Intensity builds as playoffs loom

 

Kingsley Collins

3 May 2019

 

After another hard-fought day of competition at the National Schools Championship, all is in readiness for play-off games to be held at Geelong Baseball Centre during Saturday.

 

Winning both of its pool games, New South Wales qualified for the Gold Medal game, where it will meet Victoria, which finished ahead of an Australian Capital Territory outfit that will play for bronze against Western Australia – winner of both its Semi-Final games. Queensland will meet South Australia to decide fifth and sixth placing.

 

Playoff action will commence at 9.00 AM, with the gold medal game scheduled to start at 12.00.

 

QUEENSLAND 4 defeated SOUTH AUSTRALIA 0

 

Playing errorless defence in an impressive all-round game, Queensland scored a run in the first of a low-scoring contest, two in the fourth and a final run for insurance in the fifth. Despite out-hitting its opponent six to four, South Australia was unable to convert its limited opportunities as the Queensland pitching held up through the later innings.

 

NEW SOUTH WALES 7 defeated AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY 4

 

Although NSW posted its fifth win of the tournament, it by no means had this one easy, with the territory lads – who played impeccable defence - levelling scores in the top of four after their opponent had gained the early break. Plating three in the equaliser, NSW was again under fire when South Australia hit back in the sixth – though ten hits to five proved decisive for the victor.

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 5 defeated QUEENSLAND 4

 

Although out of contention for the championship, these two teams played out a ripper contest – with W.A. gaining an early break before Queensland hit back with two in the fourth and again in the sixth to come up just short of a last-gasp win. While both sides played impeccable defence, the Western Australian offence maintained the pressure throughout – racking up ten hits to six.

 

VICTORIA 12 defeated AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY 0

 

Flexing their offensive muscle in a contest called under the mercy rule, the Vics were on the march with a four-run second innings sparked by a two-out double followed by successive base hits. Three more in the third made it tough for ACT, who were out-hit twelve to two and who paid dearly for the early error, another in the third and a wild pitch in the fourth.

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 10 defeated SOUTH AUSTRALIA 0

 

Western Australia posted its second win of the day – a far more comfortable outing, this time, as it out-slugged, outpitched and out-defended South Australia to force a mercy-rule call. Scoring at regular intervals – with two in the first, four in the third and again in the fifth – the west played faultless defence against an opponent that had a tough Semi-Finals day.

 

NEW SOUTH WALES 9 defeated VICTORIA 8

 

Although both sides had already secured a berth in the Gold Medal game, there was no dearth of enthusiasm for this contest, in which the Victorian offence came out firing with back-to-back triples and a long sacrifice gleaning two in the first. While NSW knocked in three in the second, the Vics exploded with a six-spot before the reigning titleholder hit back with a vengeance to pinch the win.

 

 

Play-off games are scheduled for Saturday 4 May, with fifth versus sixth (Diamond One) starting at 9.00 AM and third versus fourth (Diamond Two) at 9.30. The Gold Medal game (first versus second) will be played on Diamond One, starting at 12.00 PM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY THREE:  Vics head standings after Round Robin

 

Kingsley Collins

1 May 2019

 

Today played in breezy and decidedly more wintry conditions than earlier in the week, the National Schools Championship produced some tight, low scoring contests along with the odd blowout to complete the first stage of the tournament.

 

Victoria (four wins and a draw) will finish atop the standings ahead of New South Wales (four wins and a loss), with an impressive Australian Capital Territory (two wins, two losses and a draw) in third ahead of South Australia (win, draw and three losses), Western Australia (win, draw and three losses) and Queensland (win and four losses).

 

There will be no play on Thursday. Teams will be seeded and the schedule re-drawn before action resumes at Geelong Baseball Centre on Friday morning.

 

VICTORIA 5 defeated SOUTH AUSTRALIA 3

 

Victoria was off to a flier with three in the first and another run in the second before South Australia plated its first run – which drew a response from the home state in the next. Playing more polished defence while out-hitting its opponent seven to five, Victoria withstood a late challenge for a narrow result that was facilitated in part by four errors committed by a dogged South Australia side still in search of its first win.

 

NEW SOUTH WALES 11 defeated QUEENSLAND 0

 

Outstanding on the hill and in defence, New South Wales effectively placed this game beyond reached with a four-spot in the second and again in the fourth against a Queensland opponent that could manage just a solitary hit and gifted scoring opportunities on five defensive slip-ups that allowed the reigning champion to fully exploit a team total of eight hits – mostly with runners on.

 

VICTORIA 5 defeated NEW SOUTH WALES 1

 

This much-anticipated clash saw both sides pass up early scoring opportunities before the Vics broke clear with three in the second and another in the fourth. While NSW drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth, the Victorian pitching – which conceded just one hit overall – remained well in control and was accorded further run support on a wild pitch in the bottom of the frame for a clear-cut win.

 

SOUTH AUSTRALIA 2 defeated QUEENSLAND 0

 

After playing solid baseball in its first four games, South Australia finally broke through after plating two in the first – the only runs to be scored in a high-standard contest dominated largely by the pitchers. While both sides hit safely four times, South Australia played errorless defence against an opponent that remained well in the contest despite a few fielding slip-ups.

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 2 defeated AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY 1

 

The final game of the Round Robin phase of the tournament turned out to be another thriller, with Western Australia scoring in the first and fourth innings to squeeze home over Australian Capital Territory. Pitching and solid defence were again the order of the day, with both sides restricted to three hits and the lads from the west proving faultless in the field.

 

DAY TWO:   Victoria, New South Wales remain unbeaten

 

Kingsley Collins

30 April 2019

 

After a thrilling second day of competition at Geelong Baseball Centre, New South Wales (three wins, no losses) tops the championship standings ahead of Victoria (two wins and a draw), Australian Capital Territory (two wins, a loss and a draw), Queensland (win, two losses), South Australia (two losses and a draw) and Western Australia (three losses and a draw).

 

Another five games will be played on the morrow, with each have a direct bearing on how teams will be ranked after the Round Robin stage of the tournament is completed.

 

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY 3 defeated QUEENSLAND 2

 

ACT continued its solid form from Opening Day, plating a run in the first of what developed into a pitching duel that saw Queensland draw level in the third before the territory edged away to a narrow break that was shaved in the top of the last but still proved adequate. With offensive production restricted to a minimum, ACT marginally out-hit Queensland five to four.

 

VICTORIA 3 defeated WESTERN AUSTRALIA 2

 

In another hard-fought contest that showcased quality pitching from both sides, Western Australia scored in the first and was looking a real threat until the Vics – who themselves could muster just five hits to three - plated two in the third and another in the sixth to make it tough for the west, who hit back in the equaliser but came up just short of tracking down the home state.

 

VICTORIA 10 drew with AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY 10

 

Applying early pressure, Victoria looked ominous scoring three in the first – with two out – compliments of a couple of walks, an error and some timely hitting. However, though the Vics pressed on in the second, ACT belted five in the equaliser of an exciting, seesawing contest that saw the host state square the ledger and hold on for a split as the territory squandered a great scoring opportunity at the death.

 

QUEENSLAND 11 defeated WESTERN AUSTRALIA 1

 

Queensland recorded its first win of the week and inflicted a third loss on Western Australia, which stayed well in touch through the early innings before a fifth-innings outburst that gleaned eight for the northerners, who racked up thirteen hits to three in a powerful offensive display, admittedly assisted on conversion by a W.A. defence that slipped up four times under pressure.

 

NEW SOUTH WALES 9 defeated SOUTH AUSTRALIA 2

 

Again paced in the early stages, New South Wales edged away through the middle innings against an opponent that plated a couple, fought hard and had a real shot at bridging the gap when it loaded the bases in the bottom of seventh – with one out – only to be thwarted by a classy double play. Taking full toll of a string of errant pitches, NSW sealed the deal with a late flurry that preserved its unbeaten record.   

  

 

Play will continue on Wednesday, with teams to be re-ranked after the Round-Robin games. There will be no play on Thursday before competition resumes on Friday and concludes with play-offs on Saturday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY ONE:   New South Wales makes early statement

 

Kingsley Collins

29 April 2019

 

A perennial force at this tournament, New South Wales started the National Schools Championship in imperious form with thumping results over Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia on the first day of competition, while ACT and Victoria each posted a win .

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 6 drew with SOUTH AUSTRALIA 6

 

With both playing solid defence, neither side was able to gain a break in a tight early contest until the west blasted four in the top of the last for what appeared to be a match-winning break. Their opponents were not about to lay down, however, plating five in the equaliser to force a thrilling draw.

 

NEW SOUTH WALES 8 defeated AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY 0

 

Looking every bit as polished as in its last campaign, the reigning titleholder manufactured runs in four of its seven innings to build an insurmountable lead against an opponent that could muster just a solitary hit against a quality pitching staff, which was itself accorded superb offensive support – nine knocks - by a line-up able to convert its scoring opportunities.

 

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY 8 defeated SOUTH AUSTRALIA 2

 

Rebounding from the earlier setback against a powerful opponent, ACT forged ahead with a four-spot in the sixth innings of what was otherwise an even contest (six hits to five in favour of the winner). While both teams faltered in defence on occasions, four errors committed by the South Australian defence proved damaging.

 

NEW SOUTH WALES 13 defeated WESTERN AUSTRALIA 2

 

Flexing its offensive muscle early in the tournament, New South Wales effectively put this one away with a six-spot in the second and half a dozen more in the third against an outfit that played errorless defence but struggled on the hill as NSW amassed twelve hits while its pitching restricted the west to two hits and two runs – both in the fourth.  

 

VICTORIA 7 defeated QUEENSLAND 5

 

Playing a feature evening game after the Opening Ceremony, both teams scored early, with Victoria edging away with a two-run second as the Queensland defence faltered momentarily. It was a lead that would not be relinquished as the Vics built on their advantage - with four in the fourth - and withstood a late challenge, when walks and a two-run Queensland double shaved the winning margin.

 

Scroll down for Alumni images and for our Tournament Preview.

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