Dodgers stake claim on title
SAWTELL Dodgers are the first team through to the Coffs Harbour Baseball Association grand final after a dominant win over minor premiers the Woolgoolga Blue Sox.
After a tentative start from Dodgers, the Sox were up 2-1 after the first inning thanks to a two-run single from shortstop Mick Gray. Erratic pitching from Bluesox in the second allowed two runs from bases loaded walks to let Dodgers reclaim the lead and from that point were never headed.
Dodgers pitcher Andrew Mainey returned to his ominous best, facing just eight batters in the next three innings, giving up just the single hit while striking out five.
Meanwhile the Dodgers bottom order swung into action collecting four hits in the third inning and by the time Gray took over on the mound, the damage was done with three runners home.
Dodgers would go on to score another before Gray induced out a flyout from Nathan Secomb, Dodgers ahead 7-2 by this stage.
Gray produced a more settled effort in the fourth inning, giving up just one hit as he subdued the Dodgers' bottom order but a Rohan Purves single in the fifth was eventually converted into another run, Purves coming home off a Secomb sacrifice fly.
In a tense final inning, Mainey once again took to the mound and allowed the first three batters on base.
With bases loaded, Mainey induced a popup fly, strike and ground out without giving up a run, to ensure an 8-2 victory to Dodgers.
Bellingen Diggers produced their best performance of the year but it wasn't enough to upset All Stars who hung on for a 4-3 win.
All Stars got off to a strong start, a towering two-base bomb from Cameron Martin seemingly setting the tone early but Martin was the sole runner to score as the Diggers fielders backed their pitcher in what would become an error-free game for the visitors.
Terry Booth was on song for Diggers with accurate pitching and a powerful line drive in the second, which saw him even up the scores from a Hunter Bake-Smith fly ball. With his All Stars counterpart Derek Jordan also proving difficult to hit, the score remained at 1-1 until the bottom of the third when Allstars Neil Davies and Nick Andrews came home off a Travis Isles double.
As Jordan's accuracy on the mound flagged, Bake-Smith again scored a runner before the game was tied up by Booth, coming home off a bases loaded walk.
Martin took over the pitching duties at that point claiming the last two scalps and leaving the game tied up at 3-all.
Some smart play from All Stars saw Gary Vandermaat advance to third base from a steal and then a perfect sacrifice bunt from Tyran Fieldes. However when Jarrad Taylor ground out to Booth, All Stars were looking shaky with two out. Ben Martin then came to the plate, scoring Vandermaat and giving All Stars the lead.
With 11 minutes left on the clock, Diggers were afforded one last chance to claim a spot in the preliminary final.
With two batters out, Martin walked the next two bats before Bake-Smith once again came to the plate.
A hard line-drive up the first base line fell into foul ball territory by the barest of margins before Bake-Smith latched onto a pitch sending it swirling skywards to left field where Taylor proved equal to the task, snagging a running catch to end the match and secure the win for All Stars.
The preliminary final will see Blue Sox host All Stars this weekend in A Grade as well as B Grade, where the winners of each grade will face the red hot Dodgers.