Locals baseballers star at titles in NZ
THE Easter break proved to be more than just a chocolate gorge for five Far North Coast baseballers who ventured to New Zealand with the Queensland Under-13 side for the annual Oceanic Easter Classic.
Going into the tournament as the reigning champions, expectations were high for the side to perform well but with some 13 new players, most of whom will be eligible next year, development was always the priority for the side.
New Zealand A also proved a tough first encounter for the Queenslanders, taking the game 11-0 in under an hour. NZ A's left-hand pitcher proved to be an amazing talent, dazzling the bats with his speed and control. Starring for the locals was 11-year-old Dean Gillespie, who pitched 22 pitches in closing down the New Zealand run rush.
With NZ As providing a solid shock to start, NSW proved overwhelming for the young Queenslanders, with the Patriots' pitcher throwing over 110km/h off a 14-metre mound. Queensland managed just two hits for the 13-0 ball game, one of which came from local player Michael Gahan.
Queensland struck back against New Zealand B, taking the game 8-4. Gahan once again proved his grit, knocking in the first home run of the Queensland team, while fellow FNC player Mitchell Watt dominated from the mound.
In the semi-final in miserable weather and numerous rain stoppages, Gahan, Watt and Gillespie joined fellow locals Fletcher Patterson and Lewis Johnson as the Queenslanders took a solid 5-3 lead over New Zealand. NZ kept the pressure on and capitalised on several errors in addition to solid hitting to squeeze home a 6-5 win to move to the finals. Gillespie once again starred on the mound and after a tough tournament with the second home run for the team after nailing an outside pitch to the right field fence.
The Queenslanders hit peak form in the bronze medal round, whitewashing the New Zealand B side 11-0 to end the tournament on a high.
Mitchell Watt picked up the Queensland Most Valuable Player award for his performances on the mound and with the bat, while Michael Gahan and Dean Gillespie showed maturity beyond their years in strong performances in their pitching roles.
With spots in the Australian Cal Ripkin World Series side still up for grabs, Gahan and Watt made strong claims for places for the month-long US tour in August.