Redbirds in series stunner
MAJOR League Baseball came to a stunning end when Easts Redbirds defeated Norths 2-1 in the best-of-three grand final series.
Both sides put on an exceptional display of baseball and no game was more exciting than the first.
Norths appeared to be in the box seat in the opening game at Baxter Field in Lismore on Friday night with a 5-2 lead into the fourth until Redbirds fought their way back to 5-all in the fifth.
Redbirds surged ahead to 7-5 in the sixth, only to be reeled back when North scored two more runs. Both sides had their opportunities, but quality pitching from Robbie Preuss and Paul Simes denied the sides the opportunity to break the deadlock.
Going into the bottom of the ninth, Clint McCarthy stood tall for Norths. The left-hander took reliever Michael Munro deep over the right field fence for a walk-off home run, taking the game 8-7.
On Saturday, Redbirds had it all to do. They knew that only a couple of teams in the past 20 years had taken a three-game series after losing the first game.
The second game, played on Saturday afternoon, was also close.
Munro was quick to make amends for the previous night, doubling to left field before being brought home by Steve Best for the first run.
Three errors by Norths in the second innings put them behind the 8-ball, giving up two more runs.
Easts Redbirds led 3-0 then a pitching duel developed between Nick Shailes (Redbirds) and Jason Britt (Norths) ensued.
Shailes was the first to break when Ahren Baxter's right-field hit led to Norths' first run of the game. But Shailes kept his composure and never faltered again.
Redbirds ran in another run in during the seventh to take it to 4-1, sending the series to a decider.
A crowd of about 200 were kept on the edge of their seats from the outset of the deciding third game.
Redbirds scored in the top of the second, and again in the sixth to lead 3-0.
Redbirds pitcher Mick Munro set up Norths for a chance to score when Clint McCarthy and Danny O'Sullivan were aboard on walks.
What began as a lapse in concentration from Munro soon became trouble when left fielder Luke Davis had a Brad Daly long ball hit the tip of his glove and run to the fence to score both runners.
But Munro regained control.
As the young pitcher restricted the Norths batting, the Redbirds bats began to wind up for a big finish.
They stretched the lead to 5-2 in the seventh innings, then grabbed another two runs in the eighth before taking the game away from Norths with another four in the ninth for an 11-2 win and a third title in six years.
In the opening game, Jack Jeffery starred for Redbirds with two doubles, then in the second game Steve Best led the way with three hits, while Munro grabbed two.
In the third game Jeffrey, Davis, Robbie Pruess, Shailes and Peter Best each had two hits.
For Norths, Brad Daly's two hits led the way in the opening game, then in the second Ahren Baxter, Gus Daly and Paul Simes provided the team's only hits. Matt Vidler came up with two of Norths' five hits in the third game.
In Division 1, Norths blew away Workers 18-5, while Norths also took the Division 2 and 3 titles to give their club some consolation.
In the Under-20s Brothers caused the upset, joining the club's Under-16 Gold side with a premiership.
In the Under-14s, Easts held on in a see-sawing thriller.
Major League awards: Batting average, Clint McCarthy (Norths); most consistent, Troy Pruess (Workers); most valuable, Robbie Pruess (Redbirds); Golden Glove, Matt Vidler (Norths); Rookie of the Year, Pat Doyle (Brothers); Commissioner's Award, Rodney Green.