Timberjacks win Under-23s
TEN years ago, Geoff Baxter began coaching his son Ahren with a group of young baseballers from six Far North Coast clubs.
The group showed exceptional talent across the years but that potential always fell short of an elusive State title.
As of yesterday, that is now in the past, with FNC taking out the Queensland Under-23 championship at Albert Park, Lismore.
It was the team’s first chance to perform in front of their home crowd since losing the Under-16 final in 2004 and their loss in the AAA final of the National Regional Youth Championships in 2006.
This time they secured the title with a hard-fought 17-12 win in the final yesterday over the Brisbane combined regional team Westros (made up of Brisbane Metro and West).
FNC faltered only once all weekend in an 8-7 loss to Brisbane South on Saturday.
Leading 9-0 at the top of the fifth in the final, their three days of hard work appeared all but over with a 10-run mercy rule rout of their opponents just one play away.
But Westros didn’t read the script.
Westros were quick to capitalise on the Timberjacks’ waning pitching stocks, belting five runs in the fifth and making the most of two FNC fielding errors.
The locals took the run rush hard, failing to score in the bottom of the fifth.
Westros again surged in the top of the sixth, reeling in the deficit to lead 10-9 before closer Matt Vidler shut down the offensive charge.
Coach Baxter quickly focused his charges in the bottom of the innings and the young Timberjacks put on the type of batting display that had seen them overcome teams al weekend.
FNC belted in seven runs courtesy of hits to Jake Turcato, Dan Muggleton, Ahren Baxter and two to Jeremy Sexton, as well as excellent base running through the order.
Westros were far from done, fighting back with a walk to Shaun Lynch and hits to Wade Logan and Ryan Battaglia to score two runs.
FNC’s Matt Vidler continued to hit the zone for catcher Jake Turcato, coming up with the two final outs at first and centrefield to end the game at 17-12.
It was FNC’s first State title since the Under-14s two years ago.
James Linger is already well on his way as a professional baseballer in the Atlanta Braves organisation in the United States and his talent was obvious when he took out the batting trophy for the tournament for most hits.
Coach Baxter and his team will now look forward to the announcement of the Queensland team for the Australian invitational series in April, with Vidler, Britt, Steele and Muggleton strong chances.