IT seems eight is not enough after Belmont continued their recent domination of Newcastle baseball with an 18-12 win over Toronto at Windsor Park on Saturday.
It was their ninth straight grand final success in what was their 26th straight appearance in a top-grade decider.
An incredible eight-run rally in the top of the eighth from Belmont proved the difference in an entertaining game which featured 40 hits (22 for Belmont and 18 for Toronto) and five home runs. But there were also plenty of errors from both teams and it was two wild throws in the top of the eighth when the game was tied 9-9 which opened the door for Belmont.
The Seagulls took full advantage and added five runs before Chris Hook put the premiers out of reach with a three-run blast over left field.
It was Hook’s second homer for the game and not surprisingly the right fielder was named grand final MVP.
Belmont coach Duane Harrison said that honour could have gone to almost any of his players as eight of the starting nine all collected hits. “That’s a pretty special bunch of blokes … it’s a credit to them that there’s no complacency because nine years in a row is pretty special,” Harrison said.
After the game the pain was still raw for Toronto, who are still chasing their maiden top-grade title.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow but today we were beaten by the better side,” Toronto coach Justin Norman said.
“I tip my cap to them - that was one of the best grand finals I’ve been involved in.”
Belmont shot out to a 5-0 lead in the top of the second before Toronto added five runs in the space of two pitches to take a 7-5 lead in the third. Moko Moanaroa blasted a grand slam over right field and off the very next pitch Kurt Eden cleared the fence in left field.
“That got us well and truly back in the game,” Norman said. “But Paul Anderson pitched really well through the middle innings to shut us down and minimise our runs. He was the telling factor in the end.”
Anderson allowed nine runs off 12 hits in seven and one third innings and did a great job limiting the damage the strong Toronto batting line-up inflicted.
“They’re a good side. They’ve got some fantastic hitters in that side so we knew it was going to be a big scoring game but I didn’t think it was going to be quite that much. So my pitchers did really well to limit them,” he said.
Norman was proud of his players’ ability to come from behind twice but he admitted there was nothing left in the tank after Belmont’s eighth-inning fireworks.
“We did ourselves proud with what we achieved but I think we just run out of juice in the end,” Norman said.
“We used all our juice in the tank to get back to 9-all. That was the best of us and [after that] they were just too strong for us.”
Harrison rated this victory as the best he had been involved with because of the quality of the team they had to overcome.
“In the six years that I’ve been coach, that team is the best that we’ve played against,” Harrison said after the match.
“And even in that last inning I was somewhat confident but not overly confident that they weren’t going to get the six or seven back.
“We’ve developed a pretty good rivalry against them and there’s quite a bit of respect between the two teams. If it went the other way today I probably wouldn’t have been too disappointed.”
Toronto had more reason to cheer after the second grade decider, prevailing 4-3 in extra-innings over Belmont.
The Tigers claimed the win with two out in the final dig. If Belmont had claimed one more out the two teams would have had to return on Sunday for a grand final replay.