Toronto Tigers break 69-year baseball drought | photos

TORONTO broke their Newcastle Major League title drought in emphatic fashion on Saturday with a 25-11 mauling of Belmont at Waterboard Oval.

The Tigers needed only seven innings to end Belmont’s run of nine straight titles and secure the club’s first top-grade crown after 69 years of trying. 

“That was unbelievable. What a fantastic effort and I’m absolutely proud,” Toronto coach Justin Norman said.

Norman was among the first to rush onto the diamond when relief pitcher Thomas Holland touched first base to secure the final out as players and Tigers fans formed a jubilant pile in the infield.

It was the culmination of a dominant display from the Tigers. Toronto’s nine batters combined for 25 hits, adding to their score each inning to keep the game well out of the Seagulls’ reach.

“I knew our guys had plenty of hits in them, and it was just good that we just put it all together on the one day,” Norman said after the match.

“In grand finals in the past we haven’t put it together on that special day, but today was the day.”

Toronto had a 0-3 grand final record against Belmont, but Norman admitted he could sense in the lead-up to the game that it was going to be a different story this time. 

“There was an air of calmness over the guys. They were very relaxed,” Norman said as players and fans celebrated around him. 

“We had a good preparation during the week and then today we went about our business and got it done.”

The two sides traded runs early and were level at 7-7 after two digs.

But the Tigers blew the game wide open with seven runs in the bottom of the third, which featured a grand slam home run over right field to grand final MVP Moko Moanaroa.

“I said to the guys after the first two innings we’re doing a good job of keeping with them, but it’s time now to put the accelerator down, get in front and don’t look back,” Norman said.

“Obviously from the score line that’s what happened. We didn’t look back. We just kept rolling on.”

All of the Tigers big guns fired as the top five in the order drove in a collective 22 runs.

Moanaroa, brother Boss and Pat Maat were particularly damaging with five RBIs and four hits apiece.

“We hit well. We hit with runners in scoring position, which was good,” Norman said.

“It’s a big field, and we just didn’t try to keep hitting home runs. We knew that ... good hits, one at a time was going to win us the game.”

Belmont coach Duane Harrison was full of praise for his opponents’ batting display and the efforts of Tigers starter Jason McAdam.

McAdam gave up 11 hits and four walks in almost seven innings of work before teenager Holland was brought in for the final out.

“Their pitcher threw very well and their top four or five hitters certainly did the job today,” Harrison said.

“We knew those blokes could hit, and once they started to hit we knew we were in for a bit of a tough afternoon.”

Harrison said the early exit of Belmont ace Tim Cox, who pulled up sore after the second inning and was replaced by Adam Blight in the third, was a decisive moment in the game.

“I think our pitcher coming off in the third inning was a pretty major thing for us,” he said.

“We were looking for him to go six or seven for us today, so for him to come off in the third was a big difference for us.”

The Belmont mentor admitted the weight of Belmont’s remarkable run of recent success, which includes qualifying for 27 straight grand finals, had taken its toll on him this season.

“The pressure for me this year was the 27 … just getting to the grand final,” he said.

“We’ve got a few going this year, so we’re going to have our work cut out for us to get the squad back up there.”

Toronto’s first hosting of grand final day got off to a dream start as the Tigers triumphed 16-0 over Belmont in second grade.