Tigers shortstop Dillan McMaster steps up to grand final challenge

YOU DON'T LOSE A GRAND FINAL AT HOME: Dillan McMaster at Waterboard Oval. Picture: Simone De Peak
YOU DON'T LOSE A GRAND FINAL AT HOME: Dillan McMaster at Waterboard Oval. Picture: Simone De Peak

Dillan McMaster is hoping to create history in Saturday’s Newcastle Major League baseball grand final against Belmont at Waterboard Oval.

The 29-year-old shortstop and his Tigers teammates are hoping to secure the first top-grade title in the club's 69-year history.

"That's what has brought us all together. It's something the club has waited for for a very long time," he said.

But being a trailblazer is nothing new for McMaster.

He became the first Maitland junior to triumph in the top grade when he tasted success with Athletics in 2007. Then in 2010 he fulfilled a lifelong dream when he returned to the Mavericks as they stepped up to the region's top competition.

"We didn't do very well, but we got there," McMaster said of Maitland's only foray into first grade.

He is joined at Toronto by three teammates from that year, Kenny and Josh Judge and Zane Stockhausen, who will play in the second-grade final against Belmont.

McMaster, though, has made the shortstop position his own in a breakout season in the top grade. He is equal second in the league, and at Toronto, in runs batted in with 19 and is in the top 10 for batting average (.375).

“Last year wasn’t a great year for me, but this year everything’s just clicked. As I’m getting older I’m getting more confidence. I know the game I can play and I’ve just been stepping up and doing the job I need to do.”

It is a fine effort from one of the lesser lights in a batting line-up boasting two ABL players and a former US minor league slugger.

“We know we have the best team in Newcastle. We just have to trust in ourselves and our ability. In most games every one of us have hit, and that’s a big reason why we are sitting in first place and got home-team advantage.”

But Toronto have been in this position before, falling at the final hurdle three times in the past five seasons, including a heart-breaking 18-12 defeat 12 months ago.

"We went into last year with a lot of confidence," McMaster said. 

“We were thinking, ‘This is our year. We've got this.’ But we made a few errors, and Belmont are the sort of team that make you pay.

“But it’s not going to be 10 [in a row] for them.

“You don’t lose a grand final at your home ground.”