Dapto Chiefs will defend their Illawarra baseball premiership against Wests Cardinals, after Chiefs catcher Mitch Thompson blasted four hits in a 7-4 victory over Kiama Braves in yesterday's final at Hector Harvey Park.
Thompson, battling a broken thumb and sore hamstring, smashed three RBIs, including two triples to spearhead Chiefs into the best-of-three grand final series against Cards, beginning Saturday at Fred Finch Park.
Chiefs had Ben Garvey and Dean Leighton unavailable against Braves, while regular catcher Troy Green was injured, leaving Thompson to step in behind the plate.
Thompson smashed a triple with his first two at-bats, then a crucial two-out, 2RBI double in the seventh delivering Chiefs a match-winning 7-3 lead.
Thompson also made a spectacular running catch to blunt a Braves comeback in the seventh, injuring his "good" hamstring in the process.
"I've had a bad hammy and hurt the other one with that play but it was worth it," Thompson said.
"I found a few gaps with the bat; it was great to contribute."
With several key players unavailable, injured or battling injury Chiefs coach Dom D'Antonio feared the worst after Braves scored two runs in the first innings.
"I thought we'd need an ambulance because we were dead and buried," D'Antonio said.
"We hung in there, Mitch was fantastic; Tyson Graham who wasn't 100 per cent threw nine innings and every player responded."
Twelve months ago D'Antonio was emotional after Chiefs beat Braves to claim their first top-grade premiership since 2001, but he rated this victory more special.
Braves player-coach Jamie Simon threw eight innings (14 hits) in what he signalled pre-match would be his retirement game if Kiama lost.
Simon has been Illawarra baseball's dominant pitcher for two decades, winning premierships with several clubs and leading Braves to a grand final and preliminary final in his two seasons.
Meanwhile, Cardinals are into the grand final in the top three grades, but their opponent in the second grade match has yet to be confirmed.
Chiefs beat Pirates 7-5 yesterday, but Pirates have appealed claiming the game was called 15 minutes early.
Cardinals beat Braves 15-9 in third grade and face Pirates in the decider.
In the minor league, Pirates take on Panthers (fourth grade) with Panthers facing Braves in the fifth grade grand final.