Wests Cardinals booked their spot into this year’s Illawarra Baseball League first grade grand final after they overpowered Northern Pirates 13-3 in just seven innings at Thomas Dalton Park.
All the momentum was with Wests going into the preliminary final, after their 12-nil shut out over Dapto Chiefs the previous week, while the minor premiers were pummeled by Berkeley Eagles in the major semi-final, losing 19-8. Cards continued Pirates' pain, knocking in three runs in the first inning after loading the bases.
A two-out triple from Dean Kontopolous over the outstretched glove of the Bucs' right fielder Jesse Lynch cleared the bases to give the Red Birds the perfect start. Pirates on the other hand struggled to make contact against Cardinals' ace Alex Osborne who controlled the game striking out 10, conceding just two hits and two walks.
Pirates would also rue the missed opportunity not to score on Kyle Dutton's triple in the third innings.
A run scored on an infield error gifted Cards their fourth run in the fourth then a combination of walks and hits cost Pirates dearly with Cardinals scoring nine runs in the next two innings to take a strangle hold of the game. The Pirates' hitters finally found a spark in the seventh, scoring three runs off Cards' closer Sam Rada but it proved too little too late. Cards' offence was led by Scott Sartori who went 4-5 including a double and two RBI’s, while Nathan Grogan and Murray Lugg both had two hits.
In the lower grades, Pirates had one thing to celebrate defeating Cardinals 4-nil on the back of Kieran Harris' pitching gem. They will play Shoalhaven Mariners in the grand final. Mariners had the wood on Pirates in third grade winning 9-3 and will play Cardinals, breaking a six-year run of premiership wins for the northerners.
Fourth Grade will see Shellharbour Warriors take on Dapto Panthers.
Fifth grade sees Cardinals play Panthers while the surging Pirates will play Warriors in sixth grade. All grand finals will be played at Fred Finch Berkeley this weekend.