Wollongong Cardinals fired up their bats during their preliminary final win over Northern Pirates on Saturday, a complete turnaround last week’s drubbing at the hands of Eagles.
With the Red Birds leading 12-3 going into the bottom of the eighth, Cards’ leadoff hitter Nathan Grogan enacted the last rites on Pirates season, belting a solo home run over the left field fence to end the game and book one last shot against premiers Berkeley in the big dance.
Earlier in the day officials were left scrambling to relocate both the second and first grade fixtures after an overnight deluge rendered both Dalton Park and Cringila Fields unplayable. Fortunately, Ison Park South Nowra and the Shoalhaven Mariners Club were given the opportunity to host its first ever finals game.
Pirates got off to the worst possible start after two dropped catches and a throwing error saw Cards score five unanswered runs and in the box seat for the match. Back-to-back home runs from Cards' and Blue Sox stars Alex Howe and Josh Dean extended their lead to seven runs before Pirates were able to plate their first opportunity after Paul Cuthbertson's sacrifice fly brought home Kyle Dutton at the top of the third.
Cardinals' starting pitcher Alex Osborne also did his best to keep his side in control providing five quality innings for just four hits and three earned runs as well as chiming in with two hits from four at bats. Daniel Moss, Scott Sartori as well as Howe and Grogan all had multi-hit games with Josh Dean’s 3 runs-batted-in (RBIs) leading all comers.