By Parker McKenzie
Upwey Ferntree Gully Baseball Club rode an incredible twelve-game unbeaten streak to end the season with a Division One premiership, one of Victorian baseball’s highest achievements.
Vice-chairman Chris Lind said it had been 20 years since the club had won the premiership.
“10 years ago some of us players took over the running of the club and it’s been 10 years that the work has been going on,” he said.
“Finally, against pretty much all odds, we have eliminated the premiership of the Premier League this year.”
The club won Division One Baseball Victoria’s summer season after winning their first playoff series 2-0 against Waverly Baseball Club, followed by a big final win against Essendon Baseball Club with the same result on Sunday, May 22.
Player-coach Donovon Hendricks said the season had been a huge success despite a slow start.
“We started off with a bit of an irregular start; we would win one, lose one, win one and then lose one again,” he said.
“We probably started the pre-season with real hopes of being finalists after losing the semi-final last year. We started the pre-season a bit earlier, with really ambitious goals to get back to the final .
Hendricks, who once played with MLB team the Atlanta Braves, said the team returned from the Christmas mid-season hiatus motivated by the fact that they would need to win every game to keep their hopes in the final.
“If we gave up any more games, we would probably be out of the game mathematically,” he said.
“We went on a 12-game winning streak from that point on. I’ve been in baseball for a long time and in this league for 21 years as a player. I have never seen anything like it.
“Being the coach and witnessing it was something really special.”
Upwey Ferntree Gully Baseball Club was founded in 1963 and is based in Kings Park, Upper Ferntree Gully.
Hendricks said the club hopes to do better next year and win the Victoria Club Championships.
“It’s a points system for essentially the strongest club in Victoria. We finished second to Essendon Baseball Club this season,” he said.
“It takes into account all the members of your senior planning group, the number of wins they get throughout the year and the most wins in the league win the championships. We aspire to this kind of success in our club.
The club bounced back from a difficult few years after being relegated, making the Premiership’s victory a special moment for the club.
Hendricks said Upwey Ferntree Gully Baseball Club is in a strong position, although he is unsure if this proves baseball is growing in Victoria or if the club’s recent success has had an influence.
“We went from four teams last year to six this year. We also grew up in our junior department, so in our region it’s pretty strong,” he said.
“I guess that’s an indication when you talk about the success of clubs. If your club is in a very good position and in a strong position with good coaching and a good environment, then you will see the growth.
“Overall I would say baseball is in a good position, it’s making progress to be in a better position. There’s no doubt that it’s probably not where it was in years gone by.
Upwey Ferntree Gully runs programs and participates in competitions ranging from junior baseball and T-ball to senior men’s and women’s competitions and masters baseball.
You can find more information about the club at www.upweyftgbaseballclub.com