In the second edition of the Australian Women's Baseball Showcase, the Victoria Aces proved to be the strongest side at the Geelong Baseball Centre, beating the Brisbane Bandits 7-4 in the Grand Final.
After the success of last year's event at Bennett Field in Adelaide where the Adelaide Giants and Brisbane Bandits played a four-game series, the Australian Women's Baseball Showcase returned, this time with Geelong as the host city, and a new team added into the mix - the Victoria Aces - as the country's top stars, and rising prospects showcased their talent.
The three teams played each other twice throughout the first three days of the tournament, with the Grand Final taking place on day four. At the conclusion of the regular return fixture, the Bandits and Aces were the two top-ranked sides and would battle it out for silverware.
The path to the Grand Final began when play got underway on Thursday afternoon, with the Aces and Giants kicking off proceedings, the former prevailing 4-1 after getting out to an early lead.
The resulting Aces win was helped by Abbey McLellan's two hits, each going the distance and clearing the fence, with Bronwyn Gell also connecting on a long ball, and Genevieve Beacom (three innings, one hit, five strikeouts, one run) and Allie Bebbere (two innings, three hits, one strikeout, zero runs) combining on the mound.
For the Giants, four individual batters got a hit, but it was Carly Moore who scored the side's lone score with a home run. Ayami Sato lead the way for the team on the mound, pitching four innings for four hits, two strikeouts and three earned runs.
The Aces had back-to-back games to complete the first day, taking on the Bandits and finished the day undefeated, winning 14-11 in a high-scoring affair, always having an answer to their opponents offensive power.
Yuuki Ishikawa and Jordan Richardson each had two-hit games, which included a double to Ishikawa for the Bandits with Elodie O'Sullivan bringing in three runs. In the middle, Alexane Fournier got the start and lasted 0.2 innings, giving up one hit, seven walks, and eight runs. Claire Eccles (0.2 innings, two hits, five walks, one strikeout, six runs) and Amanda Torrington (1.2 innings, zero hits, five walks, one strikeout, zero runs) were steady in relief.
The Aces had Morgan Doty, Shae Lillywhite, and Chelsea Forkin each record a hit, with Doty hitting a grand slam to cap off the side's first innings onslaught. Abbey Kelly was handed the ball at the start of the game and gave up four hits, one walk, and five earned runs before Gabby Bevan replaced her, Bevan pitching three innings for four hits, two walks, and one earned run.
To begin day two of the Australian Women's Baseball Showcase, it was Adelaide up against Brisbane, with the latter coming back from an early three-run deficit to win 11-5, thanks to an 11-run stretch between the second and fourth innings.
Kaila Borgomastro, Allison Schroder, and Jordan Richardson each had two-hit outings for the Bandits, with the latter two going deep during the encounter. With the ball, Laura Needs made it though 3.1 innings, giving up seven hits, one walk, and four earned runs, with three strikeouts, before Shiori Hoshino pitched 0.2 innings, giving up one hit, one walk, and zero runs, with one strikeout.
For the Giants, Yukina Azumi, Jessica Maslin, and Gemma Letton each had two hits with Azumi recording a double, two RBIs and a run. Caitlin Eynon pitched 2.2 innings for seven hits, two walks, four earned runs, with three strikeouts before Maddison Erwin came in, giving up four hits, one walk, two earned runs, with two strikeouts, in relief.
In the final game of day two, it saw Victoria and Adelaide do battle in a tight encounter, in which a four-run third inning to Adelaide saw the side prevail in a 4-0 shutout victory.
For the victors, Ayami Sato and Jessica Maslin each recorded a hit, with Soto going deep into left field for a grand slam, which would prove the difference in the contest. Mizuki Bando pitched the entire five innings, giving up five hits, five walks, and zero runs, as well as striking out eight opposition batters.
For the Aces, Abbey McLellan recorded two hits, as Morgan Doty, Chelsea Forkin, and Abbey Kelly had one hit each. Jess Johnson was the side's pitcher, throwing four innings and giving up two hits, one walk, four runs, and finding two strikeouts.
The final day of regular games at the Australian Women's Baseball Showcase saw Victoria and Brisbane up first, a game which the latter won 12-2, courtesy of a six-run first inning, and a five-run third inning.
Ticara Geldenhais and Claire O'Sullivan each totalled three hits for the game, with Allison Schroder, Jordan Richardson, and Shiori Hoshino collecting two hits apiece. Schroder hit two home runs in the contest, while Geldenhuis, Richardson, and O'Sullivan cleared the fence also. Yuuki Ishikawa (four innings, six hits, two runs, one strikeout) and Claire Eccles (one inning, zero hits, zero runs, two strikeouts) pitched for the Giants.
For the Aces, Chelsea Forkin and Abbey Kelly had two hits each, with Morgan Doty and Abbey McLellan each finding a hit too, with Doty one of the side's run-scorers after hitting a ball over the fence for a solo home run with Forkin the other scoring run. Allie Bebbere (four hits, two walks, six runs) had the starting duties, as Maddy Patrick (1.2 innings, four hits, one run) and Gabby Bevan (2.1 innings, seven hits, five runs, one strikeout) came in as relief.
The final game of the day, and the one that would decide the teams who would contest for the silverware the following day, it was the Bandits who beat the Giants 7-1, again erasing an early deficit, helped by a five-run second inning.
The Bandits found hits through five individual players with Jordan Richardson scoring twice, and Hannah Marshall and Allison Schroder each tallying two RBIs. On the pitching front, Schroder was presented with the ball first, going through four innings and giving up one hit, three walks and zero earned runs, with six strikeouts before Shiori Hoshino finished things off, pitching one inning for one hit, one walk and zero runs.
Grace Spano and Gemma Letton had one hit each for the Giants, with Letton scoring on a Caitlin Eynon RBI. Chloe Jones (two hits, two walks, four earned runs, one strikeout) lasted one inning on the mound before Ayami Sato (three hits, one walk, one earned run, three strikeouts) came in.
After finishing top-two in the standings, the Brisbane Bandits and Victoria Aces line up for the Australian Women's Baseball Showcase Grand Final, which saw the latter secure the championship, 7-4, in five innings.
After a scoreless first frame, Victoria got on the board first at the top of the second innings through a Morgan Doty home run, however, after three walks and a single to start Brisbane's bottom half, the scores were tied when Jordan Richardson scored. Brisbane then got in front when Yuuki Ishikawa crossed home plate.
The third inning went by without a change to the scores before each team scored one apiece throughout their respective fourth innings on offence. However, at the top of the fifth is when the Aces put their bats to work, recording five runs as the side recorded six singles, as well as a sacrifice fly, and a bases-loaded hit by pitch, helped bring more runs in.
A lead-off home run for the Bandits from Richardson at the bottom of the fifth inning signalled the intent to keep the game alive and a walk to Meaghan Haggart made things more interesting, however, a pop-out saw the Bandits down one, before the Aces turned a double-play to end the game, and clinch the championship.
Chelsea Forkin and Taylah Welch (two runs) had two hits each for the Aces, with five fellow batters recording one hit, with Doty (two RBIs, two runs) going deep in the second innings. Genevieve Beacom was Victoria's starter, going through four innings and giving up three hits, four walks, and three runs, along with four strikeouts before Jess Johnson (one inning, one hit, one walk, one run) took over to close out the game.
For Brisbane, Jordan Richardson tallied two hits, including a fifth-inning home run as she scored twice, while Allison Schroder and Yuuki Ishikawa collected one hit each. The Bandits used five pitchers all up in the Grand Final, with Laura Needs (one inning, two hits, one run) getting the start before Shiori Hoshino, Claire Eccles, Jordan Richardson, and Amanda Torrington helped out through the remaining innings.
The Australian Women's Baseball Showcase provides another step towards launching a professional women's baseball league in Australia, with four organisations - the Adelaide Giants, Brisbane Bandits, Baseball Victoria, and the Canberra Cavalry - each having been granted provisional licenses.
In 2020, Baseball Victoria began seeking donations and set upA League Of Her Own, with the current donated tally (as of March 1 2022) sitting at $31,176.