By Lance Jenkinson
Sunshine Eagles left it late to dispose of a plucky Melbourne Demons in the Baseball Victoria summer league division 1.
The Eagles were on top all day, but could not ram home the advantage until a four-run eighth inning secured a 7-2 win on the road on Saturday.
Eagles coach Stuart Clayton said his side remained calm even with a fragile one-run lead entering the eighth.
“We felt pretty good all game,” Clayton said.
“It was one of those games where we had a heap of base runners and just didn’t get them over.
“The opposition are a good young side and they’re going to be alright in a few years, so it was good to eventually come away with the win.”
With an important three game series coming up against Essendon, Sunshine decided to use all four of its pitchers in shorter bursts.
Riley Barr started on the mound for two innings, Griffin Weir and Adam Irons threw in middle relief for two innings each and Jeremy Young closed out the game with the final three innings.
It was a strategy that worked to perfection with the only runs conceded coming off Weir and Young.
“That was a pre-game plan,” Clayton said.
“We’ve got all fresh pitchers for the upcoming series against Essendon.
“They’ve got three good pitchers Essendon, so it’s going to be a competitive three-game series no doubt.”
Young continues to impress as Sunshine’s closer.
Last year’s MVP has been slightly down with his numbers in the batters box, but his pitching has proven invaluable late in games.
“He’s a superstar that guy,” Clayton said.
“He was the league MVP last year and he just gets it done for you.
“He hasn’t been hitting as well this year, but we’ve had to move him around the order.
“He’s a gamer, he strives to do the best he can each week.” Sunshine had contributions from top to bottom of their batting order.
The stand out player over the past two weeks has been Russell Letts, who got hit by pitches twice to go with a hit on Saturday and got hit by a pitch the previous week too.
“I actually asked the umpire today, ‘does he stand right on the plate?’ and he said ‘no, it’s one of those things where the pitch just happens to go towards him’,” Clayton said.
The other dominant Sunshine batter was Josh Byrne, who had three hits.
Byrne’s form in the new year has been the icing on the cake for one of the Eagles top outfielders.
“Before Christmas, he was struggling with the bat, but his outfielding is very good, he runs the balls down really well,” Clayton said.
“Now he’s coming along and hitting the ball pretty good the last couple of games, so that’s a bonus.”
Sunshine will head into the Essendon series keen on preserving their spot on top of the ladder.