Latrobe Valley baseball hits off

The International Power GDF Suez Latrobe Valley Baseball Association season will get underway this weekend.

The match of the round will be Churchill and Traralgon at Andrews Park, being the battle between last season’s premiers and former premiers that are keen to wrestle back the shield.

While clubs play each other four times during the home and away season, each of these Churchill and Traralgon matches will be keenly contested with a fifth encounter a strong possibility on 9 September, grand final day.

Churchill, however, will go into this week’s match missing its ace in Grant Irving.

Irving has come off a magnificent summer pitching for Blackburn in the Division 1 Summer League, including starting in game two of the grand final series against Essendon.

Irving is in the United States for a month honing his baseball skills before returning to the Braves for the remainder of the season.

Churchill however still has the capable left-handed pitcher Matt Prior, and a strong batting line-up.

Commenting on the game this weekend, Prior said he was looking forward to the contest.

“I know that Churchill and Traralgon have stacks of players,” Prior said.

“Everyone in Churchill is behind our club – and behind the sport.

“There is always good-natured rivalry between the clubs.”

Traralgon coach Luke Hornstra, coming straight off a season with the Bonbeach Blue Jays, was equally optimistic coming into the season.

“Our club has ambitions to grow the player numbers and improve our playing facilities,” he said.

With Andy Matthews and Owen Godenzi returning to the Redsox this season, the 15-time LVBA A grade premiers will be tough to beat throughout the season.

Traralgon has taken out the cricket pitch at Kevin Lythgo Park, turning its field into a full-time baseball reserve which will further enhance the club moving.

At Toners Lane, the improving Morwell Cougars host the Moe-Newborough Dodgers.

Morwell, coming off an inspiring performance in the Gippsland Championships last week against Sale, will be led by their summer league baseballers, Lachlan Banks who plays for Moorabbin and Martin Kennedy who suits up for Berwick.

The enthusiasm around the Cougars has been infectious with an incredible amount of work up to and during the Gippsland Championships last week that allowed them to show off the vastly improved facilities to the numerous baseballers who visited.

Club president Darren Flanigan was impressed with Kennedy.

“Kennedy has been playing for us since his junior days, with the commitment that he has shown to the sport and to our club, driving all the way from the other side of Wonthaggi to play and train each week is simply incredible,” Flanigan said.

“His commitment in infectious and we look forward to the entire club following his lead in his new role as club coach.”

The Dodgers’ pre-season has been quieter; however, their experienced list played well in the Gippsland Championships last week, and will once again be a force to be reckoned with this season.

Having tied with Traralgon last week and only going down by one run to eventual finalists Berwick, the Dodgers have depth in their squad including some very young promising players, highlighted last week with Dale Simpson taking out the fielding award for his good work in several positions.

The Dodgers have long prided themselves on a strong junior setup and this continues to bare fruit for the club.

The improving Sale Rangers outfit has the bye in round one.

Under 16 and tee ball games commence at 9am at both venues, followed by under 13 games from 11am and B grade from 11.30am, with the afternoon games of A grade and C grade from 2pm.