Junior ballers step up to the plate

P2P catcher Luke November dives for a wide pitch.

While most baseballers were enjoying a well-deserved break, the Pole 2 Pole (P2P) invitational side’s young guns were busy on the pitch, taking on German touring side Deutschland Baseball Akademie in an international baseball series, held at various venues across the city.

In the second last match of the series, Milnerton’s Mavericks hosted the sides at Theo Marais Park.

The Pole 2 Pole invitational side consisted of invited players from a number of Cape Town-based sides, with players ranging from 14 to 17 years old.

The visitors were eventually crowned overall champions, winning the series 7-2, with the final match being played on Friday January 6, at Chukka Road’s Varsity Old Boys (VOB) Baseball Club.

Despite being on the losing end, coach Kevin Johnson was impressed with the way his charges performed as there were matches they lost narrowly.

He can also take a number of positives from the series as most of the German players came in with loads of experience, many forming part of the German under-15 side that beat championship hosts the Czech Republic 6-5 in the finals of the European Championships in 2015.

The Pole 2 Pole side started the series with a 16-9 defeat before beating the Germans 26-11 in a high-scoring encounter that had fans glued to their seats. However, they could not continue where they left off and lost 11-6 and 5-4 in their next two encounters. The P2P side then picked up their second victory beating Germany 14-9. They went on to lose their last three encounters 10-7, 23-19 and 15-3.

Johnson said most of his players have never played baseball on an international stage and to get two wins over the Germans was a massive achievement.

“I was surprised at their performances because the majority of them have never played at international tournaments. They outdid themselves, and, if we had more time to train as a team, we would have done much better.

“The purpose of the series was to expose our youth to international baseball and to foster friendships beyond our local borders,” said Johnson, who believes there were certain players that stepped up a gear against the Germans.

“Bellville Tygers’ Marcel Steyn an and VOB’s Naeem Dollie, Lance Gordon, Jesse Johnson and Luke November all had an outstanding series,” he said.

Johnson said the series will hopefully become an annual event to help improve the level of baseball in South Africa after the Germans won in 2014 and 2015 as well.

“Next we hope to compete for the series title. Selection is not only based on merit but we look for players who can cope under pressure at international level. Going forward, we need more competitions like this. The more exposure on the world stage, the better we will become,” he said.

For now, Johnson and the rest of Baseball Association of Western Province will have their eyes set on the upcoming South African Baseball Union’s national championships, set to take place in Johannesburg, in April.

He believes WP will make a clean sweep again this year following their heroics of last year and 2015. All of the final matches were contested between WP and Gauteng last year. The under-12A side set the tone when they beat their northern rivals, 5-3.

The under-15 and under-18 sides followed in their footsteps, winning their respective divisions 5-1 and 10-0 to retain their titles. Their senior counterparts also dominated with WP A, WP B and WP under-23 all in the semi finals. WP A beat WP under-23 10-0 and Gauteng A beat WP B 9-2. WP A were crowned champions, following their 5-0 victory over Gauteng A.

“We hope to make a statement and do well at the upcoming national championships,” said Johnson