By Jeremy McDonald
LAKE OSWEGO, Ore.– About a week or so ago, I met the boys of the Perth Heat at North Salem’s DeMarini Wood Bat Tournament at Schaefer Stadium.
I thought it was cool that a team comprised of kids from all over the globe. Australia. Dubai, Quatar and Abi Dabi, came together to play baseball in a country some been to, others not.
I, as everyone else in Lake Oswego and Salem did, learned about their culture and lifestyles while learning about the Drop Bear in Australia.
But, this piece is more about these kids than myself.
Their journey started right before that DeMarini Wood Bat Tournament I was talking about, these boys were just learning one another.
Due to the recent rains during Friday’s Tournament opener, though disappointed, gave them some time to grow together off the diamond.
Once one the grass and dirt of Schaefer Stadium that Saturday morning at 8am, the Heat was thrown straight into the gauntlet of adversity of three straight games in one day.
They lost all three of those games.
Instead of rolling over, they knew the talent they had in those games as they entering their fourth game.
Fifth game, victorious. Sixth game, chalk it up as a win for Perth. Before they knew it they were hosting the DeMarini Trophy thanks to four straight wins. Momentum was there as the pressure built with their second week in Oregon.
They continued to face adversity, but the Heat stayed the course. Confidence was building and belief in what they can do was there despite the result.
The Heat enters their second tournament, the 22nd-Annual Firecracker Tournament, one of the most prestigious Tourneys in the Pacific Northwest. The best of the best plays here and the competition is tougher than their previous tournament.
They drop their first game, and their second. But when you talk to them, they know they’re just a play or two away from having a different result. You could feel that this team is right there and you couldn’t help but to see this team succeed.
Josh Duncan pitched a complete game gem that was a shutout, 6-0 to give Perth their first win.
Duncan spoke to the foundation that this team has built to this point in their journey.
“I think it was important for us to have the beginning part in Oregon because it’s such a easy place to handle the stuff outside of baseball,” he said. “So it was easy to come together and form as a team to head into Boise with these harder tournaments to work together and win games.”
Jacob Rizio, who had a big game batting as well, addressed the foundation they are slowly building entering their next challenge after the Firecracker Tournament.
“I think it’s a good foundation, we’re getting more at-bats, getting ready for (those) hard games to come in Boise. So we’ll bring it there,” he said. “I think we progressed pretty well coming from not knowing anyone to working together as a team, we get through hard times together.”
In their final day, they had another adversity test against a tough Salem school in McNary. Well Keizer, a small suburb town just to the North of Oregon’s Capital, but tough nonetheless.
The Perth Heat played strong against McNary to end the Firecracker Tournament, the Celtics just found the gaps to build a 6-0 lead by the bottom of the second inning.
The Heat picks two up off error, this team has faced this adversity before.
Unlucky plays got McNary back on the board; but this team stayed the course, they had the belief that they are always in it to win it.
Great plays in the infield led by Matt Sproule and the outfield led by Minami ‘Mini’ Matsumoto in Center Field.
Pitcher Hamish “Hammer” Foreman got hit by a line drive that brought him to the ground in the seventh inning, but like a heavyweight boxer battling for the Title, he got up and finished the inning.
“We came out and swung the bats pretty well after that, so maybe that helped, I don’t know. I was a bit out of it afterwards to be perfectly honest. It did hit me hard, it hurt,” Foreman said with a smile.
Though the final read 8-2, you could tell that Perth was in this one until the end. The electric was there, it was bubbling to the top and waiting to go off. By just looking at these guys, you know that this game just adds gasoline to the fire within.
“It’s good to see that there’s a lot of heart that’s really good,” said Sproule. “Obviously with this last loss, confidence isn’t as high as we’ll like going into our next tournament but I got a good feeling that we can piece it together really well.”
Moving forward as they enjoy the river Monday before splitting up the trip to Boise, Idaho for their next big test, the foundation is laid for them to continue to build on moving on with their voyage in America and Head Coach Steve Fish knows how far his team has came to this point.
“I like it a lot, we got some kids who are just starting to learn the game and with the experience they’re getting, they’re going to be much better off when they get back to their respective countries or respective states in Australia,” said Fish.
“So it’s really a learning experience, we’ve made several mistakes but at the end of the day, I just ask these kids to learn from these mistakes and try not to make those mistakes again.”
Duncan added something that Coach Fish told them during the Post-Game Meeting following the McNary team on things to improve on entering Boise.
“As Fish said we need to work on our emotions, but as a team, as friends we’re coming together pretty well,” said Duncan. “I’m looking forward to Boise but we need to improve on our emotions and how to manage them during a game.”
As the boys move on, for me, I’ll stay behind and watch this team’s journey through Facebook. Perth, it’s been an honor to have watched and befriend you guys. Best of luck with the rest of your guy’s journey and safe travels!