23 July, 2022

Oh so close at national softball titles

CABOOLTURE softballer Graham Jones was left to wonder what might have been, after being part of the Queensland team which came desperately close to winning the Over 35 Men’s National Championship at Ipswich.

Oh so close at national softball titles - feature photo

History shows that New South Wales defeated Queensland 6-5 in the grand final, but Jones (pictured) and his Maroons teammates briefly thought they had secured the title.

The Maroons went from euphoric to gutted in a very short space of time, after NSW’s coach questioned a decision which led to the umpire changing his ruling.

Queensland was left with the runner-up title rather than the winning title, and the Maroons could only think of redemption next year.

Jones nonetheless achieved a career highlight as he represented Queensland for the first time.

“It now is the highlight to put on the maroon top,” he said.

Jones said he “100 percent” enjoyed the tournament and that “it was truly a different ball game when you put on the maroon jersey”.

“The feeling was very overwhelming to start with knowing that I was representing the state,” he said.

The Maroons repeatedly trounced Australian Capital Territory (9-1, 23-6 and 18-8) and NSW Invitational (17-1, 15-6 and 13-0), while having decidedly mixed results against arch-rival NSW.

Queensland beat NSW 7-5 on the first day, before NSW won the next two encounters 17-0 and 7-5.

Queensland was too good for NSW in the semi-final, with the Maroons winning 10-3 before the tense and somewhat controversial decider unfolded.

“I think our success was just the way the team pulled together when needed,” Jones said.

Jones, who usually plays at catcher or third base for his club teams Caboolture Comets (winter) and Renegades (Redcliffe in summer), played a mix of catcher, first base, second base and right field at the national championship.

In Queensland’s first game against NSW, Jones scored the tying run to keep the Maroons in the contest and enable the next batter to help win the game.

“Some games were very tough games to play and others were a bit of a blowout, but overall still competitive,” Jones said.

Jones said the level of competition was “heaps faster and more competitive” than what he had faced at club level.

The deciding match featured a number of what-ifs, Jones saying, “If only the ball was fair, we would have won 7 to 6.”

Jones described the grand final-deciding situation, saying it was the bottom of the ninth, with one out while there were runners on the first and second.

“Batter hits the ball right up third baseline, (and the) plate umpire signals fair ball, (and) the ball rolls to the corner of leftfield fence,” he said.

“The runner from second scores the runner rounds third slides into home. Queensland wins.

“But the NSW coach comes out and questions the fair ball call, (then) the umpires get together, have a conference and the third base umpire says the ball was foul.

“Everyone goes back, and the next two batters strike out. NSW win. Nooooo...

“It was very intense going from such a high of winning to have a call changed then losing.”

Jones said it was disappointing to fall short.

“Now we just have to beat them next year on their home grounds in Blacktown, NSW,” he said.

Jones said he hoped to have the chance to play again next year, and was starting to save money just in case.

“The expense next year will be a lot more (with flights and accommodation),” he said.

“Everyone in the team is biting at the bit to win the title back.”


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