Sydney University claimed the Silver Medal in the Club Pool of the 2017 Hong Kong International Baseball Open (HKIBO 2017). Their appearance also marked two milestones: the club's first ever foray overseas; and the first team from Australia to compete in the tournament.
HKIBO 2017 was held from Dec 14th - 17th, and a squad of twelve Cynics went to Hong Kong equipped with peacock hand signs (the totem animal for the tour), and audible play signals cryptically based on Australian cricketers and politicians (e.g. Shane Warne, Kevin Rudd); ready to take on the rest of Asia.
Thu 14 Dec: Opening Ceremony, Sai Tso Wan Ground
Upon arriving at Sai Tso Wan Recreation Ground, Sydney Uni were immediately impressed with the professionalism of the tournament organisers and the high quality of the facilities.
The team were warmly welcomed by the HKBA Executives, and pleasantly surprised to greet Chairman Felix Yip, Sydney Uni alum and father of Angus, a former player for the Cynics.
The Cynics were also honoured to be represented by another Sydney alumnus for the ceremonial first pitch, Damien Dunn, Consul from the Australian Consulate-General in Hong Kong.
The Opening Ceremony commenced after the players lined up, with their team name and country of origin announced before they marched onto the field. Hearing "Sydney University, Australia" was truly a thrill and a proud moment in the club's history.
Following a number of speeches and a dance performance, it was finally time to play some baseball!
Thu 14 Dec: Game 1 vs Ateneo University (Philippines)
Sydney Uni lost 12-7 their opening game to Ateneo University, two-time champions and pre-tournament favourites.
The Cynics quickly demonstrated their title ambitions, putting on 2 runs in the top of the 1st innings; but could not withstand a strong hitting performance from Ateneo.
After being assigned the top seed first up, Ben Cobb pitched valiantly and without luck, better than the scoreline and stats indicated.
Mitch Liddle (3 Hits, 1 RBI) did it all for the Cynics, hitting a triple and a double, and pitching a breaking ball clinic in relief (5 IP, 2 ER, 4 K).
Thu 14 Dec: Tatonka Appreciation Night
As tradition dictates, the Cynics wore ties to dinner for Tatonka Appreciation Night. Under Bridge Spicy Crab restaurant in Causeway Bay were tremendous hosts, tolerating rambunctiousness and keeping the beverages flowing.
Despite entirely misreading the dress code for the evening, Sam Collins was best-attired in a Hello Kitty apron with matching pink umbrella.
To obtain a feel for the city and get amongst the people, the team then embarked on a 7-Eleven crawl from Causeway Bay to Wan Chai; the most cost-efficient fridge-to-fridge in HK. Given an early, and must-win game the following morning, the Cynics mostly kept their powder dry that evening.
Fri 15 Dec: Game 2 vs Lanzhou New Way (China)
Sydney Uni came from behind for a 6-4 win over Lanzhou New Way; to secure the club's maiden victory on international soil.
Powering the offense, Mitch Liddle (2 Hits, 3 RBI) tied the game in the 6th inning with a double, then James Gray (2 H, 2 RBI) drove in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 7th; Ben Warnock (2 H) also doubled.
Wade Shipard (9 IP, 3 ER, 11K) pitched a complete game for the win, striking out 11 batters and allowing zero walks.
Spectators were treated to a resounding rendition of the club song following the victory!
Fri 15 Dec: Tight & Bright Night
Buoyed by their first victory (and a late game the next day), the Cynics descended upon the town in Tight & Bright outfits. It is conservatively estimated they were the subjects of 10,000 photos on their commute via the Star Ferry and through Central to Lan Kwai Fong.
Stuart Wright was MVP in a 3/4 leotard and fluoro zebra leg warmers. To ensure the Cynics maintained peak physical condition while they were hydrating, Stuart also ran four aerobics classes in the middle of LKF. Many locals and punters joined the free sessions; but struggled with the more complex moves: the Possum, the Cranklin and the Trailer Park. Stab! Build!
Sat 16 Dec: Game 3 vs Hong Kong Blue
Sydney Uni never trailed in an 11-7 win over Hong Kong Blue, where both teams let their sticks do the talking with 29 combined hits. The victory put the Cynics into the Championship game the following day.
James Gray (6 IP, 3 ER, 4 K), University Gold and now ex-pat, made an overdue return to the mound in Cynics' colours to collect the win.
Nicholas Doller made the play of the day, with a ballistic throw from centre-field to double off a runner at 1st; drawing awed gasps from the crowd.
Andrew Franklin (4 Hits, 1 RBI) was flawless with the bat, accompanied by Anthony Palmer (3 H, 1 RBI), Sonny Butterworth (2 H, 1 RBI) and Ben Warnock (2 H).
Sun 17 Dec: Championship vs Ateneo University
Sydney Uni lost 10-4 in the Club Championship Game to claim the Silver Medal; but threatened throughout the contest.
The Cynics were on top early, up 1-0 after 3 innings, and had a chance to get out of the 4th before surrendering the lead. Later, they got the tying run to the plate in the top of the 8th but couldn't capitalise. Ultimately errors doomed them in the bottom of the frame to seal a final score that didn't match the tight contest.
Wade Shipard (5 IP, 6 ER, 1 K) started on 1 day's rest and deserved to finish his outing conceding only one run. Nick Doller (3 IP, 0 ER, 1K) was excellent in relief, keeping Sydney Uni within striking distance.
Ben Warnock (2 H) made it a hat-trick of multi-hit games and doubles were crushed by both Lachlan Arford (2 H) and Anthony Palmer (2 H, 1 RBI).
Andrew Franklin and Stuart Wright each made sparkling diving catches in the outfield, both commended on the HKIBO Facebook page.
Sun 17 Dec: The Peak, Hong Kong Island
Despite the loss, the Cynics were in good spirits after a successful week on, and off the field. Never to waste a photo opportunity whilst conspicuously dressed, the team scaled The Peak in full baseball uniform straight after the Championship game.
Surveying the vastness of Hong Kong, the team reflected on their achievement, hopeful that a new annual tradition had been established for the club. The feeling was unanimous that Sydney Uni could go one better and win the tournament the following year.
Sun 17 Dec: Presentation Dinner, Panda Hotel, Tsuen Wan
The Presentation Dinner officially closed the tournament, where Sydney Uni received their Silver Medals and Runner-Up Trophy for the Club Pool.
Mitch Liddle received Sydney Uni MVP for an exceptional week, hitting .412 AVG, .706 SLG, .474 OBP, including 3 doubles and 1 triple. Mitch led the tournament for Total Bases and Slugging.
The highlight of the evening was celebrating with all of the other players, officials and umpires, continuing the great sportsmanship that underpinned the tournament.
Details of the official hotel room after-party and the early morning festivities that continued in Wan Chai are sketchy at best.
Sydney University Baseball wishes to thank the individuals and associations that made our participation possible:
- Nicky To, Nelson Lam, Winnie Leung, Dr. Felix Yip and the Hong Kong Baseball Association.
- David Hynes, Cam Vale, Glenn Williams, Miranda Frisken and Baseball Australia.
- Eleni Valos, Laura Hanlon and Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness.
- Gozar Images, Vincent Fotografia and Sports Image Plus.
- Vivien Choy, honorary Cynic!