The Sydney University Baseball Club, or the ‘Cynics’ as they’re fondly known, competed at the 2017 Hong Kong International Baseball Open during December. The 12-man squad was invited to the tournament as a stand-alone club rather than as an Australian representative team.
The squad was a mixture of youth and experience, with 15 year Cynics veteran, and club President, Wade Shipard included in the playing squad. First up, two-time champions and tournament favourites, Ateneo University, hailing from the Philippines.
The Cynics went down 12-7 to Ateneo, but displayed their title ambitions by scoring strong runs early. The boys from Sydney were unable to withstand the experience, and strong hitting performance from Ateneo, however it was a good opportunity to dust off the cobwebs. Mitch Liddle was outstanding during the match, hitting a triple, and a double as well as putting on a pitching clinic for the opposition and the spectators.
Primed for a second match victory, Uni were slow out of the blocks, pulling off a come-from-behind win against China’s Lanzhou New Way. Fortune was clearly on the students’ side as the baseball gods guided them to a clinching 6-4 victory. The Cynics’ championship hopes were still alive. It was an especially important win as it was their maiden victory on international soil. President Shipard was a standout, pitching for the games entirety, striking out 11 batters, and allowing zero walks, while Mitch Liddle continued his red-hot form tying the game in the 6th inning with a double. This would be the catalyst for strong batting performances from James Gray and Ben Warnock, which steered the men to the winner’s circle.
With the wind in their sails, the Cynics approached their final pool game ready to rumble. Their opponents: Hong Kong Blue, an Under 18’s national representative team. The boys in navy blue and gold didn’t trail at any stage of the match, winning 11-7, booking their spot in the Championship game. Nicholas Doller demonstrated some freakish fielding, drawing awed gasps from the crowd at various stages of the match, while Andrew Franklin was flawless with the bat for the whole match.
Finishing the pool games with two wins and one loss, the Cynics qualified for a shot at the tournament title. They would face their pool rivals, Ateneo University, in the big dance. Despite taking an early lead, the Sydney-siders couldn’t hold out another strong performance from Ateneo. The boys from the Philippines capitalised on the Cynics’ errors in a tightly contested match.
The final score: 10-4. Settling for a silver medal, the boys walked away with their heads held high as there were a number positives derived from the match. Despite some competitive banter between the two sides, both teams shook hands after the match, and hit the town together later that evening, with the Cynics’ Australian gregariousness being enjoyed by all. While the Sydney Uni Baseball Club may have fallen one hurdle short of their initial goal, competing comfortably at a tournament of such a high standard is no mean feat in itself. Since returning from the tour, Shipard says the group has been
“in constant contact”, continuing to share stories and laughs from their week in Hong Kong. This can only be a good thing as the club prepares for the upcoming season, with team cohesion being a crucial element for success. “Often the best parts of a sporting trip are off the field: bus rides to and from games, team dinners, and developing a hilarious lingo of slang and nicknames that makes no sense at all when you return back to the real world,” Shipard said. After his performance on tour, Mitch Liddle is set to have a big 2018 season for the Cynics, being voted Sydney University’s MVP of the tournament, leading everyone in the pool for total bases and slugging.
The Cynics have been invited back to Hong Kong for the2018 International Baseball Open tournament, and plan to send a stronger squad so they can go one better a second time around and win the championship. However, before of that they have their regular competition in the Sydney any Winter Baseball League, commencing in April.