The Orange Raiders are hitting their straps at the right time.
After claiming first and second place at the Higgy’s Sevens Tournament a fortnight ago, the Raiders have claimed back-to-back wins to guarantee themselves a spot in the Shane Wright Memorial Baseball Competition finals.
Not a bad result considering it’s the Raiders’ first season back in existence.
The Raiders’ last-round win over the Bathurst Phantoms belonged to pitcher Glenn Murphy, who gave up just two runs, six hits and three walks as he pitched all five innings. He also secured seven strike-outs.
In less than favourable conditions – the mercury edged toward 40 degrees, and the strong winds made it extremely testing – the Phantoms made the early break, registering a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
The Raiders hit back immediately, with Will Currall, Jason Gangaram and Craig Sugden – who was recently coaxed out of retirement – crossing the plate to give their side a 3-1 lead, although Bathurst clawed back another run in the third.
Gangaram and Sugden both scored again in the fourth inning to give the Raiders a bit of breathing space going into the final inning with a 5-2 lead.
With the Phantoms to bat last, the Raiders batters all but took the game away from them by scoring another five runs and taking a 10-2 lead with Murphy, Gangaram, Ben Vaughan, Lachlan Whiteman and Terry Bruton all crossing the plate.
The week prior the Raiders took down the cellar-dwelling Wallerawang Cougars, winning 14-11 in a thriller.
After a scoreless first innings the Raiders took a 5-0 lead in the second, with Sugden scoring two of those runners with a massive triple to right field.
The Cougars hit back though, cutting the deficit to two at 5-3 at the bottom of the third.
Orange looked to have the game wrapped up after a nine-run fourth inning, but the Cougars – with nothing to lose – heaped pressure on relief pitcher Joe Currall and rocketed back into the game by piling on eight of their own, to make it 14-11.
Sugden, completing his man-of-the-match performance, stepped up and closed out the win. He finished with three hits from four at bats, including a double, a triple and three runs batted in as well. Will Currall was strong too, pitching three innings for just three runs and batting two from four, with two runs batted in.
The Raiders now sit third, with the Wallerawang Cutters and Lizards above them. It looks likely the Raiders will take on the Lizards in the preliminary final.