Last weekend Orange and District Softball Association came agonisingly close to sealing a Softball NSW Under 15s State Championship at Blacktown International Sportspark, falling at the final hurdle to Macarthur.
But the grand final loss was far from a disappointing one, the Orange side had broken an almost 30-year drought just by qualifying for the decider.
And, the 11-0 defeat came at the hands of a classy, powerful Macarthur outfit.
It was Orange’s first under 15s grand final appearance in 28 years, the last coming way back in 1989 – when Bob Hawke was prime minister, Michael Keaton’s Batman was lighting up cinemas worldwide and Madonna was all over the radio.
On top of that, six Orange guns earned places in the NSW Country side to contest the Australian Regional Championships at Canberra early next year, a just reward after huge performances.
Orange came out firing on Saturday’s opening day, scoring a gargantuan 24-3 victory over Southern Districts.
The side followed that with another strong win, a 13-7 defeat over Sutherland.
The second victory was lead by an outstanding performance by Caden Keed.
The young gun bombed two grand slams in the five-run win, a player-of-the-game showing.
Orange’s stunning start to the state titles continued in its third match-up, the talented outfit thumping Penrith 22-3 to remain undefeated.
The side finished the opening day with a gritty 6-2 victory over Georges River, Jack Besgrove and Sam McNaughton’s strong, consistent pitching was a key in the victory as was the tidy work Orange dished up in the field.
The overnight break slowed the then-undefeated Orange side though, it started slowly on Sunday’s second day.
Orange suffered its first defeat of the competition, going down 6-3 to Newcastle.
From Orange’s perspective, there was one massive highlight, Rhys Tate nailing an out-of-the-park home run.
The side suffered a second straight defeat, this one a nail-biting 5-4 loss to Macarthur.
That hurt Orange’s campaign, but the grand final was still in sight.
A win over Cumberland-Nepean was needed, which Orange secured, romping to a 13-4 win.
That set up a rematch with Macarthur in the decider, where the Orange side was outclassed.
Although Orange went down, the skill and sportsmanship shown by its players was incredible.
The upcoming Orange season is fast-approaching now too.