A severely depleted Sunshine Eagles will return to the field for the first time in the new year against Sandringham Royals in the Baseball Victoria summer league division 1 away on Sunday.
The Eagles will be missing 11 players who will serve a one-game penalty handed down by the judiciary stemming from an on-field incident in December.
Eagles player-coach Jared Van Hoon was perplexed by the blanket suspensions and the club decided to appeal the decision, but it was unsuccessful and they will now serve the suspension against the Royals this weekend.
“We were on defence and two players had a little bit of a skirmish, they were just being competitive and playing hard. Us as teams restrained our own guys so as not to let the situation escalate and finish the game,” Van Hoon said.
“In turn, we’re all being punished for that, it’s hard being specific about what we’re being punished for, but it is what it is.
“We’ve accepted it, we’ve moved on and we’ve put together a line-up that we feel is going to give us a good chance to win.”
Sunshine will at least have a quality starting pitcher on the mound in Griffin Weir to test the Royals line-up. Weir was not suspended and he will be called on for a big effort on the mound.
“He was the one guy that wasn’t reported and he’s been our mid-week pitcher, so he’s going to go as long as he can,” Van Hoon said.
“I’ve got no doubt he’ll be effective, as long as we can carry the team a bit with our at bats and we’ll be just fine.”
Sunshine will get the chance to give some fringe players and developing youngsters the full division 1 experience. The Eagles will also find out how good their depth is.
“This is going to be a chance for them to leave everything out on the field,” Van Hoon said.
“I told them, there’s no pressure, just have fun and go out and play the game.
“It will be good for some guys, especially the younger kids that are going to be up in the ones in a year or so, to get some experience.”
Sunshine will go into the second half of the season in second place in its conference.
It was a largely positive pre-Christmas showing from the Eagles, but Van Hoon was still left wanting more.
“I know there’s going to be some teams that want to beat us and I think we’ll use that in our favour in terms of working hard and playing our brand of ball and hopefully finding ourselves in the play-offs at the end,” Van Hoon said
With just four games separating top to bottom, the finals race is wide open.
Van Hoon said Sunshine could not afford to get too far ahead of itself.
“Every team in this league, east and west, we’re all pretty on par with each other,” he said.
“It makes for a very competitive division and game play.
“You can’t really afford to take a team lightly and you know every game is going to be a battle.”