An under strength Whanganui Braves team booked themselves a place in the final of the Manawatu Senior Reserve softball competition after disposing of demoted premier team Raiders 5-4 on Saturday.
With the three Hollis brothers down south for a family wedding, and top all rounder Carl Priddle out for the season with a neck injury, player/coach Shane Foster sent out an SOS out to two past Braves ball players in Glen Casey and veteran Peter Flood to assist in the do or die game against Raiders.
"Glen has recently returned to Whanganui from Tauranga and decided to dust the cobwebs off his cleats. He trained very well last Wednesday, especially considering he hasn't played softball for 10 years," Foster said.
"Flood brings plenty of experience and has been assisting at some trainings when I've called on him. He'd still show up much younger players."
Braves won the toss and sent Raiders into bat first and kept them scoreless for three innings.
Stephen Barnes, who normally plays on first base, made some fine catches at centre field, with pitcher Foster striking out six batters.
Braves scored one run at their first turn at bat through third baseman Richie Smith. At Braves second turn at bat, again Smith assisted with a hit to left field to score Flood and Casey.
Raiders scored two runs at the top of the fourth inning.
At the bottom of the fifth, Barnes, who batted a 1000, hit to centre outfield to score two more runs for Braves.
Braves was in control for most of the game, leading 5-2 and only needing three outs for the game at the end of regulation time, but the wheels began to fall off the well-drilled Braves unit.
Foster walked the first batter, who was advanced to third base with a two base hit to left field.
With runners on two and three, Braves responded with a good out under pressure from Smith, who gloved a good hit down the third base line to get Braves' first out and hold up the runner on third to stop him scoring.
However, another good hit from Raiders to centre field scored the runners on second and third. In the drama, Foster, attempting to cut off the throw home from centre fielder Barnes, tweaked a calf muscle.
Foster pressed on and a vital turning point in the game came when Toby Rison snatched a magnificent catch at shortstop to stop Raiders scoring a certain equalizer.
With two out and the score at 5-4, Braves third, and game-winning out, came from another nice out from Smith on third.
Braves now play arch rivals Dodgers in the final on Saturday, March 17 at Colquhoun Park, Palmerston North, at 4.30pm.
Dodgers easily dispatched of Blue Sox Hitmen on Saturday, to set up the well anticipated final.
"We have actually made the final the hard way. To first beat Dodgers (previously unbeaten), then beat a premier team to get to the final speaks volumes about this team.
"I'm very proud of the boys. Each and every team member is contributing in some way, whether it's on the diamond, or assisting with coaching on first and third when we are batting. There is a good team spirit and they train hard," Foster said.