Underdog Mariners make semis in season debut

MEET the Shoalhaven’s newest unexpected sporting sensations.

Andrew and Stephen Pearson, Josh, Ethan, Lucas and Riley Scott-Branagan, Jayden Brain, Ethan Harpur and Robert Coleman make up the Shoalhaven Mariners under 12s team that is gearing up for their semi-final this Sunday in the Illawarra Junior Baseball League.

The team is the first Mariners team to be entered in the junior Illawarra competition and in their maiden season have defied all odds and progressed to the semis.

Going into the fourth round and suffering three straight losses, the Mariners were sitting at the bottom of the competition table.

But then a close win in round four had their confidence up, and from round seven to the semi-finals the team only suffered one loss, steamrolling their way to third on the table.

The young team is made up of a range of ages and started under the tutelage of Mariners senior Scott Deakes.

But when Deakes had to move away from the area mid-season, Michael Taylor took over the training, with Chris Scott-Branagan the weekend coach with the help of parents and team manager Pearson.

“They have improved out of sight all year,” Lisa Pearson said.

“They have learnt from their mistakes, taken their coaches’ advice on board, and most importantly had fun.”

Pearson said compared to the other Illawarra clubs, the Mariners have put up with a lack of junior club depth and sideline support, but the commitment of the parents has seen the team go from strength to strength.

“Without the hard work of Michael ‘Squizzy’ Taylor and Scott Deakes they wouldn’t be where they are today,” Pearson said. 

The expected semi-final opponent of the Mariners this Sunday at Fred Finch Park is the Berkeley Eagles. 

The Mariners have played the Eagles twice this season, losing in round one and winning in round 11. 

“The score in the first couple of games that we lost was close, we just had to find our winning ways,” Pearson said.

“On any given day we can beat them, but we know they are a very strong opponent. We have our weaknesses as well, but these are the things that they will learn from.”

Read all about the Mariners’ semi-final qualifying game against the Dapto Chiefs on page 22.

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