East Gambier captain Alex Hentschke (pictured) took home the biggest individual prize in the Mount Gambier & District Cricket Association for the second time at last week’s end of season presentations.
The Whitty Medal crowns the leading Barber Shield cricketer in the land each summer and Hentschke was the undisputed winner after a thrilling vote count.
With just two rounds to go, Hentschke led by one vote from David Somerfield, Nick McInerney and Robert Drenthen who were all tied for second, while nine others were also in the running.
But two three-vote games to finish off the season against Penola and Mil Lel saw the Bulldogs’ skipper take home the prize by four votes from West Gambier’s Sam Willis.
Hentschke said he struggled to come to grips with the emotions of winning such an award.
“It has not sunk in yet and you cannot describe it,” he said.
“But it is very nice to be recognised for a good season and have it on my resume.”
It was the second time Hentschke has claimed the award after a fresh-faced all-rounder tied the 2011-12 vote count with George Kidman.
But Hentschke said he performed much better over the course of the home-and-away season than his 19-year-old self thanks to his East teammates allowing to play with freedom.
“My year personally was a lot better this season, I think I performed better in games to do enough,” he said.
“We have had a different playing group who allowed me not to worry about the team leadership stuff.
“They took the pressure off and allowed me to rock up on a Saturday, play cricket and relax.”
The statistics reflect this as well with his most productive summer with the bat for the Bulldogs after scoring 260 runs headlined by two important half centuries.
“I felt really good and confident with the bat compared to previous seasons and that played a massive part,” Hentschke said.
“Feeling you are already on top mentally before walking out made a big difference and I played twice as good.”
Hentschke continued to be a shinning light with the ball and was the competition’s leading wicket taker with 25 scalps at an average of 6.32.
He said it was a team effort to take the poles with his top performance an eight-wicket match at McCorquindale Park.
“We had a really good opening partnership with Liam (Turley) stepping up and also had three of the best of the best spinners going around, so I had confidence the guys were going to do the job at the other end,” Hentschke said.
“When you build pressure and bowl in partnerships, someone has to take wickets and it just happened to be me on some occasions.
“I was just happy to be running in and letting it go and my five-wicket haul in Penola was one of my fastest spells.”
The leading Barber Shield run scorer was Roo Jake Blackwell, who returned from injury with 383 runs, while the respective top fielder and keeper were East’s Leigh Von Duve and Penola’s Mark Smith.
Connor Prior and Emerson Marks both enjoyed breakout seasons to share the Under 20 player of the year title.
The top T20 plater was Eagle Jack Mullan, while the best players in the Crouch and Cox Bros Shields were Yahl’s Andrew Crouch and Kalangadoo’s Ben Newton.
East and Millicent were named as the respective Senior and Junior clubs of the year.
Orlando Vause of North Gambier was the Under 12’s player of the year, while South’s Jacob Salmon and East’s Thomas Graney were the Under 14 and 18 top performers respectively.