Perth hits back in extras: ABL Championship goes to three
Fearsome assault gets Bite across the line
6 February 2015
Adelaide Bite has struck first blow in the Australian Baseball League Championship Series with a stunning 3-2 result over Perth Heat at Norwood Oval this evening.
In a pressure-cooker atmosphere generated before a massive crowd, the Bite recovered from a two-run deficit to smash three consecutive home runs in the bottom of seven as their left-handed power brigade stood up in a most emphatic fashion.
With quality arms on display for both clubs, Perth appeared in control for most of a contest that demonstrated in the most telling manner that it is indeed never over until it is over.
GAME ONE: ADELAIDE BITE 3 defeated PERTH HEAT 2
With an animated crowd estimated at around 5000, the game was played in perfect weather conditions on the pristine Norwood Oval – a football field that came up a treat for an Australian Baseball League Championship Series beamed around the baseball world.
Starting for Adelaide, Morgan Coombs was under the pump early in conceding a solo home run to Tim Smith in the first, while Mike McClendon headed to the hill for Perth Heat, who quelled an early threat with an infield double play that was replicated by Adelaide as the Heat tried to force the issue in the top of the second.
With Coombs and McClendon settling into their work, there was nothing much doing in offence until the Heat tacked on another run – in the fourth - when Rene Tosoni drove in Luke Hughes on a single up the middle with two out.
Matt Kennelly drew a lead-off pass in the fifth and Brian Pointer singled before Joey Wong advanced both with a sacrifice bunt. Tim Kennelly flared a fly ball into leftfield and brother Matt appeared to score after the catch but was called out on appeal for leaving early – in the washup what was clearly a pivotal moment in the game.
Chris Adamson and Brandon Dixon both singled for Adelaide in the bottom of the sixth, but it came to naught as McClendon induced a double play and whiffed the dangerous Chan Moon.
Having a great night with the bat, Allan de San Miguel doubled in the top of seven and advanced on a Jordan McDonald single to put runners at the corners with none out. Pointer drew a walk to load the bases, but Coombs produced the big pitches to strike out Wong and induce a Tim Kennelly pop-up to get out of a serious jam.
Dominant league leaders all season, the Bite exploded in the bottom of seven with back-to-back home runs by Stefan Welch and Tom Brice to tie the scoreline at 2-2. When Mitch Dening - the third of the bash brothers - launched a 3-2 pitch over the rightfield wall, the home club was on fire in an extraordinarily explosive turnaround that chased McClendon from the hill for southpaw McKenzie Acker.
Summoning Matt Williams from the pen, the Bite breezed through the eighth but staggered momentarily in the top of nine, when de San Miguel drew a walk, advanced on a sacrifice bunt and headed to third on a wild pitch. When Matt Kennelly walked, Brooke Knight was out with the hook in favour of power arm Tyler Brunnemann – who peremptorily induced an infield double play to end the game.
While Perth Heat appeared to have this one at their mercy for much of the evening, a controversial call, a few squandered scoring opportunities and a stunning, almost bizarre few minutes of offence conspired to drag Adelaide Bite over the line in what will be remembered as a superbly entertaining contest between two quality sides.
The Australian Baseball League Championship Series is alive and well. With Adelaide a win away from a long-awaited Claxton Shield title, hostilities will resume at Norwood Oval on Saturday 7 February, starting at 7.00 PM Adelaide time (7.30 AEDST).
Game Three, if required, will be played in Adelaide on Sunday.
7 February 2015
In another high-quality game of baseball in which both clubs threw everything at the contest, Perth Heat plated two in the tenth to post a 5-3 victory to tie up the ABL Championship series.
While the long ball was again a decisive factor, stellar defence, coaching strategy and some outstanding pitching delighted another massive Norwood crowd as the Bite gave it their best shot to nail an elusive Claxton Shield.
The deciding game is scheduled for Norwood Oval on Sunday 8 February, starting at 7.00 PM Adelaide time.
GAME TWO: PERTH HEAT 5 defeated ADELAIDE BITE 3
Starting for the Bite, former Major Leaguer Virgil Vasquez walked Joey Wong but finished the first innings strongly, while his counterpart in Warwick Saupold retired the first two hitters he saw before Stefan Welch – one of Friday’s heroes - drove a two-strike fastball over the rightfield wall to open scoring for the home club.
One swing of the bat was enough to tie the game up, as Matt Kennelly launched a missile over leftfield – followed up, on the next pitch, with a Brian Pointer bomb over rightfield to stir recollections of the clean hitting of Friday night and place the heat squarely on Vasquez, who showed his class by fanning three in the fourth.
Welch drew a pass to lead off the bottom half and Tom Brice struck out before Craig Maddox singled to place runners at the corners, but Saupold continued to be solid in getting out of the innings and then breezing through the fifth.
Not quite exercising his customary control, Vasquesz branded Tim Smith, who stole second in the top of six but was stranded as the Bite played some great defence.
With his side still facing a one-run deficit, Chan Moon walked in the bottom of six to draw McKenzie Acker from the pen in relief of Saupold, who had been super-efficient in conceding four hits and walking two. Getting a decent swing on the Perth southpaw, Stefan Welch doubled to the rightfield wall to put runners at second and third with none out and DH Brice at the plate.
Brice struck out before Mitch Dening was passed up to load the bases – a strategy that paid off in spades as Acker fanned Maddox and Ben Lodge to get out of the innings.
Drawing a walk in the top of seven, Perth third-sacker Jordan McDonald advanced on a Matt Kennelly bunt to spell the end for Vasquez, who had been superb in conceding just two hits – albeit both round trippers. His reliever in Josh Tols walked Pointer before Joey Wong snapped a lean stretch – by his lofty standards - in singling to centre for a 3-1 Perth lead before a sharp infield double ended the offensive with minimal damage.
With the Bite surely not about to give up on this game, Chris Adamson smacked a solo homer in the bottom of seven to draw within a run and bring Heat sidewinder Scott Mitchinson from the pen. When Brandon Dixon doubled, Chad Robinson was called into the fray – only to be greeted by a Moon double that forced Dixon across the plate to level the scores with the heart of the Bite order waiting in the wings.
The speedy Moon stole third before Brice drew a pass and stole second but Robinson was up to the task to put out the fire with scores deadlocked and a parochial crowd baying for more.
Luke Hughes walked to lead off the eighth for Perth but was left high and dry as consummate Bite reliever Matt Williams sat down de San Miguel and McDonald in order.
Going with his best in a last-ditch effort to put the Bite away, Perth Manager Steve Fish called on fireballer Jorge Marban to do what he does best - overpowering opposition hitters - while Tyler Brunnemann quelled the Heat in the top of nine and kept the lid on things until left-armer Will Matthis was given the call in the top of ten, when it all came unstuck for the home club.
With two out and runners at first and second for Perth, the irrepressible de San Miguel – who had enjoyed a brilliant game in defence behind the dish - drove a first-pitch double into the left-centre alley that forced two across the plate before he was gunned down out at third.
“We pitched outstanding,” de San Miguel told ESPN after the game.
“We’ll refocus, relax, celebrate for a little while and go after the Championship tomorrow,” he said.
“We’ll be looking to bring the title back to Perth. We know what to do.”
Just another fantastic game, and a great showpiece for the Australian Baseball League played between two outstanding clubs – either of whom would be a worthy winner of the Championship. Game Three will be played at Norwood Oval, Adelaide, on Sunday 8 February, starting at 7.00 PM (Adelaide time).
White-hot Perth stuns Adelaide in ABL series finale
8 February 2015
The Claxton Shield will be heading back across the Nullarbor after Perth Heat brought its blistering best to the ballpark to smash Adelaide Bite 12-5 in Game Three of the Australian Baseball League Championship Series that was decided at Norwood oval this evening.
Starting the season quietly – by its lofty standards – the Heat buckled down after the Christmas break to force a showdown with a vastly improved Adelaide Bite that led the table all season but was unable to contain a visiting Perth outfit that effectively nailed the Claxton with an early assault in the deciding game.
In the end, it was the offensive might and the pitching depth of the Heat squad that won out over a valiant Adelaide Bite – which looked a real chance after snatching Game One of the series but was outplayed by a quality opponent that has now won four of the last five titles.
Congratulations Perth Heat! Well done Adelaide on setting the pace all season.
GAME THREE: PERTH HEAT 12 defeated ADELAIDE BITE 5
Bite starter Wilson Lee was off to a rocky start when Joey Wong drew a lead-off walk and Tim Kennelly despatched the third pitch he saw from the southpaw for a two-run shot over leftfield in the first – a fair buffer for Heat evergreen Daniel Schmidt, who proceeded to retire the first three Adelaide hitters.
The Heat continued to apply the pressure in the second, when Matt Kennelly walked and scored on a booming Brian Pointer double that sent the Perth side to a three zip lead that was emphatically extended when Pointer scooted to third on a grounder and strolled home when Tim Kennelly lashed a double into leftfield.
Sent for an early shower, Lee was relieved by Tony Vocca – who was given an unceremonious welcome when Tim Smith cleared the centrefield wall for a six-run lead that surely would deflate the home club and its diehard supporters.
While Mitch Dening homered to draw a run back in the bottom of the second, Schmidt remained in control as his club created further scoring opportunities in the fourth that saw Vocca handing a poisoned chalice to lefty Will Matthis – who walked Rene Tosoni and gave up a spanking hit to Allan de San Miguel that gleaned another couple for a seemingly insurmountable 8-1 Perth lead.
Matthis walked Jordan McDonald, with a wild pitch allowing Tosoni to cross the plate before Bite Manager Brooke Knight called Josh Tols from the pen to prevent further carnage.
Not about to give up on this contest, the Bite hit back in the bottom of the fourth, when Tom Brice and Mitch Dening both doubled to set the table for catcher Craig Maddox, who smashed a three-run homer over centrefield to spell the end for Schmidt – who was replaced by Mike McCarthy.
With McCarthy holding sway through the fifth and sixth, Perth applied the blowtorch again in the top of seven when Tim Kennelly singled for his third knock of the night to draw Matt Williams from the Bite pen in an effort to contain the heart of the Heat offence – a task that proved a bridge too far as Tim Smith drew a walk and Luke Hughes went yard with a three-run blast over centrefield.
Playing the game right out and loading the bases in the bottom of seven – a pivotal frame thus far this series – the Bite came up short when McCarthy fanned the dangerous Tom Brice, although Dening offered his club some belated hope when he smashed his second round tripper of the evening to carry his side to a seven-run deficit into the ninth.
While Games One and Two of the series were hard-fought and tight affairs each decided by timely swings of the bat, the series finale was an emphatic display on the part of Perth Heat, which blasted its way to an early lead and was never really threatened by a Bite outfit playing catch-up against some of the quality pitching arms in the Australian Baseball League.
Australian Baseball Alumni extends its congratulations to Perth Heat on securing another ABL Championship – its fourth in the last five years. We say well done, too, to the Adelaide Bite, which led the table all season and gave its legion of local supporters a thrilling baseball ride.
While we will be hearing more on this site from club officials over coming days, we place our trust in all clubs to strengthen their presence during the off-season and to come back bigger, better and stronger for the 2015/16 campaign.