Bandits snag history-making title in wild finale

Grening spins a gem as Canberra takes series lead

Kingsley Collins

9 February 2018

 

Spearheaded by a faultless start from Brian Grening backed by some belligerent offence - headed by Robbie Perkins and David Kandilas – Canberra Cavalry packed too many guns against Brisbane Bandits in Game One of the Australian Baseball League Championship series that commenced at Narrabundah this evening.

 

Its comprehensive 5-1 win over the league powerhouse could hardly have been more impressive for the Canberra squad, which flies to Brisbane holding an edge in the three-game playoff series but well cognisant of the battle that it faces at Holloway Field against a never-say-die Bandits outfit focused on a third successive Claxton Shield title.

 

Game Two of the ABL Championship Series is scheduled to start at 7.00 PM AEDST on Saturday 10 February. Game Three (if required) will be played on Sunday afternoon.

 

GAME ONE:   CANBERRA CAVALRY 5 defeated BRISBANE BANDITS 1

 

Taking the start for Canberra before an engaged capacity crowd, Brian Grening conceded a first-innings double to Donald Lutz before coming up with the pitches to strand the big man, while well-performed Brisbane southpaw Ryan Bollinger negotiated a scoreless first as both sides settled into their work.

 

A Jay Baum single and a throwing error in the second gave the Cavalry a chance that was converted emphatically when Robbie Perkins blasted a two-run bomb over left-centre for a two-run lead against the marginal championship favourite – which continued to threaten whilst matching its opponent on defence.

 

Two-out hits to Casey McElroy and David Kandilas in the bottom of three set the table for Baum – who delivered with an RBI-double to stretch the Canberra lead as Grening continued to mow down the dangerous Bandits hitters, retiring fourteen on the trot from the third through the seventh.

 

With his side’s offence not about to rest on its laurels, Kandilas belted a two-out homer in the bottom of five for a five-zip lead – while the equally inspirational Baum posted his third knock of the game as the Cavalry racked up the hits off Bollinger.

 

Having a serious impact on the game, Robbie Perkins doubled in the bottom of seven before Bollinger was relieved by Sam Holland, who closed out the sixth before his side challenged in the top of seven – loading the bases on hits to Mitch Nilsson and Andrew Campbell, followed by a HPB to David Sutherland that drew Tyler Herr from the Canberra bullpen to replace Grening after a stellar start over 6.2 scoreless innings for five hits and three punchouts.

 

Up to the task in a pivotal situation, Herr whiffed Adam Weisenburger and the Bandits went to Zac Treece and then Pat Young, with the outlook appearing bleak for a Bandits offence that could muster just six hits – including a belated TJ Bennett homer in the top of the last.

 

While the Grening effort was outstanding, the Cavalry stalwart received superb offensive support from the likes of Kandilas, Robbie Perkins, Baum, Cam Warner and Designated Hitter Lee Mills – while Bennett and Andrew Campbell were best with the stick for Brisbane.

 

Game Two will be played at Holloway Field on Saturday 10 February (7.00 pm start AEDST) and Game Four (if required) is scheduled for Holloway on Sunday 11 February (5.00 pm AEDST).

 

GAME ONE BOX SCORE

Explosive Bandits force playoffs into Sunday

Kingsley Collins

10 February 2018

 

Never seriously threatened at Holloway Field on Saturday evening, Brisbane Bandits posted an imperious 12-2 win over Canberra Cavalry to set up a Sunday afternoon decider in the Australian Baseball League Championship Series.

 

Although the tone of the contest was set early on – in the bottom of the first, when the Bandits belted two of their seven home runs for the evening – Brisbane starter Tim Atherton stepped up big-time against a confident Cavalry outfit that could muster just a handful of hits against the reigning champion.

 

So it all comes down to a sudden-death shootout on Sunday afternoon – a clash that promises much between two quality combatants who both have legitimate claims to the Claxton Shield title. Game Three is scheduled for a 5.00 pm start (AEDST) at Holloway Field.  

 

GAME TWO:   BRISBANE BANDITS 12 defeated CANBERRA CAVALRY 2

 

With most pundits expecting a somewhat different Brisbane offence on its home turf – after being choked for offensive production in Canberra on Friday – the contrast became immediately clear when Donald Lutz launched a massive two blast in the bottom of the first of Game Two, backed up by a solo shot by Chih-Sheng Lin off quality Cavalry starter Lake Bachar.

 

Super-efficient early days, Brisbane fireballer Tim Atherton shook off a fifteen-minute rain delay and continued to mow down the Canberra hitters, while Andrew Campbell took a waist-high pitch off Bacher deep for a solo bomb in the bottom of the second and David Sutherland followed suit on the very next pitch for a five-zip Bandits lead.

 

While Bachar settled into his work after the initial onslaught, Canberra opened its scoring account when Boss Moanaroa left the yard in the top of four, although Campbell smacked a second solo shot in the equaliser. An Adam Weisenburger hit and a Lutz walk spelled the end for Bacher and the Cavalry summoned reliever Sean Guinard – who escaped a dangerous situation before conceding a solo home run to Mitch Nilsson in the fifth and a two-out RBI-single to Aaron Whitefield for a seven-run Bandits lead.

 

Loading the bases in the bottom of six, Guinard handed the ball to Tayler Saucedo and the Bandits offence was on the move again as Campbell slapped a two-RBI double into leftfield before the rangy left-armer whiffed Sutherland and Weisenburger.

 

Stretching a terrific start late into the contest, Atherton induced a ground ball double to close out the seventh with his side well in command with a massive lead that was padded even further when Lin drove a two-run tracer over left-centre.

 

Relieving Atherton after a brilliant outing (seven innings for three hits and two walks for eleven strikeouts), Justin Erasmus was tagged for a solo home run by Travis Witherspoon – a blow that proved too little, too late as Matt Timms and Rhys Niit combined to close out the last for Brisbane.

 

It was a comprehensive all-round performance by the Bandits, who enjoyed some stunning offensive input from Campbell (four RBIs), Lin (three), Lutz and Sutherland, while Casey McElroy, Witherspoon and Boss Moanaroa were best of a subdued Canberra lineup.

 

In acknowledging the excellence of key players in this contest, we also recognise the invaluable contribution of the Australian Baseball League umpiring crew – which appeared to adjudicate the game and manage the conditions in general quite beautifully. Especially the plate umpire. Well done to Tom West, Mal Mackay, Paul Latta and Takahito Matsuda on their quiet, professional efficiency – which was reflected in the demonstrable respect displayed towards them by players and managers. No histrionics - well, maybe just a little towards the end, on one clearly bad call. No conflict, other than that. Just play the game. That is what it is about, after all.

 

Game Three of the Australian Baseball League Championship Series will be played at Holloway Field on Sunday 11 February (5.00 pm AEDST).

 

ABLCS GAME TWO BOX SCORES

Kingsley Collins

11 February 2018

 

Gaining the early break over a gallant Canberra Cavalry with a three-run homer in the second, Brisbane Bandits held the lead – and held their nerve – for a stirring 4-2 Australian Baseball League Championship Series win in a five-hour arm wrestle at Holloway Field today.

 

While the sudden-death classic generated two quality starting pitching outings, supporters were treated to a relatively benign and uneventful first five innings – until the entire complexion of the contest was transformed through drama, conflict, wild weather and associated delays before it was finally resolved late on Sunday evening.

 

Congratulations to Brisbane Bandits on a third successive Claxton Shield title – a record in the new national league – and well done to a Canberra Cavalry organisation that had a magnificent season and pushed the reigning champion to the very last out of a memorable series.  

 

Commencing in fine albeit humid and threatening conditions for baseball, the deciding game of the Australian Baseball League Championship Series pitted two of the best left-armers going around – in Brisbane’s former Major Leaguer Travis Blackley and well-performed Cavalry hurler Frank Gailey.

 

Looking especially sharp, Gailey fanned three in the first while Blackley was typically poised in retiring the first six hitters he saw before his side threatened first on weak singles to Logan Wade and Mitch Nilsson with none out. With both advancing on a grounder, Adam Weisenburger belted a two-out three-run homer over the right-centre wall as the Bandits burst to an early lead.

 

With Blackley continuing to dominate the Cavalry hitters, Brisbane was on the march again – in the bottom of three – when Chih-Sheng Lin tugged a double into the leftfield corner but was stranded as Gailey retired TJ Bennett and Logan Wade to reassert his authority in a pitching duel marred only by one telling blow back in the second.

 

At his super-efficient best, Blackley shook off a rare TJ Bennett defensive error in the sixth and Nilsson smashed a solo shot over left-centre to hand the Bandits a four-run break that surely made life tough for the Cavalry – especially after Gailey tattooed Campbell and emotions spilled over in a pressure-cooker situation.

 

With just the two long balls detracting from what had been a stellar outing (5.2 innings for nine strikeouts), Gailey was relieved by Steven Kent and the final out of the frame was made - notwithstanding a further confrontation that led to the ejection of Bandits Manager David Nilsson.

 

Relieving Blackley after a magnificent six-innings outing for a solitary hit in 77 pitches, Sam Holland took the ball for Brisbane, conceded a single to Jay Baum and was replaced by Ryan Bollinger – in a match-up against left hander Boss Moanaroa - with the game still in the balance despite his side’s substantial lead.

 

A Moanaroa groundball to the right side and a subsequent error allowed the speedy Baum to score from first as the Cavalry regrouped for a late charge and Zac Treece was called from the Brisbane bullpen to close out the innings – before the weather closed in and the game went to a lightning and rain delay that threatened to stretch into Monday.

 

With Kent whiffing three after a lengthy delay, the Cavalry launched a serious assault on Bandits set-up man Matt Timms, who was taken for a booming solo homer by Kyle Perkins in the top of the eighth – followed by a one-out Travis Witherspoon double that drew Ryan Searle from the Brisbane pen tasked with making five outs to protect the narrow Bandits lead.

 

Searle fanned danger man David Kandilas to hold the lead at two and Kent remained unhittable to strike out the heart of the Bandits order and carry his club into the ninth, although the Cavalry was unable to produce the goods against Searle – who recorded another stunning save for his club, a most worthy winner of the Claxton Shield for a third year on the trot.

 

This was a game – and a series – for the ages. The finale was one that featured great defence and outstanding pitching that restricted two potent offensive outfits to just five hits apiece, with the result effectively decided by one telling blow with two out way back in the second innings of a ripper game that showcased much of the very best in our national baseball competition.

 

Congratulations, again, to Brisbane Bandits - our Claxton Shield champion for 2018.

 

ABLCS GAME THREE BOX SCORES