Aces trump Canberra: Bite edges valiant Heat

Kingsley Collins

15 January 2017

 

With a series win over second-placed Canberra Cavalry (17-15) in a fluctuating Round Eight stoush in the capital, Melbourne Aces (24-8) have all but sealed the Australian Baseball League minor premiership and earned a home Championship Series.

 

In another hotly-contested series, Adelaide Bite (16-16) triumphed over Perth (12-20) to strengthen its hold on third and effectively eliminate the Heat from playoff contention, while Brisbane Bandits (14-17) held a one-game lead over Sydney Blue Sox (12-19) when the elements forced postponement of the Sunday fixture.

 

While an official announcement is to be made on the status of the postponed game, it is clear that there is still intense interest in league standings as we approach the final weeks.  

 

Based on precedent from an earlier season - and given the sheer logistics of the task - the only way that the postponed game between Brisbane and Sydney will be re-scheduled would be if it was likely to have an impact on the playoff situation. And even then, any reschedule would likely require the agreement of team management, who may or may decide that it was in their own interest.

 

While Sydney Blue Sox appear unlikely to now have a realistic chance of making the playoffs – even if they played and won the postponed game – for Brisbane Bandits it may be a somewhat different proposition. The Bandits (14-17) have a home series against Perth in Round Nine next weekend, while third-placed Adelaide (16-16) will be away to Melbourne Aces. Should Brisbane manage three or four wins against the Heat and should the Bite paddle in Melbourne, then that postponed game could assume great potential significance - especially in regard to its timing, the costs and to player availability.

 

And that is without factoring in Round Ten, which has currently second-placed Canberra away to Brisbane – which is currently only three wins adrift of the Cavalry with two rounds to play.

 

We have an interesting fortnight in prospect, it would appear.

 

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE ROUND EIGHT 2016/17

 

CANBERRA CAVALRY versus MELBOURNE ACES (Narrabundah)

 

Melbourne won this series 3-1.

 

Facing an opponent with the capacity to cause grief to any team in the league, Melbourne Aces exploded to an early lead in GAME ONE, when Roman Collins doubled to score Cody Jones and Allan de San Miguel swatted a two-run homer off Cavalry starter Josh DeGraaf – who conceded a fourth run for the frame when Mick Walker and Liam Bedford both hit him hard. While Aces starter Mark Hamburger held sway early on, his side took advantage of some errant defensive work in the third – when a de San Miguel double and a second Bedford RBI-single stretched the lead to six unanswered. Having a day out, de San Miguel stroked his third hit – from three – before Canberra called Brian Grening from the pen for his first outing of the season. Having a great summer, Robbie Perkins took Hamburger deep over leftfield in the bottom of five, although the response was emphatic as Collins smacked an RBI-double in the top of six before de San Miguel – enjoying an extraordinary game – singled to centrefield for a seven-run Melbourne lead. Relieving Grening in the eighth, Jackson Lowery conceded a single and two passes to load the bases with one out – a recipe for disaster as a wild pitch delivered another for the Aces before the de San Show drove in a couple more for a ten-run lead en route to a comprehensive 11-1 win. Spinning a complete game for his fifth win of the season, Hamburger was brilliant in scattering eight hits for seven strikeouts and the solitary earned run, although he may have been overshadowed as game MVP by de San Miguel, who went five from five (with a home run and six RBIs). Bedford, Collins, Jones and Ryan Dale were strong in offence for the Aces, while Scott Kelly (three hits), David Kandilas (two), Boss Moanaroa (two) and Robbie Perkins (home run) were best of a Cavalry lineup that was seriously out-gunned.  

 

Coming off a thumping Thursday win, the Aces began GAME TWO in positive fashion, when Cody Jones doubled off well-performed Cavalry starter Louis Cohen, advanced on a James Beresford single and scored on a sacrifice fly ball before the home side closed out the innings with an infield double. Breezing through a scoreless first for the Aces, Jeremy Guthrie was offered further hitting support in the top of two – when Ryan Dale stroked an RBI-single and Jones drove in a run on his ground ball with bases loaded – although the Cavalry hit back hard with a three spot of its own in the bottom of three on a string of hits, a HPB and a throwing error. Liam Bedford singled in the fourth and Brad Harman left the yard with a two-run shot to restore a lead for the Aces. Landing runners at the corners with two out, Cohen was relieved by Tyler Herr – who conceded another on a sacrifice fly for the visitors to again take a three-run break. Not having a great outing for his last start in Australia, Guthrie conceded three more in the equaliser as the Cavalry continued to push, although Herr was struggling for control with a string of walks and a sacrifice flyball that again gave Melbourne an edge in the fifth. Relieving Herr, Tim Atherton put up a scoreless sixth innings and the Aces went to Jon Kennedy in the set-up role before Josh Tols breezed through the bottom of eight and Mike Walker delivered insurance for the visitors with a three-run homer off Andrew Case in the top of nine. A Harman double plated another – for a 12-6 Melbourne break that became the final score as Peter Moylan closed out the game. Despite conceding eleven hits, Guthrie carded the win for a Melbourne team that enjoyed offensive contributions from Harman (three hits, including a homer, for three RBIs), Bedford (three hits and a walk), Walker (home run for three RBIs) and Jones (double and two RBIs), while Scott Kelly (three hits and two RBIs), Josh Almonte and Robbie Perkins were best for Canberra.

 

With Canberra starter Sean Guinard holding Melbourne scoreless in the first, the Cavalry was on the board early in GAME THREE with three successive singles and a Josh Almonte sacrifice fly off big man Dushan Ruzic – who breezed comfortably through the second. The Aces stranded a couple in the top of three and Canberra scored a second on another sacrifice flyball – this time by Boss Moanaroa – before Josh Almonte blasted a two-run homer over leftfield for a four-zip lead after three. Stifling the vaunted Melbourne offence over five, Guinard was a dominant presence, while the Aces relieved Ruzic with Virgil Vasquez – who gave up a couple of hard-hit balls but was able to get out of a jam in the bottom of six. Singles to River Stevens, David Kandilas and Moanaroa loaded the bases for Canberra – with none out in the bottom of seven – to draw Sam Street from the pen for Vasquez. Playing a blinder, Almonte lashed a two-RBI double into rightfield and Robbie Perkins singled for a seventh run as the game began to unravel for the league leader. When Mike Reeves drove in another it was eight-zip for the Cavalry, who sent Jackson Lowery to replace a tiring Guinard after his outstanding job over 7.1 innings for two hits and six strikeouts counterbalanced with seven walks. While Brandon Stenhouse sat down the Cavalry in the eighth, the Aces were never in the hunt and Canberra went on to record a thumping 8-1 win that consolidates the club in second placing. While winning pitcher Guinard was superb, the potent Cavalry offence – which amassed fourteen hits - had strong contributors in Almonte (two hits, including a double and a home run – for five RBIs), Kandilas (three hits and a walk), Stevens (three hits), Moanaroa and Reeves. 

 

Clearly outpointed on Saturday evening, Melbourne took advantage of an early opportunity in GAME FOUR, converting a lead-off walk into a first innings run against Canberra starter Scott Cone. Going scoreless through the first two, Melbourne southpaw Dan McGrath was challenged in the bottom of three, when Kyle Perkins walked and DJ Davis belted a two-run homer. While Cone held sway after the first, the Aces called Sam Gibbons from the pen in the bottom of four and the visitors came alive in the top of the fifth – when James Beresford slapped a two-RBI double into leftfield and Roman Collins tugged a double into rightfield to score Beresford and draw AJ Holland from the pen to escape a three-run inning that could have been somewhat worse. A walk, two singles, a two-RBI double by River Stevens and a David Kandilas sacrifice regained the lead for Cavalry and drew Josh Tols into the fray to close out the innings. Not yet done with, the Aces launched an assault on Zech Lemond in the top of seven, initiated with a lead-off single from Beresford that was converted with an RBI-double by Collins, who went to third on a ground ball and crossed the plate for the go-ahead run on a throw to first to complete a strike out. With Jon Kennedy tossing a scoreless eighth and Peter Moylan retiring the Cavalry in order in the bottom of nine, Melbourne emerged with a 6-5 result and another series win. Tols was credited with the win for the Aces, who were well-served in offence by Collins (two doubles for three RBIs) and Beresford (two hits and two ribbies), while Davis (two hits – including a home run – for two RBIs), Scott Kelly and Stevens were best for the home side.

 

BOX SCORES:          GAME ONE     GAME TWO     GAME THREE     GAME FOUR

 

 

BRISBANE BANDITS versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (Holloway Field)

 

Brisbane leads this series 2-1, with Game Four postponed.

 

Although Donald Lutz lashed a triple for the Bandits in the first of GAME ONE, starters Kramer Champlin (Brisbane) and Trevor Foss (Sydney) were well in charge early days, although the home side opened scoring in the bottom of three, when a pair of hits and a Lutz grounder allowed David Sutherland to cross the plate as Champlin continued to control the Sydney offence. Aaron Whitefield singled in the bottom of five, stole second and advanced on a passed ball – only to be stranded – before the Bandits again sparked up in the bottom of six, when Logan Wade hit safely, Mitch Nilsson singled on a textbook hit and run, Trent Oeltjen tugged an RBI-single into rightfield and David Rodriguez repeated the dose to give the Bandits a three-zip lead with one out. When Sutherland lashed a two-RBI hit into rightfield, it was curtains for Foss, who was relieved by Sven Schuller with Brisbane having a stranglehold on the game that was stretched even further when Wade Dutton drove in Sutherland. With life still beating for the Blue Sox, Stone Garrett belted a solo homer in the top of seven, although Yuki Katayama was on the receiving end of a monster shot by Mitch Nilsson that restored the six-run lead. A throwing error gleaned another for the Bandits, who called on Rhys Niit to replace Champlin after a terrific outing (seven innings, three hits and six strikeouts for one earned run). Although a two-out, bases-clearing double gave the Sox some late heart, it was a bridge too far as Matt Timms struck out the Sydney team in the ninth to register a 9-4 Bandits result. Champlin carded the win that was ultra-tight through five until the Brisbane offence came alive and exploited its advantage of twelve hits to six that was aided by five Sox defensive errors.

 

Not at its best in the series opener, Sydney Blue Sox started GAME TWO in belligerent fashion, taking Bandits starter Rick Teasley for early runs on the back of productive hitting by Malik Collymore and Tucker Neuhaus (two-run double) – aided by a wild pitch that gleaned three for the Sox, who again threatened in the top of the second while its starter Craig Anderson continued to hold sway. When Michael Campbell doubled to score Josh Dean it was four-zip to Sydney in the middle of three before Jacob Younis drove in another in the fifth against a Brisbane outfit that continued to struggle against the wily Anderson. A Wade Dutton double scored the first for Brisbane in the bottom of five, and Donald Lutz cracked a two-run bomb over the centrefield wall to finally ignite the Bandits offence. Relieving Teasley in the top of six, Ty’Relle Harris walked Guy Edmonds, Harry Fullerton and Alex Howe and Neuhaus delivered with a bases-clearing double off the leftfield wall. Terrific over five innings (four hits, three strikeouts and three earned runs), Anderson handed the pill to Vaughan Harris – who left a pitch up to David Rodriguez and paid with a three-run shot over centrefield to shave the lead to two. Dutton followed up with a monster two-run shot to square the ledger before Mitch Nilsson stroked a two-out single for the Bandits go-ahead. Challenged by dangerous hitters, Sydney reliever Josh Guyer was super-impressive while his own offence landed runners on second and third in the top of eight to draw Ryan Searle from the pen. Playing a super game, Neuhaus smacked a two-RBI single to regain the lead for Sydney, whose Todd van Steensel locked down the game 10-9 in favour of the Blue Sox. Guyer carded the win in a terrific offensive game highlighted by an astounding evening from Neuhaus (four hits for seven RBIs), along with Rodriguez and Dutton (both with three hits, a home run and three ribbies for the Bandits).

 

Starting for Brisbane in GAME THREE, Ryan Rowland-Smith retired the Sox in order in the first and his side was quickly on the march when Aaron Whitefield doubled and Donald Lutz singled for a first run. Responding aggressively, the Sox put up a three spot in the second – on a ground ball and a two-RBI double to Guy Edmonds – and another in the third, when Jacob Younis hit safely with runners on. Steady through the first two, Sydney starter Luke Wilkins came under fire in the bottom of three, when Trent Oeltjen smacked a two-run bomb, Mitch Nilsson followed with a solo shot and Thomas Milone and David Sutherland both stroked RBI-singles for a two-run Bandits lead. Malik Collymore stole home for Sydney in the top of four, although the Bandits responded with an RBI-single to David Sutherland in the bottom of five as both clubs looked to the bullpen to contain opposition offence. Replacing Matt Timms in the seventh, Zac Treece coughed up successive singles to Tucker Neuhaus, Jacob Younis and Josh Dean that drew the Sox to within a run before the Bandits turned a timely infield double. Replacing Treece, Justin Erasmus spun a scoreless eighth for the Bandits before Ryan Searle closed out the game – and a much-needed win – 7-6 in favour of Brisbane. Sam Holland was awarded the win and Searle the save for the Bandits, who were offensively well-served by Sutherland (four hits and two RBIs), Whitefield, Oeltjen, Lutz and powerhouse David Rodriguez, while Younis (four hits and a ribbie), Dean, Edmonds and Neuhaus were productive with the bat for the Blue Sox.

 

BOX SCORES:          GAME ONE     GAME TWO     GAME THREE     GAME FOUR

 

ADELAIDE BITE versus PERTH HEAT (West Beach)

 

Adelaide won this series 3-1.

 

While both sides had a scoring opportunity in the first of GAME ONE, Tim Kennelly opened proceedings with a lead-off solo shot in the top of the second off Bite starter Zach Cooper. Doing a superb job for Perth, Lex Rutledge posted zeroes through three before being relieved by Jake Bowey – who escaped from a jam when the Bite landed runners at the corners in the bottom of five. After Perth challenged in the top of six, Adelaide drew level when Stefan Welch belted a solo homer in the equaliser before his side surged to the lead when Karl Hoschke blasted a two-run homer and Connar O’Gorman launched a solo shot for a three-run break. Replacing Bowey in the bottom of seven, Will Dennis conceded an unearned run as Tim Kennelly made a rare outfield error against an opponent that would be delighted with the start of Cooper (six innings for five hits and seven strikeouts for one earned run) before set-up man Greg Mosel held the line over 1.1 and Matt Williams was called into the fray to close out the game in his customary non-nonsense manner. It was a 5-1 win in favour of Adelaide, edging the Bite closer to Canberra – which dropped its series opener to the Aces. Cooper earned the win for Adelaide – and Williams the save – in an even offensive contest that was effectively decided by the long balls of Hoschke and Welch, although Tim Kennelly (two hits, including the round-tripper) and John Riley (two hits) and Luke Hughes (a hit and a walk) were valiant with the stick in striving to keep Perth in the game.

 

Rescheduled as a seven-innings contest after a rainout on Friday night, GAME TWO began in frenetic fashion with doubles to Derek Peterson and Tom Kennelly scoring an early run for Perth before the Bite hit back against Heat starter Tom Bailey with a two-run Jordan Cowan homer in the bottom of the first and back-to-back bombs by Angus Roeger and Jordan McArdle in the second. Going scoreless from the second through the fifth, Adelaide starter Max MacNabb kept tabs on the Perth hitters, while Bailey recovered from the opening onslaught to keep his side in the contest. A Joey Wong single and a Peterson walk in the top of six set the table for Luke Hughes – who delivered with a two-RBI double that drew Loek van Mil from the pen to get Adelaide out of the inning with a one-run lead. Relieving Bailey, Benn Grice escaped a tricky two-out situation in the equaliser but his side was unable to erase the deficit as Adelaide emerged as 4-3 winner of the shortened contest. While MacNabb posted the win with a quality five innings of work, this game was effectively decided by the long ball – with the home runs to Cowan, Roeger and McArdle accounting for three of the Bite’s four hits. Ulrich Bojarski (two hits) and Hughes (double and two RBIs) were best with the bat for Perth, which lengthened further in odds for a playoff appearance.

 

GAME THREE was dominated early by starters Jack O’Loughlin (Adelaide) and Michael Lee (Perth), and it was the visitors who scored first – in the top of three – when Ulrich Bojarski singled, stole second and crossed the plate on a Sam Kennelly double. The response was decisive, as Mitch Dening tugged a two-run double into rightfield after Jordan McArdle had doubled and Connar O’Gorman was tattooed by Lee. When McArdle doubled again to score Roeger in the bottom of four, it was a two-run break for the home side. Relieving O’Loughlin after 5.2 innings (three hits and six strikeouts for one earned run), Nathan VanDerLinden conceded a second run to Perth in the top of seven before his reliever Matt Williams was tagged - to level the scores - when Joey Wong doubled and Josh Diggins hit safely in the top of eight. Luke Hughes walked – with two out – before Tim Kennelly singled to centrefield and Derek Peterson hit safely to deliver the Heat a two-run break in a terrific defensive game. With Scott Mitchinson tossing a scoreless eighth and Warwick Saupold called upon to close out the game, Perth was comfortably able to maintain its lead and record a 5-3 win that sets the scene for another pivotal clash between these two clubs on Sunday. With seven innings of work for nine hits and three earned runs, Lee carded the win for Perth, who had prominent offensive contributors in Wong and Tim Kennelly, while Dening and McArdle were the standouts for Adelaide.

 

Perth starter Nick Veale came in for some treatment early in GAME FOUR, when LeDarious Clark doubled, Josh Altmann walked and Stefan Welch drove a two-RBI double in the bottom of the first. Struggling early against Bite starter Steven Chambers, the Heat was placed under further pressure when Luke Hughes and Matt Kennelly were ejected in the fourth. John Riley walked and Ulrich Bojarski hit safely to give Perth an opportunity in the top of five, although Bite Reliever Hei Chun Lee was up to the task in escaping the innings with bases juiced. Not so in the sixth, however, when Tim Kennelly singled and scored on a none-out Derek Peterson double to halve the lead. Calling on Tyler Chappell, Greg Mosel and Loek van Mil in turn, Adelaide was able to turn the screw on the hitters over three scoreless frames despite being unable to build on a lead that translated into an important 2-1 win for the home club. While Mosel carded the win and van Mil the save for Adelaide, Veale was outstanding over six innings for the Heat (four hits, six strikeouts and two earned runs), who out-hit Adelaide seven to five but were not able to muster enough in offence – despite the best efforts of Derek Peterson and Bojarski, with two knocks apiece in a pitcher-dominated contest.  

 

BOX SCORES:          GAME ONE     GAME TWO     GAME THREE     GAME FOUR