Bandits pinch break at top: Sox stay in touch
17 December 2017
Australian Baseball League heads to the All-Star break – and halfway point of the season - with competition for playoff berths still very much in the balance.
Brisbane Bandits (13-5) are clear on top of the standings after their series over Adelaide Bite (4-16) - which is mathematically still a chance but realistically out of contention - while second-placed Perth Heat (12-7) was impressive in splitting against Canberra Cavalry (11-8), which rebounded strongly after two early losses.
Seemingly paddling after a run of outs, Sydney Blue Sox (8-11) has burst back into playoff contention by taking three of its four games against Melbourne Aces (9-10), which remains fourth but faces a daunting return series at Blacktown in a fortnight.
CANBERRA CAVALRY versus PERTH HEAT
This series was split 2-2.
Matching zeroes through the first two innings of GAME ONE, Brian Grening (Canberra) and Alex Boshers (Perth) set the groundwork for a pitchers’ duel, although Heat centrefield Jake Fraley struck an early blow with a solo homer in the top of the third. It was not until the seventh that the in-form Cavalry offence came alive, as a David Kandilas single, a two-RBI Jay Baum double and a run-scoring Robbie Perkins hit handed the home side a two-run break that drove Boshers from the hill after a terrific start. Going to polished closer Michael Click, Canberra was looking good to close out the game, though the Heat had other ideas – with a Jesse Williams sacrifice flyball and a Fraley RBI-single levelling scores in the top of nine. Relieving Boshers after six, eventual winning pitcher Dylan Thompson conceded singles to Baum and Robbie Perkins before escaping the innings and forcing the game into tiebreaker extra innings. With his side electing to hit away against Canberra lefty Tayler Saucedo, Michael Brosseau smacked a two-RBI double for a 5-3 lead that was protected by Cameron Lamb as the final score in favour of Perth Heat. Amassing twelve hits to seven, the Heat had decisive contributors in Fraley, Brosseau and Garrett Whitley (two hits), while Baum and Robbie Perkins were standouts for the Cavalry.
Riding a solid start by Kyle Simon, Perth took an early stranglehold on GAME TWO by blasting four in the top of the third off Canberra ace Steven Kent – who conceded successive doubles to Jake Fraley and Tim Kennelly before Luke Hughes stroked a two-RBI single. With both pitchers settling into their work, there was nothing subsequently - doing scoring-wise - until Heat second-sacker Michael Brosseau lit the fuse with a two-run bomb in the top of five that was followed up by a Hughes solo shot for a seven run lead. With Simon continuing to dominate, the Cavalry finally hit the scoreboard in the bottom of seven, when Buddy Reed tripled and crossed the plate on an infield play. Responding decisively, Perth drew away further in the top of eight, when Canberra reliever Thomas Holland conceded a walk and a single to set the table for Ulrich Bojarski, whose three-run round tripper stretched an already unassailable lead. Replacing Holland with Liam Doolan, the Cavalry was put to the sword even further, as a Jesse Williams triple and a Fraley single drove another two across the plate for Perth. With eight stellar innings for five hits and one earned run, Simon was outstanding as the Heat blasted its way to a 12-1 win engineered largely in offence by Tim Kennelly (three hits and an RBI), Fraley (two and two), Hughes (two and one), Bojarski (one and three) and Brosseau (one and two). This was another stunning all-round performance by Perth Heat, which should rightly be vying with the Bandits for Claxton Shield favouritism at this point.
Taking its belligerent offence into GAME THREE, Perth was immediately on the march, with a walk off Cavalry starter Frank Gailey, a throwing error and a two-RBI double to Michael Brosseau opening the scoring for a lead that was quickly tracked down by Canberra - compliments of a two-RBI double by Jay Baum as Nick Veale settled into his work. Although a solo homer by superstar Gabriel Arias gave Canberra a narrow lead after two, Perth again – ahem – applied the heat with a run in the top of three before a three-run response in the equaliser, including a Connor Panas homer and a Cameron Warner sacrifice. Calling on Daniel Schmidt and Jake Bowey in turn, Perth shaved the lead in the top of six and drew level in the top of seven when Michael Brosseau took Canberra reliever Tyler Herr deep with a two-run blast. Replacing Bowey in the seventh, Scott Mitchinson coughed up a second home run to Panas and a solo shot to Robbie Perkins in the eighth for a two-run break. In typically dogged fashion for this season, the Heat were not done, as Jake Turnbull singled and Jake Fraley left the yard with a two-run shot that again levelled the scores against consummate closer Michael Click. When Tim Kennelly singled and Luke Hughes delivered with a two-run blast it was a two-run break in favour of the Heat, who called Cameron Lamb from the pen to close out the game. Clearly not about to concede, the Cavalry landed Baum and Robbie Perkins on base to set the table for Boss Moanaroa – who delivered big time with a three-run walkoff blast and a thrilling 11-10 win for the host club. Click earned the win after a ripper contest that produced outstanding performances by Heat second-sacker Brosseau (four hits for five RIBIs), Kennelly, Hughes and Fraley, while Panas, Moanaroa and Baum were the toast of a Cavalry ballclub that needed this win.
Well on top early in GAME FOUR, Lake Bachar (Canberra) and Tom Bailey (Perth) matched zeroes until the Cavalry took advantage of a defensive error to score in the bottom of three. With both sides struggling for offensive production, Canberra tacked on another in the bottom of four – on a two-out Cameron Warner double – Bachar continued to mow down the Heat hitters. Replacing Bailey with two out in the sixth, Dylan Thompson conceded an inherited run – this time on a Warner single – while Bachar (6.1 innings for four hits and four strikeouts) loaded the bases before reliever Dan Lietz stepped up to get Canberra out of the inning with no damage done. With both sides held scoreless through the seventh and eighth, Perth came alive in the top of nine, when three walks, a hit and a two-out, two-RBI Jesse Williams double gleaned three to tie it up and force the game to extras. With both clubs struggling to convert under tiebreaker rules, it was Canberra that broke the deadlock – in the bottom of eleven - when Robbie Perkins singled for the go-ahead and a 4-3 win that split a highly-competitive series. With three scoreless innings at the end, Tayler Saucedo took the win in a tight defensive contest that featured timely hitting by Warner and Perkins for the Cavalry, along with Williams, Luke Hughes and Michael Brosseau for the Heat.
MELBOURNE ACES versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX
Sydney won this series 3-1.
Starting GAME ONE brightly, the Aces put up a three-spot in the bottom of the first – compliments largely of an Allan de San Miguel two-RBI double – while Blues Sox starter Kyle Glogoski settled into his work against counterpart Mark Hamburger, who was looking to atone for a rough outing a week ago. Relieving New Zealander Glogoski in the bottom of five, Craig Anderson conceded a fourth run on a two-out Ryan Dale single in the bottom of six, while Hamburger continued to be super-efficient on the hill for the home club. Landing runners at the corners with two out in the top of eight, Sydney opened its scoring on a Jacob Younis single before Hamburger snuffed out the challenge and Shunta Nakatsuka was called upon to close out the last for a solid 4-1 Melbourne Aces win. Back to something approaching his best, Hamburger carded an important win for the Aces as they seek to further extend their break over Sydney during back-to-back series. With eight of its lineup posting hits, Melbourne was better able to convert scoring opportunities than the Sox, who relied heavily on the remarkable offensive contribution of Jacob Younis (four hits and an RBI).
Desperate to snap a lengthy losing streak, Sydney exploded in the top of the second of GAME TWO, chasing Aces starter Kona Takahashi from the hill with eight runs against his name – seven of them earned, including a two-run bomb among the six hits. Solid for the Blue Sox, Clayton Freimuth was accorded further run support against Aces teenager Liam Evans, who conceded doubles to Michael Campbell and Max Brennen (RBI) in the top of the third. After Matt Beattie tossed a scoreless top of four, the Aces finally hit the scoreboard - on a two-out Allan de San Miguel RBI-double - and closed the gap further when Marcus Tomlin singled and Jarryd Dale left the yard in the bottom of five. Darryl George hit safely and Brett Cumberland belted a two-run shot over rightfield to reduce the lead to four runs before Freimuth handed the pill to Sven Schueller to escape the innings and close out the game 9-5 in favour of Sydney Blue Sox. While the Aces out-hit their opponent ten to eight – with Jarryd Dale, George, Tomlin and Cumberland all playing leading roles – the Sox put this game beyond reach with that one rollicking second inning of offensive belligerence.
Form pitchers of the league in Josh Tols (Melbourne) and Luke Wilkins (Sydney) held GAME THREE scoreless until the fourth, when a defensive error allowed Michael Suchy to score for the Blue Sox. Leading off with a double in the top of six, Jacob Younis advanced on a bunt and scored on a fielder’s choice as the Sox played effective short ball that gleaned another two for the inning – and a four zip break - as the Aces defence faltered under pressure. Returning the favour with some ragged defence that enabled the home club to load the bases in the bottom of seven, Sydney conceded a run while the Aces called upon fireballer Christian Meister and Hei Chun Lee to keep them in the contest. Despite landing runners on base in the bottom of the last, the Aces were unable to make inroads against Sox hurler Chang-Sung Ko, who closed out the game 4-1 in favour of Sydney. It was a contest in which both clubs slipped up in defence, with Wilkins carding the win for Sydney – whose sweep of the doubleheader keeps the club in touch with the leading group.
The Aces opened scoring in GAME FOUR – on a sacrifice flyball by Brett Cumberland in the bottom of the first – although the Sox were quick to respond, with two in the top of the second, on a fielder’s choice and an RBI-grounder off Melbourne starter Jon Kennedy. Tyler Neslony drew a walk from Todd Grattan in the bottom of three, stole second and scored on a Delmon Young double that tied the scores. With Sam Street relieving Kennedy, the Aces passed up a scoring opportunity in the bottom of five against Craig Anderson – who was again used in middle relief by the Blue Sox. Replacing Street after a scoreless stint, Shunta Nakatsuka breezed through the top of seven before his side edged ahead when Anderson walked a run across in the equaliser. A prompt response saw Lars Anderson single to again tie it up before John Collins delivered the go-ahead on a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Pressing ahead against Scott Shuman in the ninth, Sydney padded its lead with another three – compliments of Chih-Hsien Chiang (RBI-double), Max Brennen and Lars Anderson (both RBI-singles) – before Vaughan Harris conceded a solo homer to Neslony before closing out the game 7-4 in favour of Sydney. It was a strong win by the Blue Sox, who had nine players contribute in offence, while Young (three hits and an RBI) and Neslony (two hits – including the home run – and three walks) were the stars for Melbourne.
ADELAIDE BITE versus BRISBANE BANDITS
Brisbane won this series 3-1.
Dominant early in GAME ONE, starters Chris Powell (Adelaide) and Ryan Bollinger) each pitched a scoreless first two frames before Brisbane broke out in the third – when Donald Lutz blasted a three-run homer before a period of pitching and defensive dominance into the seventh innings. Instigating a two-out challenge, Wade Dutton and David Sutherland (RBI single) hit safely to create an opportunity against Adelaide reliever Nick Hutchings, who was tagged by Adam Weisenburger for a second run of the frame. With Bollinger supreme on the hill for Brisbane, the visitors edged further ahead – for a six zip lead – when TJ Bennett stroked an RBI-single off Christopher Horne in the top of eight. When Sutherland singled and Andrew Campbell belted a two-run moonshot in the top of nine, it was shaping as another tough outing for the Bite – who were overpowered 8-0 by a Bandits club that would be delighted with the superb complete-game outing by Bollinger, who whiffed a dozen and conceded no walks against an opponent that could muster just three hits. By contrast, the Bandits had eight players contributing to the offensive effort, with the more prominent among those being Campbell (three hits – including the homer – for two RBIs), Lutz (three-run homer), Chih-Sheng Lin (two hits), Sutherland (two hits), Bennett and Weisenburger.
While Brisbane had a scoring chance in the second of GAME TWO, Adelaide starter Matt Williams matched Hung-Wen Chen with three scoreless innings until the Bandits broke the deadlock with a solo home run by Mitch Nilsson in the fourth. When Aaron Whitefield smacked a two-out RBI in the top of the fifth and Steven Chambers was summoned from the Adelaide pen, the visitors kicked away with another three – including a Wade Dutton two-RBI double. When a double and a defensive error gleaned another for the Bandits in the top of six, it was six zip in the seven innings contest before the Bite hit back against Brisbane reliever Zac Treece with a two-run homer to Bas Nooij and a third run generated by Rodrigo Ayarza with some aggressive baserunning. Taking the ball in the top of the last, Jackson Brebner-Russ gave up a single to Chih-Sheng Lin and a double to Nilsson, with the Bandits scoring on a Logan Wade sacrifice for a 7-3 lead that held up as the winning score for Brisbane as Matt Timms comfortably closed out the game. With seven strikeouts and three hits over five innings, Chen took the win for the Bandits, who out-hit their opponent eleven to five on the back of telling contributions by Nilsson, Lin, Dutton and David Sutherland - while Nooij, Ayarza and Mason Clavell were best of a subdued Bite offence.
Bite starter Greg Mosel escaped an early challenge in GAME THREE and his side scored first on an RBI single off Bandits starter Travis Blackley, who remained in control until the bottom of five – when Isaias Quiroz and Darius Day both singled to set the table for Rodrigo Ayarza, who obliged with a three-run blast and a four-run Adelaide lead that effectively spelled the end for Blackley. Dominant over seven, Mosel struck out eight and scattered four in a scoreless outing before handing the ball to Loek van Mil, who was taken deep by Wade Dutton to give the Bandits some belated hope. Calling regularly on its deep bullpen, Brisbane fell even further behind in the bottom of eight, when back-to-back doubles by Stephen Lohr and Tai-San Chang combined with a Wilson Lee single to plate another couple for the Bite before Loek slammed the gate on a 6-1 Adelaide win by striking out the Bandits side in the last. It was a welcome win for Adelaide, which would be delighted by the Mosel effort against an imperious Brisbane offence that was outgunned by a Bite team effort spearheaded by Ayarza (home run for three RBIs), Lohr and Tai-San Chang.
A Donald Lutz homer off Max Beatty gave Brisbane the ideal start in GAME FOUR and Justin Erasmus held sway for the Bandits, who stretched their lead in the top of four on doubles to Mitch Nilsson and Logan Wade that drew Jack O’Loughlin from the pen for a Bite outfit keen so split this series. Singles to Mason Clavell and Curtis Mead gave the Bite a chance in the bottom of five before reliever Chiu Pin-Jui closed out the frame and the Bandits tacked on three more in the top of six as Wade (double), Wade Dutton (RBI single) and David Sutherland (two-RBI double) all stepped up in offence while the Brisbane bullpen continued to contain the Bite hitters – despite Mead and Darius Day hitting safely in the seventh. With Pin-Jui, Zac Treece and Matt Timms all spinning scoreless stints, the Bandits called on Ryan Searle to close out the game and record a 5-0 win that sends Brisbane to clear league leadership. Although Mead and Tai-San Chang were standouts with the bat, Adelaide was unable to deliver the offence against quality Bandits pitching that was accorded great support from Wade (three doubles and an RBI), Dutton (two hits and an RBI), Sutherland and Lutz.