ABL status quo maintained with three split series
22 November 2015
In the most even weekend of Australian Baseball League competition for the 2015/16 season thus far - results wise - each of the six clubs had to settle for two wins from four games scheduled.
Facing the league-leading Canberra Cavalry (now 13-7), Melbourne Aces (7-13) dropped its first game before generating some encouraging offensive form for a couple of big wins, while Adelaide Bite (8-10) recovered from a first-game loss at Norwood to force a split with second-placed Brisbane Bandits (12-8).
Favoured by most for its home fixture, Perth Heat (11-9) was seriously challenged by a Sydney Blue Sox outfit (7-11) that did enough to hold fifth placing ahead of an improving Melbourne Aces.
AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE ROUND FIVE 2015/16
CANBERRA CAVALRY versus MELBOURNE ACES (Narrabundah)
Although Canberra headed the Australian Baseball League table coming in, it was faced with some tough resistance from the cellar-dwelling Melbourne Aces, which produced some imperious offence in an improved showing against a quality outfit. The series was split 2-2.
Struggling for control by his lofty standards, Canberra ace Brian Grening conceded a run in the first innings of Game One and extricated himself from a bases-loaded jam in the second while his offence plated a run in the first and another in the third off Aces big man Mike McGillivray. While the Aces scrambled an equalising run before edging to a lead in the top of five it was short-lived as doubles to Derrick Loveless and River Stevens squared the ledger as the Cavalry built the base for a 10-4 win. Relieving Grening in the sixth, winning pitcher Phil Kish held sway until the eighth, while McGillivray was relieved by southpaw Matt Wilson, who inherited two runners, both scoring on a Loveless double before defensive errors off William Wu handed the Cavalry a four-run break minimally pegged back when Masato Fukae stroked his fourth hit for the Aces in the eighth. Despite being out-hit fourteen to ten, the Cavalry drove a final nail into the Aces coffin when Jason Leblebijian swatted a three-run homer off Aces debutante Josh Lee.
The Aces exploded in the first innings of Game Two, forcing four across the plate on a combination of a defensive error and five hits – including a two-run single by Jarryd Rogers – as Canberra starter Wade Corpi was applied the blow torch. Canberra loaded the bases with none out in reply, but came up empty as Matt Larkins whiffed Jack Murphy and induced an infield double. While Larkins remained on top for the Aces, Korpi was relieved in the top of five after conceding another three runs for a six-run break that was stretched even further when Mike Hill smacked a bases-clearing double off Aaron Thompson. When Masato Fukae singled for another it shaped as a rout, although Boss Moanaroa gave his side a rough chance by clearing the bases with a booming double in the bottom of six. Finally and deservedly carding a win for the Aces, Larkins was relieved by Takayuki Yamaguchi – who gave supporters a few anxious moments before pitching coach Virgil Vasquez closed out an 11-8 win after the Cavalry had scored the last seven runs of the game.
With the series tied at one apiece entering Game Three, Canberra supporters were treated to another consummate outing by left-armed starter Steven Kent – his second pearler in seven days, and his third win. Scattering four hits over 8.2 innings of a 7-2 contest, Kent was basically untouched until Brad Harman swatted a two-run homer with two out when the game was effectively done and dusted. Scoring in four of the first five innings – including a three-spot in the third – the Cavalry took advantage of a couple of defensive lapses in chasing the impressive Yasuo Sano from the hill with seven runs against his name, five of them earned. While Jeremy Young held Canberra scoreless over the last four, the damage had been done – wrought largely by the bats of Bryan Pounds (three hits and an RBI), Jason Leblebijian (one and three), David Harris (two hits) and Boss Moanaroa.
The Aces were off to a flier in Game Four, taking Colton Turner to the cleaners for an early six-run lead, highlighted by a pair of damaging Canberra defensive errors in the opener and a one-out Brad Harman moonshot in the second. Holding the Cavalry scoreless in the first two, rangy Melbourne starter Jon Kennedy was relieved by William Wu after conceding four unearned in the bottom of the third – including a massive two-out bomb by Boss Moanaroa. Continuing to press, Canberra plated another in the fifth, but the home side was unable to contain a rampant Aces offence that kicked away again en route to an 11-5 win on seventeen hits against five hurlers used by the Cavalry. Eight players posted hits for the Aces, with the most prominent being Brad Harman (three hits and two RBIs), Josh Davies (three and one), Trey Vavra (two and three), Masato Fukae, Tanner Vavra, Mike Hill and Nick Rossell – while Boss Moanaroa (two and three) was the standout for Canberra.
PERTH HEAT versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (Barbagallo)
While not known for heavy scoring – at least this season – Sydney took on the toughest of the ABL road trips, won the first game convincingly and was pipped by a run in the second before returning the favour in Game Three to guarantee a share of the spoils. The series was split 2-2.
Sydney was off to a strong start in Game One against Perth Heat, when Rhys Hoskins clubbed a solo home run in the first and Max Brennen drove in another two with his two-out single in the second to give starter Alex Balog solid run protection until Correlle Prime smacked a two-run homer in the bottom of six. While the Sox again edged to a two-run break, Michael Benjamin drew it back with his long ball in the seventh – enough, it seemed to again spark the Sydney offence, which put up a three-spot and went on to a 7-4 win. Carding the win for Sydney, Balog enjoyed grand support from the pen, while Perth starter Daniel Schmidt took the loss against a Sydney offence that was well-served by Josh Strong (two hits and two RBIs), Brennen (one and two) and Hoskins (two hits, including the first-innings round tripper).
Although Sydney scored in the second innings of Game Two, the Heat hit back to level scores in a pitcher-dominated contest that remained at one apiece until the home club finally cashed in – in the tenth – when Correlle Prime drew a walk from Sydney closer Matthew Rae, went to third on a Luke Hughes double and scooted home on a throwing error for a 2-1 Perth win. While both Wayne Lundgren (Sydney) and Edwin Carl (Perth) gave their sides terrific starts, the Blue Sox faltered in defence by making six errors that accounted for both of the Perth runs. Brandon Zywicki (Sydney) and Edgar Valle (Perth) both went scoreless in the set-up role, with Tom Bailey taking the win in a game where the total of ten hits was shared between ten players.
Sydney took a series lead after Game Three by stunning the Heat with a three-run first innings and withstanding a number of challenges to hang on 5-4 in another hard-fought affair featuring some outstanding pitching. While Heat starter Jon Jones was shaky early days, he settled into some decent rhythm over five before reliever Josh Silvi conceded another two in a ragged sixth frame. Evergreen Craig Anderson conjured up another solid performance to earn the win over six innings of work before Gyoung-Wan Lim, Aaron Sookee and Calvin Drummond each tossed an innings against a powerful Perth offence that took the hitting honours nine to five but was not quite able to string them together despite the contributions of Tad Gold (three hits), Derek Peterson (two), Michael Benjamin (2) and Matt Kennelly (three of his side’s RBIs, on two productive ground balls and a sacrifice fly).
Perth opened scoring in Game Four on a first innings single to Luke Hughes, although its starter Nick Veale was rocked momentarily in the second when both Josh Dean and Josh Strong left the yard to give Sydney a two-run break that was reeled back in the fourth as the Blue Sox defence faltered. Derek Peterson drove in a fourth run in the fourth after Veale had settled into his work and the Blue Sox called upon Todd Grattan to relieve Jan Stoecklin in the fifth inning, which gleaned three more and a four-run break for the home club. Another three Perth runs in the bottom of seven made it tough for the Blue Sox, who hit back with a couple off Edgar Valle in the eighth but were held in check by Scott Mitchinson who closed out the game 10-5 for the Heat. In posting its highest score of the season, Perth had eight players registering hits, while Sydney relied principally on the contributions of Dean, Strong and Alex Howe.
ADELAIDE BITE versus BRISBANE BANDITS (Norwood Oval)
Bookended by two higher-scoring contests in which offence was clearly to the fore, this series generated a couple of classic pitching duels as both clubs sought to gain the ascendancy and improve upon their ladder positions. The series was split 2-2.
Coming off a successful albeit rain-affected road trip to Sydney, the Bite conceded two in the second – on two doubles and a defensive error – and played catch-up all game before Brisbane posted a comfortable 8-3 Game One win that saw it out-hit the home side fourteen to six. Although Adelaide plated a run in the third, Brisbane starter Rick Teasley held sway into the bottom of six, when the Bite drew back to within a run. But while both sides were active in going to the pen, it was the Bandits who were able to exploit their opportunities – with a run in the eighth followed by a three-spot in the ninth, when Mitch Nilsson smacked a two-run homer and Ryan Battaglia doubled for his third hit and his third RBI of the evening to pace other multiple hitters in Ciuffo, David Sutherland and Justin Williams. With two of his side’s six hits, Kyle Petty was a danger man for Adelaide, which was well held by winning pitcher Teasley and stingy relievers Eric Green, Matt Timms and consummate closer Ryan Searle – who whiffed four in his two innings of work.
Game Two was a pitcher-dominated and defensively impeccable affair in which the Bite were able to score in the second on a Kyle Petty home run and again the sixth – on a Davis Page double - for a lead that subsequently translated into a 2-0 result. Tossing five innings of scoreless work for a solitary hit, Elroy Urbina collected the win for Adelaide before handing the ball to bullpen support in the form of Kyal Williams, Devon Barker and Kody Kerski – who collectively scattered three hits. While Petty and Tom Brice were productive in the Adelaide offence, Brisbane starter Trent Baker did little wrong in a five innings stint before Tristan Crawford closed out the game with his side unable to convert scoring opportunities that were created on a number of occasions.
Defence and pitching excellence continued for Game Three, which extended into overtime after both clubs struggled to gain a break. With starters Jason Jarvis (Brisbane) and Steven Chambers (Adelaide) well in charge, there was no score until the bottom of five, when a Mark Wik single drove Tom Brice across the plate. While the Bandits squared the ledger with a run in the top of seven, Adelaide regained the lead – on a wild pitch – before the visitors drew level again to force the game into the tenth, when three successive singles and a sacrifice fly by Nick Ciuffo broke the deadlock at 3-2, the final score in favour of the Bandits. Again tossing two flawless innings at the death, Ryan Searle earned the win for Brisbane – which out-hit the Bite seven to four without ever getting away against Chambers, Josh Tols and Matt Williams.
Withstanding a late challenge, Adelaide hung on 9-8 in Game Four to split its home series against Brisbane and remain well in touch with third placing – especially given that it has two games in hand. All over Brisbane starter Josh Warner, the Bite exploded to a five-run lead after two – compliments largely of a three-run bomb by Kyle Petty and a bases-clearing Stefan Welch double in the second to chase Warner from the hill. While Andrew Campbell left the yard twice for Brisbane and Mitch Nilsson and David Sutherland both launched solo shots in the second, Adelaide used six of its pitchers in securing the result, with closer Kody Kerski recording the win. With three hits for three RBIs (including the two home runs), Campbell was outstanding for Brisbane along with Nilsson, Sutherland and Maxx Tissenbaum, while Welch (three hits and four RBIs) and Petty were superb with the stick for Adelaide.