Bandits sweep Sox: Cavalry and Heat on top

Kingsley Collins

10 December 2017

 

In another extraordinarily entertaining round of Australian Baseball League – more so for spectators than pitchers, one expects – the twelve games played produced a total of 175 runs, with 45 long balls leaving baseball fields across the country.

 

Challenged by a valiant Sydney Blue Sox (5-10), reigning dual champion Brisbane Bandits (10-4) swept their four-game set at Holloway Field - to take top billing on the league table – while home club Canberra Cavalry (9-6) packed too many guns against Melbourne Aces (8-7), which struggled to recover from a poor start at Narrabundah.

 

Over in the west, Perth Heat (10-5) again proved that its early season form was no fluke by taking three of its four games from the visiting Adelaide Bite (3-13), which will need to reverse its fortunes dramatically to have a shot at again making the post-season.    

 

While the blistering offence generated during this round might be the subject of discussion at team meetings, in board rooms and in muted conversations on street corners around the country, its entertainment value to the punters appears unquestioned – with consistently impressive crowd numbers at all three venues for Round Four.

 

On Saturday alone – when plenty of people would be otherwise occupied, especially leading into the Christmas break – 2130 people were at Barbagallo for the Heat/Bite doubleheader. 1120 turned up to see Canberra play host to Melbourne and 843 were in attendance at the boutique Holloway Field to see the Bandits lock horns with Sydney Blue Sox.

 

At a time when league expansion is being touted in many quarters, attendance figures thus far this season must surely be a cause for optimism – although there is clearly still a long way to go for baseball to strengthen its niche in a crowded sporting market.

 

Finally, on numbers…….In his Round Four Preview, Australian Baseball Alumni contributor AJ Mithen picked Bandits for the sweep. Correct. He picked Perth to sweep Adelaide, missing by only one. And he called a split result between Canberra and Melbourne, again missing out by just one.

 

Nice work, AJ, whose refreshing prognostications are gathering increasing credence in the Aussie baseball community. You can chat with @AJMithen on Twitter, via the Alumni Facebook or at A Sporting Discussion. He would love your feedback.

 

 

CANBERRA CAVALRY versus MELBOURNE ACES

 

Canberra won this series 3-1.

 

Although the Aces landed runners on base off Brian Grening in the first, it was the Cavalry who opened GAME ONE scoring on a walk, a steal, a throwing error and an infield play as Mark Hamburger settled into his work. Back to back singles by Liam Bedford, Ryan Dale and Jarryd Dale handed the Aces a golden opportunity that was restricted to a sole run as Grening dodged a bullet. The game motored along until Jay Baum cleared the leftfield wall with a solo shot to give Canberra a lead after four before teenager Gabriel Arias monstered a two-run homer over centrefield. Although Darryl George replied with a solo blast, the floodgates were about to open, as Robbie Perkins and Kyle Perkins both crunched two-run blasts for a six-run Cavalry lead. When Arias belted his second round-tripper it was becoming a rout that spelled the end for gutsy gamer Hamburger, who was relieved by Matt Marksberry before Casey McElroy took Jamie Young deep – to complete an extraordinary total of six home runs for the home side as the Cavalry barrelled away to a 17-2 victory. Grening took the win for eight innings of work that was assisted by a twenty-hit team offensive effort featuring big numbers amassed by Arias, McElroy, the Perkins brothers and Baum among others.

 

Calling on vastly experienced Hei Chun Lee to start GAME TWO, the Aces were under early Cavalry fire as five hits – including three doubles – conspired with a HPB and two sacrifice flyballs to glean five in the bottom of the first for a white-hot offence that drew Christian Meister from the pen for the visitors. Five hits, a walk and a defensive error produced another five in the second – an enormous buffer for Canberra starter Lake Bacher that was stretched even further as a struggling Meister coughed up two more before Jackson Boyd closed out a bases-loaded threat. Although Delmon Young singled and Tyler Neslony swatted a two-run bomb in the top of four, it was tough going for the Aces against Bacher, who was relieved after six (seven hits, seven strikeouts and one earned run) by Thomas Holland. Tossing three scoreless for the Aces, Boyd paid for walking Kyle Perkins in the seventh, when Gabriel Arias crushed a two-run shot over rightfield for a 14-2 lead that was protected as the final scoreline by Grant Piccoli. Amassing fifteen hits, the Cavalry offence was again in imperious form, with ten players collecting knocks – and the hitters six through nine posting eleven of their side’s RBIs - while Young and Neslony were productive for a Melbourne Aces outfit that struggled to convert scoring opportunities.

 

Smarting from two deflating losses, Melbourne scored in the first of GAME THREE – on a Tyler Neslony two-out single off Canberra starter Steven Kent – although the Cavalry replied promptly against Kona Takahashi with a Jay Baum RBI single and a Boss Moanaroa sacrifice fly that delivered an early lead for the home club. Aces outfielder Brett Cumberland belted a solo homer in the top of four to level scores and his side surged to a lead as Canberra faltered in defence and the Aces produced timely hitting through Jarryd Dale (RBI single) and Darryl George (RBI double) that drew Stephen Janas from the pen to replace Kent. When Delmon Young doubled for two more, it was a six-run buffer for the visitors, who were clearly looking to repay some of the pain that they had already experienced this series. While an error and a walk gave Canberra a chance in the sixth, Takahashi continued to dominate the Cavalry offence before the Aces called on Scott Shuman and Shunta Nakatsuka to protect the Melbourne lead, which was stretched further on a Nicholas Rossell sacrifice fly and a Ryan Dale RBI single in the top of nine. While a late flurry generated some late hope for the Cavalry, it was a bridge too far and the Aces emerged a 10-4 winner in an entertaining contest that was effectively decided in that one massive scoring innings.

 

Looking to split this high-scoring series, Melbourne was rocked early in GAME FOUR when David Kandilas left the yard with a two-run blast off the rangy Jon Kennedy while Frank Gailey started solidly for the Cavalry. After Dan McGrath had tossed two scoreless innings the Aces went to form arm Josh Tols, who conceded a run in the sixth and two in the seventh – when the Cavalry cashed in on three walks (one intentional) after hits to Kyle Perkins and Gabriel Arias. Finally coming alive in the top of eight, the Aces put up a five spot off southpaw Tayler Saucedo - compliments of a Darryl George RBI-single and a Delmon Young grand slam. While it was an outburst that levelled the scores, the Canberra offence remained unfazed, with David Kandilas stroking a two-run double for a 7-5 break that was comfortably protected by closer and winning pitcher Michael Click. With three hits- including a grand slam – Young was outstanding for the Melbourne offence, while Buddy Reed, Kandilas and Arias led the Cavalry charge.

 

GAME ONE               GAME TWO               GAME THREE               GAME FOUR

 

 

BRISBANE BANDITS versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX

 

Brisbane won this series 4-0.

 

The Bandits started GAME ONE brightly, with Donald Lutz going deep in the first off Trevor Foss, while Brisbane starter Ryan Bollinger looked sharp despite conceding an early double to former big leaguer Lars Anderson. With the Sox playing silky defence – led by catcher Jin-De Jhang – the game remained tight as the visitors tied it up in the top of three on a Chih-Hsien Chiang sacrifice fly before a Lutz double and a three-run Chih-Sheng Lin monster blast handed the Bandits a four-run lead. A follow-up TJ Bennett bomb extended the lead before Chih-Hsien Chiang doubled for a second Sydney run, although Bollinger was on his game (six innings, eight hits for ten strikeouts and two earned runs) before handing the pill to new arrival Hung-Wen Chen. Relieving Foss, Matthew Rae spun a scoreless sixth and seventh for the Sox, who were unable to mount a defensive challenge as Chiu Pin-Jui and Matt Timms closed out the game 6-2 in favour of Brisbane. Bollinger carded the win for Brisbane, which snapped a losing streak compliments largely of timely offensive supplied by Lutz (home run and double for two RBIs), Chih-Sheng Lin (home run and three ribbies) and Bennett (two hits – including a home run), while Chih-Hsien Chiang (two hits, two RBIs) and Jacob Younis (two hits) were best for the Blue Sox in a tight contest that was effectively decided in one innings.

 

Continuing his hot offensive form, Chih-Sheng Lin belted a two-run homer off Craig Anderson in the bottom of the first of GAME TWO – a seven innings contest – while Lars Anderson doubled off Brisbane starter Pat Young but was left stranded in the second. When Wade Dutton left the yard with a two-run bomb and Chih-Sheng Lin swatted his second round-tripper for the game it was suddenly five zip in favour of Brisbane, who continued to shut down the Blue Sox in run-scoring situations. Relieving Young in the top of five, Chiu Pin-Jui conceded hits to Max Brennen and Alex Howe before two-out RBI singles to Jacob Younis and Chih-Hsien Chiang were capped with a two-run homer by Anderson – his third hit of the game. After allowing a lead-off single in the top of six, Brisbane fireballer Hung-Wen Chen struck out the side and Ryan Searle closed out the game 5-4 in favour of the Bandits. Matt Timms was accorded the win for Brisbane - whose Chih-Sheng Lin did the bulk of the offensive damage - while Lars Anderson, Chih-Hsien Chiang and Jacob Younis were productive for the Blue Sox.

 

Taking the start for Brisbane in GAME THREE – which was deemed another seven-innings affair after weather delay - Travis Blackley conceded a lead-off home run to Trent d’Antonio, while Clayton Freimuth reluctantly returned the scoring favour as Donald Lutz doubled to level scores after the first. A two-out RBI double by Alex Howe handed the Blue Sox a lead that was built upon with a mishandled third strike that allowed Howe in from third. When Chih-Hsien Chiang blasted a massive homer to centrefield in the third, it was looking rosy for the Sox despite a booming solo shot by Lutz in the bottom of three. Sparked by a further solo homer to Ryan Battaglia, the Bandits exploded in the bottom of four, when doubles to David Sutherland and Aaron Whitefield drew Chang-Sung Ko from the pen to replace Freimuth, who could only look on as Lutz smacked a two-run triple and Mitch Nilsson singled to cap a four-run frame that delivered the Bandits a one-run break. When David Sutherland drove a two-out, two-run long ball over the rightfield wall, the Bandits held a decisive break that was stretched further when Logan Wade left the yard with a three-run shot in the bottom of six en route to an 11-5 Brisbane win. Blackley took the win in a game that produced an extraordinary number of home runs – six – with much of the damage for the victors being done by Lutz (four RBIs), Wade and Sutherland, while d’Antonio, Younis and Howe were multiple hitters for the Blue Sox.

 

In a weekend of heavy scoring across the league, GAME FOUR at Holloway was no exception, with the early trend set by Connor MacDonald – whose two-run blast gave Sydney the lead against his old club. After scoring in the bottom of three, the Bandits forged ahead on back-to-back home runs to Logan Wade and David Sutherland off Sox starter Luke Wilkins. Desperate for a win in this series, the Blue Sox hit back in the fifth, taking Sam Holland for three runs on three hits, an error, an intentional walk and a sacrifice fly – before Sutherland again left the yard with a three-run blast in the bottom of six. The slugfest continued in the seventh, when Bandit Hung-Wen Chen was made the brunt of a five-run assault led by Michael Suchy (two-run homer), Max Brennen (two-run double) and Alex Howe (RBI-double). While TJ Bennett blasted a two-run shot for Brisbane in the bottom of seven, Sydney plated a run in the top of eight before Vaughan Harris (one inning) and Sven Schueller were called upon to close out the game. After walking Aaron Whitefield and Logan Wade, Schueller induced a double play before giving up a two-run homer to Mitch Nilsson that sent the game into extras under the tie-breaker rule. After some slick Brisbane defence held Sydney to a solitary run in the tenth, the Bandits sealed a dramatic series sweep when Wade Dutton smashed an opposite field grand slam for a 15-11 win. Ryan Searle earned the win for a game in which the Bandits were out-hit ten to sixteen in total but on this occasion themselves belted six home runs in a quite incredible contest against a gutsy opponent that took it right up to the reigning champion.

 

GAME ONE               GAME TWO               GAME THREE               GAME FOUR

 

 

PERTH HEAT versus ADELAIDE BITE

 

Perth won this series 3-1.

 

While Adelaide had its chances in the first inning of GAME ONE, the Heat were immediately on the board when lead-off Jake Fraley took Bite starter Chris Powell deep in the equaliser. Although two singles, a wild pitch and an error gave Adelaide a one-run lead in the top of four, a Garrett Whitley RBI-single tied it up in the equaliser as Powell and Alex Boshers (Perth) built solid starts for their respective clubs. With Adelaide employing the bullpen after Zacrey Law doubled for Perth to lead off the seventh, the home side bunched a string of hits to put up a three-spot in a see-sawing affair. Facing a three-run deficit into the last, the Bite launched a two-out response when Jordan McArdle drove a three-run shot over right-centre to offer his side belated hope. The Heat had ideas other than extra innings, though, as Jesse Williams doubled, advanced on a wild pitch and strolled home on a Michael Brosseau single for a hard-fought 6-5 result. Although Boshers had been terrific over seven, Scott Mitchinson carded the win for Perth with two innings at the end of a thrilling contest featuring decisive offence by McArdle (two hits for three RBIs for Adelaide), along with Fraley (three hits and two RBIs), Brosseau and Whitley for the Heat.

 

Paddling at the bottom of the ABL table, the Bite came out firing in GAME TWO, taking Perth starter Kyle Simon for five in the top of the first – on a walk, six hits and a sacrifice fly – although the response was emphatic, with Luke Hughes and Garrett Whitley both smacking two-run bombs in a seven-run blast that chased Adelaide starter Max Beatty from the hill with two out in the equaliser. Three hits, two walks, a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch by Bite reliever Jack O’Loughlin allowed the Heat to scoot to a five-run lead after three. Relieving O’Loughlin, Tim Day tossed a scoreless fourth before the Heat exploited a wild pitch to edge further away in the fifth. Carding the 11-5 win for Perth in a seven-innings contest, Simon showed great durability before handing the ball to Daniel Schmidt to close out the game. Although the Bite racked up eight hits, Perth took toll of seven walks as Hughes, Whitley, Michael Brosseau, Jake Fraley and Tim Kennelly produced the timely offence and extended Adelaide’s losing streak.

 

Although Adelaide starter Greg Mosel tossed two scoreless innings to start GAME THREE, the in-form Heat offence came alive in the bottom of three – blasting six runs on the back of five hits, including a two-RBI Jack Fraley double. Clean through five for the home club, Tom Bailey was placed under fire in the sixth, when a string of walks allowed the Bite to hit back with a four spot before Jack Bowey escaped the inning. The revival was short-lived, however, as the Heat applied the blowtorch with four of their own – including triples to Ulrich Bojarski and Garrett Whitley. A Whitley double drove in a further insurance run in the eighth, although the game was well gone by that point as Bowey and Matt Kennelly mopped up in support of winning pitcher Bailey. Fourteen hits to six made a key difference in this contest, with Brosseau, Whitley, Jesse Williams and Bojarski all posting multiples in a clear-cut 11-4 win that extended the Adelaide woes even further.

 

With his side gunning for a series sweep in GAME FOUR, Jake Fraley Launched a solo bomb in the first before starters Nick Veale (Perth) and Matt Williams (Adelaide) settled into their work for three scoreless innings until the Bite broke the offensive shackles in the fourth. A walk, an error, two singles and a run-scoring grounder were backed up by a two-run shot to Jordan McArdle for a four-run frame, although the Heat hit back with one in the fifth – after a Garrett Whitley triple – and a three-spot in the sixth that included a two-run Michael Brosseau homer. While both clubs called on their bullpens, the Bite pressed on to generate another big inning in the seventh, when Connar O’Gorman homered before Stephen Lohr and Tai-San Chang swatted RBI singles off Scott Mitchinson for a three-run lead to the visitors. While Cameron Lamb held the Bite offence in check over the last two innings, the Heat were unable to counter-attack as Loek van Mil closed out a much-needed 8-5 win for Adelaide. Nick Hutchings was deemed winning pitcher for an Adelaide side that owed plenty to the offence of McArdle (home run for three RBIs), Lohr, Tai-San Chang and Gorman.

 

GAME ONE               GAME TWO               GAME THREE               GAME FOUR

 

 

 

 

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