Cavalry holds lead: Heat makes ground
15 November 2015
As expected, it was an enthralling three days of baseball in Brisbane, with the Bandits (10-6) taking the first two before the Cavalry (11-5) hit back to square their series and retain top placing on the Australian Baseball League ladder after Round Four.
After Perth (9-7) had given Melbourne (5-11) a touch-up in the first of their four-game set followed by a narrow win in a pitcher-dominated affair, the Aces rode a Yasuo Sano pearler for a Game Three victory before the Heat hung on in a thrilling finale to take the series.
Finally on the paddock after repeated rainouts at Blacktown, Adelaide (6-8) won both games played as a double-header against Sydney (5-9) on Sunday, with a decision on the other half of that fixture to be made by ABL officialdom.
AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE ROUND FOUR 2015/16
MELBOURNE ACES versus PERTH HEAT (Melbourne Ballpark)
Languishing towards the bottom of the ABL table, Melbourne Aces were at home to a Heat outfit coming in with a modest 6-6 record, not dissimilar to its start in the 2014/15 season. And we know how that campaign subsequently panned out. Perth Heat won this series 3-1.
The Heat collared Aces starter Mike Gillivray early on in Game One, with two in the first and another couple in the fourth, drawing Gareth Formisano from the pen to absorb some further punishment as the visitors surged to a seven zip lead en route to an 8-1 victory. Although the Aces had scoring opportunities in the first four innings, they were unable to capitalise, while Perth produced the timely hitting led by Luke Hughes (two hits for three RBIs), Michael Benjamin (double), Tad Gold (double), Allan de San Miguel and Anthony Caronia – who both swatted solo bombs.
Tossing a superb seven innings of scoreless work, Daniel Schmidt strangled the Aces offence before Josh Silvi closed out the game against an opponent that could muster just six hits – two of those (and a walk) posted by Darryl George.
Game Two featured another lion-heartened and quite outstanding starting effort by big rightie Matt Larkins – who tossed eight innings for five hits and a solitary walk – although he was again let down by an Aces offence that passed up scoring opportunities and was dominated by Edwin Carl (seven innings for five hits and six strikeouts) before seasoned campaigner Scott Mitchinson chimed in with the save in his side’s 3-0 win. Neither of the Perth pitchers conceded a walk. With both sides starved of scoring opportunities, it was the Heat who made the inroads – with two in the top of six driven in by Tim Kennelly and Derek Peterson and an insurance run on Peterson’s two-out single in the eighth.
After Perth smacked back to back doubles to open Game Three scoring with a run in the first, Aces fans were treated to a brilliant complete-game outing by left-armer Yasuo Sano, who conceded a miserly five hits – including just one after the second innings. It was only the second complete-game in Melbourne Aces history and it was instrumental in a 4-1 win for the home club, which scored all of its runs in the bottom of the third, including RBI singles by Trey Vavra and Josh Davies. Taking the loss for Perth, Matt Taylor was supported with some terrific relief work by Adam Milson and Josh Peterson after the scoring damage had been done. Tim Kennelly and Luke Hughes posted two hits apiece for a subdued Heat offence, while Trey Vavra and Tanner Vavra both had two knocks.
With his side looking to square the series in Game Four, Aces starter Jon Kennedy breezed through the first two innings but came under fire in the third – when the Heat scored a couple – and again in the fifth, when Tim Kennelly followed up an earlier double with a towering two-run bomb that brought William Wu from the pen to replace the rangy southpaw. Solid over six for Perth, former Victorian Nick Veale conceded an unearned run in the fourth and a run in the fifth before handing the ball to Edgar Valle, while the Aces went to Luke Abels and Takayuki Yamaguchi after Wu had thrown a hitless stint into the eighth. However, despite out-hitting the Heat eleven to six – including multiples by Takanori Hoshi (three), Darryl George (two), Brad Harman (two) and Mike Hill (two) - Melbourne stranded thirteen runners on base, including bases juiced situations in the eighth and ninth as Scott Mitchinson closed out a 4-2 win for Perth.
SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus ADELAIDE BITE (Blacktown Sportspark)
Both the Thursday and Friday evening games were rained out and this four-game series was re-scheduled as two double-headers on both Saturday and Sunday. The weather persisted, however, with Saturday another write-off and play not getting under way until Sunday lunchtime. Rescheduling of the two unplayed games will be at discretion of Australian Baseball League. Adelaide won both games played.
In Game One of the doubleheader, Adelaide took it to Sydney starter Alex Balog in the second, when a lead-off Mark Wik double was followed by a run-scoring single to Angus Roeger, a single by Ben Lodge, a Jordan Cowan run-scoring bunt and a Tom Brice sacrifice fly to produce three runs. While Steven Chambers continued to hold sway for the Bite, his offence tacked another two in the fifth – on Wik and Roeger back-to-back doubles – after the Blue Sox had clawed one back in the bottom of four. The clubs traded blows in the sixth – when Sydney drew to within three - as the Bite went to Matt Williams and Kody Kerski to close out a 6-3 win. While Rhys Hoskins and Trent D’Antonio both posted two hits in a team total of seven, the Bite offence amassed thirteen – led by Landon Hernandez (three hits) along with Wik, Roeger and Lodge (two each).
Adelaide Bite wrapped up Game Two 4-0 in seven innings after both sides went scoreless through five against quality pitching – especially by Bite starter Dallas Gallant, who conceded a solitary hit over three before Nick Talbot picked up the win with four scoreless innings. While Wayne Lundgren conjured up another fine start for the Blue Sox – giving up a sole earned run in the sixth – it all came unstuck for Sydney in the top of seven, when a walk, a sacrifice fly and three defensive errors gleaned four unearned against Sydney reliever Calvin Drummond. With both sides struggling for offensive production, Stefan Welch posted two of the Adelaide hits, while Tom Brice and Kyle Petty both drove in a run.
BRISBANE BANDITS versus CANBERRA CAVALRY (Holloway Field)
This much-anticipated top of the table clash did not let anybody down - well, except perhaps for supporters of either outfit who would have dearly loved a sweep, or at least a series win to be coming their way. The series was split 2-2.
Already in a rich vein of form, Brisbane delighted its home-town supporters with a thrilling 3-2 win over Canberra Cavalry in Game One of Round Four. It was a pitcher-dominated contest in which starters Rick Teasley (Brisbane) and Brian Grening (Canberra) were outstanding – in Grening's case after Mitch Nilsson blasted a two-run homer to open scoring in the bottom of the first. After Bryan Pounds cracked a solo shot for Canberra in the top of six, the home club replied in the equaliser and held on despite the Cavalry scoring a second run on a Jason Leblebijian double in the seventh. Credited with the win after five scoreless innings, Teasley received great support from the Brisbane bullpen, while Grening whiffed seven while conceding the three earned runs over six for the Cavalry. Out-hitting its opponent nine to five, Canberra failed to fully cash in the opportunities created by Pounds (two hits and an RBI), Leblebijian (two and one), David Harris (two hits) and Aaron Sayers (two hits), while Nilsson and rightfielder Justin Williams were among the prime movers for Brisbane.
Brisbane scored early and scored heavily in Game Two, posting a comprehensive 8-4 win in the seven innings first of a Saturday double header, highlighted by a potent Bandits offence that saw eight players recording hits in a team total of thirteen – including a five-run third dig sparked by a lead-off Mitch Nilsson bomb. Although Jack Murphy homered in the fourth for Canberra and Cord Sandberg jacked a two run shot in the three-run sixth frame, the Cavalry was playing catch up all game against winning pitcher Jason Jarvis (one earned run over five), Taylor Stanton and Eric Green. Canberra starter Wade Korpi came in for the bulk of punishment as Riley Unroe (two hits and three RBIs), Justin Williams (two and two), Aaron Whitefield (two and two) and in-form slugger Mitch Nilsson (two and one) delivered serious offence for the Bandits.
Quality side that it is, Canberra hit back in Game Three – another seven innings contest – and scored heavily through the middle innings to whitewash the Bandits 7-0. Going the complete game, Steven Kent was quite superb for the Cavalry in scattering three hits and striking out thirteen – a remarkable return at any time, but more particularly over a truncated game. While Trent Baker tossed a scoreless first two innings for Brisbane, the Cavalry bats came alive with a run in the third, two in the fourth – compliments of a Jeremy Barnes moonshot – and another three in the fifth as the Bandits went to Tristan Crawford. Playing errorless defence behind Kent, the Cavalry had grand contributors in Jason Leblebijian (three hits and two RBIs), Boss Moanaroa (two and two) and Barnes (two hits, including the two-run homer).
Shaping early as a slugfest, Game Four remained deadlocked until the Cavalry put up a three-spot in the fifth and held sway for a 7-4 win to square the series. After a two-run Jack Murphy homer helped Canberra post three in the top of the first, Brisbane replied in kind on productive hitting by Mitch Nilsson, Nick Ciuffo and Maxx Tissenbaum before both sides delivered another run apiece in the second. While Colton Turner conceded four earned runs before handing the pill to Cavalry teammate Rafael Fernandez – who earned the win – Brisbane called on six of its hurlers to stay in the game, with the winning break being gained off Matt Timms in the fifth, compliments of a three-run Jeremy Barnes homer. Amassing fifteen knocks to seven, the Cavalry had standout hitters in Barnes (two hits and three RBIs), David Harris (three and one), Murphy (two and two), Jason Leblebijian, Bryan Pounds and Aaron Sayers - while Tissenbaum was the only multiple for Brisbane.
Image: Australian Baseball Alumni