Blue Sox, Bite on the pace after series wins
20 December 2015
While Canberra (21-15) and Brisbane (20-16) retained their respective ABL ladder positions after splitting a series at Narrabundah, Sydney (19-16) is not far back in third after its series success over lowly Melbourne Aces (13-23).
After dropping its first game at home to fifth-placed Perth (16-20), Adelaide Bite (18-17) made a stunning recovery to take three games from the Heat and stay within close contact of the league leaders.
Played in oppressive weather conditions, Round Nine of Australian Baseball League demonstrated that competition is indeed hotting up with just five regular season rounds to play.
ABL ROUND NINE REVIEW 2015/16
CANBERRA CAVALRY versus BRISBANE BANDITS (Narrabundah)
This top of the table clash certainly did not disappoint, with both clubs displaying the form that has helped set a benchmark for the 2015/16 season. Although the Sunday finale was not an especially good look for the game, this was a tough and uncompromising series that may yet be a harbinger of things to come in the post-season. The series was split 2-2.
A crucial GAME ONE for both clubs started with a bang when Canberra lead-off Davis Harris clubbed the third pitch he saw from Bandits starter Justin Harris Erasmus over the leftfield wall, although the visitors responded with a couple off Cavalry ace Brian Grening – the result of a two-run shot by TJ Bennett after Logan Wade had hit safely in the top of the second. The Bandits stretched their lead in the third, when Bralin Jackson doubled and Justin Williams launched a two-run homer for a three-run lead. Canberra struck back with runs in the third, fourth and fifth, although the Bandits held a break when Williams singled for another. While Brisbane drew on its deep pitching roster for relief efforts from Trent Baker, winning pitcher Tristan Crawford, Taylor Stanton, Eric Green and Matt Timms, the Cavalry enjoyed scoreless stints from Colton Turner and James Kennedy. Out-hitting their opponent by a space in the game, Brisbane gained a 6-4 break – the final margin - when Donald Lutz launched a solo shot over leftfield and Ryan Searle chimed in for the save.
No doubt smarting from the Friday night loss, Canberra started brightly in GAME TWO, taking Rick Teasley for two in the top of the first after David Harris doubled to give his side another launching pad. With Steven Kent well in control for the Cavalry, it was not until the top of four that Brisbane hit the scoreboard – when Maxx Tissenbaum doubled to score Mitch Nilsson. While he had been in charge after the first, Teasley ran into strife in the bottom of five, when a string of hits to River Stevens, Jason Leblebijian (double), Boss Moanaroa and Ryan Miller (double) combined with a Jason Sloan single off reliever Ernesto Zaragoza to drive four across the plate. Another two in the sixth sealed the deal as the Cavalry charged to an 8-1 victory. While Steve Kent earned the win, he enjoyed grand offensive support from River Stevens (three hits), Sloan (two hits and two RBIs), Leblebijian (one and three), Moanaroa (one and two) and Harris (two hits), while Nilsson and Tissenbaum were best for Bandits – who were clearly outplayed in this contest.
In what was becoming a topsy-turvy series, Brisbane produced a ferocious GAME THREE offensive assault on Canberra starter Wade Korpi, who was taken for seven earned runs over three innings – including a Donald Lutz grand slam in the first and a three-run third frame before Aaron James Thompson gave up another three in the fifth - while the Cavalry could reply only with a run in the second and a solo David Harris homer in the fifth. While Brisbane ramped up the offence, its starter Jason Jarvis was superb over eight innings, despite giving up two belated runs in the eighth on hits to Bryan Pounds and Cord Sandburg before Trent Baker closed out a forgettable game for host club Canberra. Carding his fourth win for the Bandits, Jarvis was backed by solid defence and some magnificent offence that amassed seventeen hits in the 11-4 win headed by Lutz (three hits and four RBIs), Riley Unroe (three and one), Maxx Tissenbaum (three hits), Justin Williams (two and two) and Ryan Battaglia (two and two). It was another imperious win by the Brisbane Bandits, who share top billing with the Cavalry heading into the Sunday finale.
Looking to win the set, Brisbane was rocked early in GAME FOUR when a sequence of first-innings circumstances led to the ejection of the Bandits Manager and several players – including starting pitcher Josh Warner, who was replaced by Taylor Stanton. A booming Boss Monaraoa double plated the first for Canberra, followed by a second on a Ryan Miller grounder. With starter Scott Cone well in command, the Cavalry tacked on another off Tristan Crawford in the fourth before stretching the lead to five when Jack Murphy doubled off Eric Green in the fifth. Relieving winning pitcher Cone after a scoreless six innings (five hits and four strikeouts), Aaron M Thompson tossed a scoreless seventh before Michael Click closed out the game 5-0. With just three hits for the game, Canberra was able to fully exploit its scoring opportunities – which included a damaging nine walks – while the Bandits were never in the contest after an unsettling start to the game.
ADELAIDE BITE versus PERTH HEAT (Norwood Oval)
Still not showing the consistently high-standard form that has reaped so much success for the club over the years, Perth Heat started the series strongly but was on the receiving end of a thumping in the first of the Saturday doubleheader before Adelaide delighted its hometown supporters with a stunning come from behind win and a finale decided in the bottom of nine. Adelaide won this series 3-1.
Runs in the first and second gave the Bite a two-run lead in GAME ONE before the Heat jumped on Dallas Gallant for a three-run fourth highlighted by a two-run homer to Allan de San Miguel. Settling after conceding the early runs, Heat starter Daniel Schmidt spun 5.2 innings of quality work before handing the ball to Scott Mitchinson, who was given a two-run buffer when a de San Miguel grounder drove in another for the Heat in the top of six. Bite reliever Takuro Ito loaded the bases in the top of seven and tattooed Derek Peterson for a fifth Perth run before Chris Dula gave up another two, with two out in the eighth, to hand Perth a 7-2 lead – for the final score that earned Schmidt the win. With both sides collecting just five hits apiece, Perth made far better use of its scoring opportunities through the contributions of de San Miguel (a hit and four RBIs), Sam Kennelly (two hits and an RBI) and Peterson, while the Bite showed promise early but were stifled by the Heat pitching and faltered defensively in the steamy conditions.
With soaring temperatures persisting in GAME TWO, Perth was off to a flyer when Tad Gold tripled and Derek Peterson homered off Steve Chambers in the top of the first, although the contest took a sudden and dramatic turn in the bottom of the second when consecutive singles to Tom Brice, Connar O’Gorman, Mark Wik and Karl Hoschke (RBI) set the table for Corey Lyon – who launched a grand slam over left-field for a five-run innings. Conceding a solo homer to O’Gorman in the third, Heat starter Edwin Carl was relieved by Josh Silvi, who absorbed further punishment with a run in the fourth followed by a three-spot in the bottom of five sparked again by O’Gorman, Lyon and pinch hitter Angus Roeger (run-scoring double). With his side holding a massive 10-3 break, Chambers was relieved by Hei Chun Lee, who pitched a scoreless innings before Christopher Home repeated the dose while his side added another for a final score of 11-3. Collecting another win, Chambers had terrific offensive support in the form of Corey Lyon (three hits and five RBIs), Connar O’Gorman (three and two), Tom Brice and Mark Wik.
Perth first-sacker Correlle Prime opened hostilities in GAME THREE with a two-run homer off Wilson Lee, who struggled for control and conceded more in the third, when three successive walks provided the base for another two runs that brought Nick Talbot from the pen. The Bite hit back with a run in the bottom of four and another two in the fifth on a Kyle Petty double that drew Scott Mitchinson into the fray in relief of Heat starter Nick Veale. Prime, Allan de San Miguel, Luke Hughes and Matt Dixon applied the blowtorch for another two Heat runs in the seventh before a remarkable offensive eruption by the Bite – against Ben Shorto and then Warwick Saupold - drove five across the plate for an 8-7 lead that translated into the final score as Loek van Mil (winning pitcher) and then Kody Kerski took charge over the closing innings. It was a stunning comeback by Adelaide, which produced some belligerent offence shared across a lineup that amassed fifteen hits, while Perth relied heavily on Prime and de San Miguel in a disappointing outing for the reigning champion.
After some heavy scoring in the Saturday double-header, GAME FOUR conjured up a good old-fashioned pitchers’ duel between Tom Bailey (Perth) and Matt Williams (Adelaide). While the Heat had a serious chance of scoring in the top of the first – and Adelaide in the bottom of the seventh - both hurlers were well in command as a superb defensive game remained scoreless. Relieved after seven, Bailey gave up four hits and struck out five, while Williams went 7.1 for five hits and six punchouts. After reliever Hei Chun Lei held sway for Adelaide (and earned the win), the game was decided in walk-off manner in the bottom of nine – when Tom Brice launched a long ball over right centre off Edgar Valle to decide the game 1-0 in favour of Adelaide Bite. In a game where only two walks and a total of ten hits were forthcoming, Jake Turnbull (Perth) was the only multiple (with two) and Brice strike the memorable blow that handed Adelaide a series win.
SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus MELBOURNE ACES (Blacktown Sportspark)
Having a magnificent recent run at Blacktown, Sydney Blue Sox won the first two of the four-game set to stretch its winning streak as it continued to build towards a potential post-season berth. For the Aces it was another tough road trip that had its moments without lending anything substantial to supporter hopes of a drastic turnaround in the season. Sydney won this series 3-1.
The Aces opened scoring in GAME ONE when Darryl George tripled off Sydney starter Matthew Rae in the second and crossed the plate on a Mike Hill sacrifice fly ball. Some errant defence was damaging for Melbourne starter Jon Kennedy in the third, when Trent D’Antonio and Tyler Bortnick both spanked run-scoring singles – although the Blue Sox field replied in kind and paid when George doubled to level the scores. A two-out error hurt the Aces when Michael Quesada laced a two-run double to drive Kennedy from the hill and draw Matt Wilson from the pen. Relieving Rae after five solid innings of work for one earned run, Gyoung-Wan Lim gave up a single to George and Hill hit safely to put runners at the corners with none out. After singling to score, Jack Barrie was picked off at first as Aaron Sookee whiffed two hitters to get out of a jam, while Sam Street tossed a scoreless innings for the Aces before AAA professional Troy Marks entered the fray for his debut ABL game. Shabby defence was damaging for the Aces, who conceded another run – with two out – to hand the Blue Sox a 5-3 lead as Calvin Drummond closed out the game. Amassing ten hits to eight, Sydney had standouts in D’Antonio (three hits and an RBI), Bortnick (two and one), Quesada (one and two) and Josh Strong (two hits), while Darryl George was the Aces star – going four from four (with an RBI).
Despite giving up an early single to Darryl George – his fifth knock on the trot – Sydney starter Craig Anderson held sway through the early innings of GAME TWO, while Yasuo Sano took the ball for Melbourne and was under pressure in the second of a seven innings contest when Mathew Smith walked, Josh Strong singled and Jacob Younis spanked a hit into rightfield to load the bases with none out. Trent D’Antonio drew a pass for a first run and Rhys Hoskins made it two zip with a single into rightfield – although further damage was averted when Logan Moon made a stunning throw for a tag play at the plate to end the inning. Consistently landing runners on base through a combination of walks, HPBs and hits, the Blue Sox continued to apply the pressure – despite some solid Aces defence – and tacked on a third in the sixth to end Sano’s terrific ABL season with the club. A two-run Tyler Bortnick double off reliever Ryohei Fujiwara made the score 5-0 – a final result that held up as Anderson pitched a scoreless last innings for a superb complete-game, two hit shutout.
Generating their very best offence in GAME THREE, the Aces chased the well-performed Jan Stoecklin from the hill after three innings that produced seven earned runs on four passes, three HPBs and seven hits, while Matt Larkins gave Melbourne another quality start over seven innings, notwithstanding a three-run Blue Sox third highlighted by a booming triple to Trent D’Antonio. While Vaughan Harris was terrific in relief of Stoecklin – who had his worst game for the season – the Blue Sox were unable to exploit scoring opportunities, including a bases loaded situation with one out in the eighth against former Major Leaguer Shane Lindsay. The 7-3 Melbourne win broke a ten-game winning streak at home for the Blue Sox, who struggled for offensive production against winning pitcher Larkins, the big man enjoying terrific run support from eight Aces hitters who made a contribution – led by Logan Moon (four hits and an RBI) and Darryl George (one and three). While the final margin was clear-cut, both sides stranded a host of runners on bases.
Heading to the hill for Sydney in GAME FOUR, Wayne Lundgren breezed through the first two before a Liam Bedford double, a force play and a Logan Moon tripled gleaned three for the Aces, who were again well served early on by Mike McGillivray before the Blue Sox opened their scoring in the third. Consecutive doubles by Michael Quesada and Alex Howe, followed by singles to Jacob Younis and Max Brennan – with two out - produced three more to spell the end for McGillivray. When reliever Jeremy Young conceded a run-scoring double to Tyler Bortnick, it was a three-run lead for Sydney, shaved by one when Logan Moon doubled in the sixth and scored on a Trey Vavra single. Regularly calling to its bullpen in an effort to stay close, Melbourne was unable to bridge the gap against Todd van Steensel, Aaron Sookee and Calvin Drummond, who earned the save by closing out the game 5-3. Lundgren collected the win for the Blue Sox, who enjoyed terrific offensive contributions from Bortnick, Quesada, Younis and Brennan – while and Trey Vavra were standouts for the Aces.