ABL Round One: Cavalry and Heat make the early running
25 October 2015
Despite copping an offensive shellacking in the Sunday leg of its four-game set against Brisbane Bandits, Canberra Cavalry shares top placing with Perth Heat on the Australian Baseball League table after the completion of Round One.
While the joint league leaders posted three wins from four, neither did it easily – by any measure - as opponents in Brisbane and Adelaide showed plenty to suggest that they will be well among the action for the 2015/16 season.
Enjoying one of its most positive starts in six years of the revamped league, Melbourne Aces – at home – split its series with Sydney Blue Sox, giving supporters of both clubs great heart for their baseball summer.
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AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE ROUND ONE 2015/16
CANBERRA vs BRISBANE (at Narrabundah)
Chasing a second championship after its stunning success of the 2012/13 season, Canberra posted a 2-1 Game One result over Brisbane spearheaded by its returning ace Brian Grening, who spun 6.1 innings of quality work to card the win in a high-standard defensive game in which only one player – Cavalry DH Ryan Miller – could manage multiple hits (with two).
Rick Teasley was solid with the start for the Bandits, who would have been delighted with the outings of Jason Jarvis and Matt Timms in relief against a potent Cavalry offence that many expect will cause grief to pitchers across the league this season.
A different ball-game altogether in Game Two - the first of the double-header on Saturday - when Canberra blasted five in the second and two in the third off Brisbane starter Taylor Stanton before the Bandits hit back hard with three in the fourth, two in the fifth and another pair to draw within a run in the top of the last.
Credited with the 8-7 win in pitching the last two innings, Brazilian Rafael Fernandes largely tamed a Bandits offence that out-hit the Cavalry ten to eight on the back of great contributions by Logan Wade (two hits, including a home run and two RBIs), Connor MacDonald (two hits, with a homer) and David Sutherland (two hits and two ribbies). For the Cavalry, the offensive damage was done by David Harris, whose two hits (including a round-tripper) gleaned four RBIs and Jeremy Barnes (three hits and an RBI).
In a Game Three slugfest, Canberra scored in all but two of its innings to lead throughout and post a 10-7 win – on fifteen hits – as both starters, Justin Erasmus (Brisbane) and Steven Kent (Canberra) came under fire. David Harris had another stellar outing with the stick, swatting four hits for two RBIs, while Derrick Loveless cleared the wall in his two hits for two RBIs and Josh Fritsch homered to drive in three of his side’s runs.
Not to be outdone, the Bandits produced offence of their own – principally in the form of Justin Williams (three hits, including a home run, for four RBIs) and David Goofy Sutherland, who also went yard in driving in three of the Bandits’ run tally. Tossing two innings for the one run, Michael Click clocked his first win for Canberra.
With a series win already in the books, Canberra was set on its heels early in Sunday’s Game Four, when the Bandits bludgeoned five in the first and overcame a challenge to again forge ahead with three-spots in the sixth and the ninth to unceremoniously dispense with the home club 12-4. Nine players contributed to a total hits tally of nineteen, the standouts being Mitch Nilsson (four, with an RBI), shortstop Riley Unroe (three and two), DH Nick Ciuffo (three and one), David Sutherland (two and two), Connor MacDonald (two and one, Aaron Whitefield (two hits) and Bralin Jackson (home run).
While Cavalry starter Aaron James Thompson and closer Phil Kish were both taken to the cleaners, the same could not be said for the Bandits pitching staff of Josh Warner, Tristan Crawford, Matt Timms and Ryan Searle, who between them scattered seven hits and just two earned runs – with only Jason Leblebijian, David Harris and Cord Sandberg bringing the offence for Canberra.
MELBOURNE ACES versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (at Melbourne Ballpark)
While the Opening Round record of the Melbourne Aces has been less than inspiring over the past six seasons, they did it in style for Game One of this series under incoming Manager Joe Vavra. With right-armer Matt Larkins outstanding over eight for the Aces, a new-look Blue Sox was stifled in offence and could muster just four hits while hitting into eighteen ground ball outs and a string of double plays against a solid Aces defence.
In his less than customary starting role, Blue Sox veteran Wayne Lundgren was strong over six, although a two-run Darryl George single in the fourth provided the Aces with the base upon which to build an eventual 3-0 win. Aside from the telling George blow, Logan Moon and Brad Harman both posted two knocks for the Aces, while Josh Dean was the best of a subdued Sox offence.
Buoyed by their first-up win, the Aces opened scoring in Game Two – the first of the Saturday doubleheader – but were challenged when Blue Sox plated three in the second on a combination of an error, two walks and two hits off rangy Aces starter and Braves prospect Jon Kennedy. Although the Melbourne side stayed well within striking distance, the Sox kicked away in the top of seven as a double, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly ball forced three across the plate to deliver a 7-3 win for the visitors.
Credited with the win, Brandon Zywicki was one of four pitchers holding the Aces to just six hits, while shortstop Jacob Younis and rightfielder James Yates posted two hits apiece in the Sydney lower order. Playing first base, Trey Vavra collected two hits and a walk for the Aces.
The vital Game Three of this series developed into a tight and thrilling contest that was effectively decided by the long ball, when the Aces put up a crooked number in the sixth to break a one-run deadlock. Melbourne Aces left-armer Yasuo Sano was a veritable revelation in whiffing ten over 6.2 innings of work that yielded just four hits and a solitary, unearned run before Mike McGillivray and Takayuki Yamaguchi mopped up to secure a 4-2 win for the Aces.
While Jan Stoecklin was terrific over four and Charles Letourneau showed real class for Sydney, the former was taken deep by Brad Harman in the fourth and the latter bore the brunt of a run-scoring Harman single in the sixth followed by a two-run Josh Davies blast in a game-defining sixth frame. Although the Blue Sox out-hit the home side eight to five – with Josh Dean collecting three knocks – two of the Aces big guns delivered the timely blows in support of the stunning Sano outing.
While the Melbourne Aces would dearly have loved to win this series on the sabbath, it was for them unfortunately not to be – although the Game Four end result of 6-4 in favour of Blue Sox was arguably more respectable than it might have been after the visitors had swatted five in the first two innings as the Aces defence faltered behind starter Matt Wilson.
While the Blue Sox stretched their lead, the Aces pegged the lead back but were held scoreless over the last two innings as the Sox looked to Brandon Zywicki and Calvin Drummond to close out the game. Holding its opponent scoreless over the last five, Melbourne was unable to deliver the offence in support of outstanding relieving stints by Darryl George and William Wu.
Of the eight hits that the Aces could muster, Keith Curcio (three), Trey Vavra (two) and Mike Hill (two, with two RBIs) were standouts, while James Yates (two hits, two RBIs) and Mathew Smith (one and two) were grand in offence for Sydney.
PERTH HEAT versus ADELAIDE BITE (at Barbagallo Ballpark)
In this much-anticipated rematch between last year’s championship playoff teams, it was Perth Heat which gained the upper hand in Game One – this time in a last-gasp 5-4 effort that underscored the quality of the Heat outfit.
Although the Heat scored early – with a run in the third – Adelaide hit back in the sixth by scoring two on a double and a sacrifice fly charged against Perth starter Daniel Schmidt, who had been his customarily reliable self. Struggling for production against Adelaide journeyman Steven Chambers, the Heat scored off Josh Tols in the seventh but were again under the pump when the Bite plated two in the eighth.
With his side holding a two-run lead in the bottom of the last, Adelaide closer Kevin Comer loaded the bases and paid dearly when Derek Peterson smoked a one-out triple to clear the bases for a walk-off win. Out-hitting the Heat eleven to seven, Adelaide had terrific contributors in Jordan Cowan (three hits), Kyle Petty (two) and Ben Lodge (two), while DH Peterson and first-sacker Correlle Prime led the Perth offence.
Continuing the great rivalry that now exists between these two clubs, Adelaide demonstrated in Game Two that it was there to play, erasing a three-run deficit after two and finishing the seven-innings contest strongly to register a series-equalling 7-4 win. Carding the win for Adelaide, Nick Talbot scattered six hits over five innings before Chris Dula slammed the gate despite conceding a run in the last.
With three hits – including a solo home run – Kyle Petty was a livewire in offence for the Bite along with second-sacker Travis Demeritte (two hits and three RBIs) and Angus Roeger (home run, two RBIs, two walks), while Perth was best served by Michael Benjamin with three hits.
Another tight contest developed in Game Three after Perth cashed in on an untidy first innings by the Bite to plate three early runs against Matthew Swilley, who settled into his work and henceforth held the Heat scoreless before Devon Barker mopped up with the visitors still well in the game. However – after being strangled by winning pitcher and former Victorian Nick Veale over six innings of quality work - the Bite left their run too late despite runs in the seventh and ninth.
The 3-2 Perth Heat win was very much a matter of the home side exploiting its limited scoring chances, while the Bite will be ruing their incapacity to cash in on the opportunities created by the likes of old stager Tom Brice (three hits), Angus Roeger (two hits for two RBIs), Connar O’Gorman (two hits) and Mark Wik (two hits).
A fantastic Opening Round of the Australian Baseball League season was wrapped up at Barbagallo Ballpark with another rivetting clash between reigning champion Perth Heat and Adelaide Bite, which opened scoring off Edwin Carl with single runs in the first two frames – generated by a Travis Demeritte double in the first and a wild pitch that allowed Tom Brice to scoot home in the second.
Although Adam Millson and Christian Garcia applied the clamps for Perth, the Heat offence had no counter for Matt Williams, who was simply superb in conceding a solitary hit for the Bite over seven innings.
There was still a twist in the tail of this game, however, as the Bite called Kevin Comer from the pen to close out the ninth. Reeling from his Friday night bruising, Comer walked Matt Dixon, conceded a single to Anthony Caronia and walked Michael Benjamin before the pill was handed to Daniel Nilsson to hopefully save the day.
Nilsson walked Correlle Prime – to score a run – and Allan de san Miguel hit into an infield double to score a second before Luke Hughes grounded out and sent the game to extras, with both clubs scoring in the eleventh and the Heat squad no doubt relishing the pressure-cooker situation.
None more so than outfielder Matt Kennelly, who dispatched the first pitch he saw in the bottom of twelve over the leftfield wall to propel his side to a 4-3 result – and a series win over an opponent that would be ruing its lost opportunities over the weekend but which is surely entitled to approach the coming months with great confidence.