Bandits blank Sox: Heat, Cavalry consolidate

Kingsley Collins

7 January 2018

 

While there is plenty of play still remaining in the Australian Baseball League regular season, indications are that three clubs are virtually assured of post-season action, with fourth spot a toss-up.

 

Away to Sydney Blue Sox (10-17) – which needed to at least split the series to have a shot at edging to fourth, Brisbane Bandits (19-7) were imperious in handing out a four zip whitewash that further strengthens their standing at the top of the table.

 

Winning just one of its four home games against third-placed Canberra Cavalry (15-12), Melbourne Aces (12-15) managed to maintain its grip on fourth – by default, as Sydney had an even more disappointing Round Seven – while Perth Heat (18-9) was seriously challenged by Adelaide Bite (7-21) but still appears odds-on for a top two finish, barring catastrophe.  

 

MELBOURNE ACES versus CANBERRA CAVALRY

 

Canberra won this series 3-1.

 

The Cavalry struck early in GAME ONE, when Buddy Reed doubled to lead off the first, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a David Kandilas grounder off Aces ace Mark Hamburger. On song for Canberra, Brian Grening retired the first eleven hitters he saw, with his defence taking care of the next – Delmon Young, who was hosed trying to turn a single into a double. Himself settling into a dominant stint, Hamburger racked up the strikeouts, while Grening was typically efficient in denying the Aces scoring opportunities until the bottom of seven, when Darryl George singled and advanced on a ground ball – only to be left high and dry in a contest that generated limited opportunities for both clubs. One pitch shy of whiffing seventeen for the Aces, Hamburger was taken deep over rightfield by David Kandilas in the top of nine for a Cavalry insurance run. A controversial call in the bottom of the last created a heated exchange that brought about the ejection of the Aces Manager and third-base coach – hardly enough to cause any consternation for Grening, who took the 2-0 shutout with a brilliant complete game for three hits, no walks and five strikeouts in a game decided in a touch under two hours. While the Grening performance was memorable, spare a thought for Hamburger, who struck out sixteen in an equally superb complete-game outing for an Aces side that was strangled for offensive production. Official attendance: 736

 

GAME TWO began in extraordinary fashion, with Cavalry lead-off Buddy Reed belting a solo homer off Aces starter Josh Tols in the top of the first before Darryl George returned the favour – off Frank Gailey - as the first Melbourne hitter to go to the plate. When Cameron Warner left the yard in the top of the second it was shaping as a tricky evening for pitchers of the left-armed variety, especially when Cavalry superstar David Kandilas treated himself to a solo blast over centrefield in the top of four for a two-run break. Michael Crouse and Allan de San Miguel both drew passes in the equaliser, Jared Cruz laid down a bunt and Jarryd Dale grounded out for a second Aces run. With his side landing runners at the corners - with one out in the bottom of five – Crouse delivered big-time with a three-run blast over the rightfield wall. Jay Baum doubled and Cavalry recruit Travis Witherspoon walked in the top of six to spell the end for Tols as Scott Shuman was called into the fray. When Reed whacked his second round-tripper – this time a two-run shot – it was five apiece before the Aces hit back with a two-out rally in the bottom of eight that gleaned two off the bats of Ryan Dale (RBI-double) and George (run-scoring single to cap a terrific game). Sam Street earned the win by closing out an entertaining, high quality contest 7-5 for the Aces. Reed, Kandilas and Warner starred with the bat for Canberra, while George (three hits and three RBIs), Crouse and Ryan Dale were outstanding for Melbourne.  Official attendance:  896  

 

Returning to the Melbourne Aces, starter Matt Larkins matched zeroes with Lake Bachar in the first of GAME THREE before the Cavalry opened scoring with singles to Robbie Perkins, Travis Witherspoon and Gabriel Arias in the top of the second. Successive hits to Casey McElroy, David Kandilas and Jay Baum (RBI-single) gleaned a second run for Canberra, followed by a third, and a fourth – compliments of three walks – before Arias swatted a two-run RBI double for a six zip lead that spelled the end for Larkins. A wild pitch from Hei Chun Lee capped a damaging half-innings before Christian Meister was called from the Aces pen in the top of the fourth and Brett Cumberland lifted team spirits with a solo home run in the bottom of the frame. Relieving Meister after two scoreless innings, Matt Beattie retired the first Canberra two hitters in the sixth before a walk, a HPB, a passed ball, an error and a Cam Warner singled conspired for a three-run inning offset only marginally by a Tyler Neslony solo homer in the bottom of the frame. A two-run Jake Amos single off Jack Enciondo gave the Cavalry a ten-run break as the Aces swung game time for development players – including Oliver McMahon, who singled to convert a Michael Crouse double in the seventh. Well in command, the Cavalry used Dan Lietz and Sean Guinard in relief of Bachar, who struck out six over six innings for two earned runs, while the Aces called upon several of their younger pitchers to experience time on the hill. What had shaped as a vital game – in the context of the series and the season – turned into something of a fizzer as the Cavalry ran out a comfortable 12-3 winner to gain a break in third placing. Bachar carded the win for a side that played errorless baseball and amassed fifteen hits to seven – with Gabriel Arias (four hits and three RBIs) the best of nine players who contributed, while Neslony and Cumberland flew the flag for Melbourne. Official attendance:  677   

 

After scoring in the first innings of GAME FOUR, Canberra stepped up its offence in the top of three, with Buddy Reed, David Kandilas and Jay Baum cashing in against Jon Kennedy for a three-run frame while Steven Kent was typically efficient in restricting the Melbourne offence. After Christian Meister had stemmed the flow with a scoreless fourth, Reed smacked a lead-off homer off Matt Marksberry in the fifth. Taking the ball in the top of the seventh, Jackson Boyd came immediately under fire, when a walk, and singles to Gabriel Arias, Casey McElroy and Jay Baum (RBI) set the table for Robbie Perkins – who delivered big-time with a booming grand slam that stretched the Cavalry lead to ten. Solo eighth-innings home runs by Darryl George and Brett Cumberland offered the Aces late hope, although Baum responded with a blast of his own in the top of nine before quality closer Michael was handed the ball. A Jarryd Dale single and walks to Oliver McMahon and Tyler Neslony loaded the bases with two out for Melbourne - and Delmon Young delivered with a booming grand slam to keep the contest alive. A Brett Cumberland double and a Michael Crouse walk drew Tyler Saucedo from the Cavalry pen to make the final out in an 11-6 result for Canberra, whose series win strengthened the club’s hold on third placing. Striking out nine over 6.1 scoreless innings for three hits, Kent received grand offensive support from Baum (four hits and three ribbies), Perkins (grand slam), Reed, McElroy and Kandilas, while Young, Cumberland and George were terrific for the Aces.                       

 

GAME ONE                    GAME TWO                    GAME THREE                    GAME FOUR

 

 

SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus BRISBANE BANDITS

 

Brisbane won this series 4-0.

 

Singles by Andrew Campbell, Kenshi Sugiya and Donald Lutz combined to score in the first of GAME ONE for the Bandits, who matched Ryan Bollinger against Chang-Sung Ko. With both pitchers well in charge, the Blue Sox finally levelled scores in the bottom of the fourth, when Jacob Younis doubled and crossed the plate on a Chih-Hsien Chiang single. When Connor MacDonald left the yard with a solo shot, the Sox held a narrow lead after five – momentarily, however, as the Bandits responded with a three-spot after Lutz led off with a double and Logan Wade tripled off reliever Todd Grattan to set the visitors alight. A second Younis hit and an error gave Sydney runners at second and third in the bottom of six before a vital out at the plate and a timely strike out to get Bollinger out of strife. When Lutz sent a two-run tracer over the rightfield wall it was a four-run break for the Bandits, who called on Zac Treece and some stellar defence to maintain an advantage that was stretched further when David Sutherland singled, advanced on a grounder and scored on Campbell’s single before Vaughan Harris ended the inning. Going to Matt Timms and then Rhys Niit in the ninth, the Bandits closed out the win 7-2 against a Blue Sox outfit that was highly competitive but unable to counter the damaging offence of Lutz (three hits for three RBIs – including the homer), Campbell, Sutherland and Wade. Official attendance:  621

 

Chih-Sheng Lin took Sydney starter Matthew Rae deep in the first of GAME TWO and the Bandits edged further ahead when TJ Bennett was tattooed, stole second and scored on a David Sutherland double that gave Brisbane starter Travis Blackley early run support. Michael Suchy tripled and Lars Anderson drove a single to right side to score for the Sox, although class act Blackley picked off the fellow Major Leaguer and stranded two subsequent runners on base. A two-run Bennett blast stretched the Bandits’ lead before successive singles and a run-scoring grounder drew Luke Wilkins from the Sydney pen to replace Rae. Donald Lutz stroked an RBI-single for a sixth run, but he was gunned down by Sox catcher Mitch Edwards on an attempted steal. An error and a Trent d’Antonio double offered promise for the Sydney - which again came up empty against Blackley – while the Bandits forged further ahead on a Wade Dutton RBI-single and an Adam Weisenburger sacrifice. Relieving Blackley after a quality outing over seven (eight hits and eight strikeouts for one earned run), Sam Holland conceded a bunch of hits in the eighth as the Blue Sox challenged momentarily before Zac Treece and Ryan Searle slammed the gate 8-5 despite a flurry that produced a late run for the home club. Numerically out-hitting their opponent fourteen to eleven, the Blue Sox had grand contributors in Jacob Younis, Connor MacDonald, Suchy and Max Brennen, while Lutz, Bennett and David Sutherland were potent in offence for Brisbane. Official attendance:  1221

 

A lead-off double and two ground balls off Craig Anderson delivered a run for Brisbane to open GAME THREE, although doubles by Trent D’Antonio and Chih-Hsien Chiang levelled scores before the Bandits again edged away on a Wade Dutton RBI-double in the top of the second. Doing a fine job against his former club, Tim Atherton held sway for the Bandits, who stretched their lead in the fifth on a three-run Donald Lutz homer after a throwing error and a fielder’s choice. Replacing Anderson in the sixth, Sven Schueller put up a four-spot on the back of two walks, two HPBs and a two-RBI TJ Bennett single to make it a super-tough assignment for the Blue Sox. With Justin Erasmus doing a fine job in relief, the Bandits continued to press – belting two in the seventh and three in the eighth, including a Dutton moonshot and a two-RBI triple by Chih-Sheng Lin off Blue Sox teenager Mitchell Skinner. Again looking to Sam Holland and Rhys Niit towards the end, Brisbane closed out the game 14-1 – a scoreline that did not properly reflect the tightness of the contest through the early innings. With four ribbies each, Lutz and Lin were outstanding in offence for Brisbane – along with Dutton – while D’Antonio, Chiang and Alex Howe were best of the Blue Sox offence. Official attendance:  792

 

With three losses already in this series doing damage to their playoff prospects, the Blue Sox came out firing in GAME FOUR, taking Brisbane starter Hung-Wen Chen for a four-spot in the bottom of the first – compliments largely of a Trent D’Antonio single, a Jacob Younis double, a Michael Suchy double, a Connor MacDonald RBI-double and a three-run homer by Chih-Hsien Chiang. Tossing two scoreless innings for the Sox, Clayton Freimuth was challenged by the Bandits with a run in the third before a five-run fourth that included a two-run TJ Bennett homer and an Andrew Campbell solo shot that spelled the end for Freimuth. Although MacDonald hit back with a solo blast in the bottom of five, Brisbane was on the march, smacking four more in the sixth as Kenshi Sugiya, Chih-Sheng Lin and Bennett all hit safely to exploit a couple of walks and a HPB. Runs in the seventh (Adam Weisenburger homer), the eighth and the ninth (Campbell’s second round tripper of the game) gave the Bandits an insurmountable lead while Matt Timms, Sam Holland and Ryan Searle tossed an innings each to secure a 13-5 result for the reigning champion. Zac Treece earned the win against a Blue Sox side that amassed fourteen hits – including outstanding production by Chiang and MacDonald – although the Brisbane offence was irrepressible, with Campbell, Sugiya, Bennett and Logan Wade doing serious damage.

 

GAME ONE                    GAME TWO                    GAME THREE                    GAME FOUR

 

 

ADELAIDE BITE versus PERTH HEAT

 

Perth Heat won this series 3-1.

 

Greg Mosel (Adelaide) and Alex Boshers ({Perth) were in control early in GAME ONE at West Beach, with neither side issuing a serious challenge until the bottom of four, when Kuan-Jen Chen singled for the home club and advanced on an error before Jordan McArdle hit safely to load the bases with one out. A sacrifice flyball by Angus Roeger broke the scoring ice for Adelaide, although the Heat response was emphatic – with a solo Michael Brosseau homer tying the game at one apiece in the middle of six. While Mosel was otherwise typically clean in his work, Boshers (five innings for six hits and no earned runs) was relieved by experienced Indy League right-armer Joe van Meter after conceding two hits in the bottom of six. Replacing Mosel after six innings of quality work (five hits and six strikeouts for one earned run), Matt Williams was taken deep by teenager Jesse Williams for the Heat to edge ahead and then forge to a three-run lead when Luke Hughes belted a two-run homer in the top of eight. Relieving Van Meter, Dylan Thompson came under fire when McArdle stroked a two-RBI single to keep Adelaide in the contest, although it was too little too late – with the Heat going to Warwick Saupold for two outs in the eighth before Cameron Lamb was prevailed upon to close out the game 5-3 in favour of the Heat. Van Meter registered the win against an Adelaide opponent that had multi-hit players in Rodrigo Aymara, Chen, Stephen Lohr, Tai-San Chang and McArdle (two RBIs), although the Heat was better able to convert through the efforts of Brosseau, Hughes, Williams and Jake Bowey. Official attendance:  428

 

After whiffing the first two hitters he saw, Bite right-armer Ryo Koura conceded a couple of singles in the first of GAME TWO, although he and Heat starter Kyle Simon held sway despite the Perth offence being unable to convert scoring opportunities until the top of three – when Robbie Glendinning (RBI-single) and Ulrich Bojarski (sacrifice fly) made it two zip for the visitors. A Jake Fraley homer stretched the Heat lead in the top of four as Simon continued to dominate and the Bite called on Nick Hutchings to replace Koura – who had struck out six while conceding three earned runs. A bases-loaded walk and a two-RBI Jesse Williams double made it super tough for the Bite, who summoned Steven Chambers to the hill in a tough situation. While a walk and an Angus Roeger double offered some hope in the bottom of five, the Bite were unable to convert until the sixth, when Tom McGarry doubled, Rodrigo Ayarza singled and Kuan-Jen Chen left the yard with a three-run bomb that halved the Perth lead. An Alex Hall round-tripper again gave the Heat extra breathing space, followed by a game-breaking six-spot in the eighth – including a three-run bomb by emerging superstar Williams, who was having another great time of it. Facing an eleven-run deficit, the Bite were not about to lay down, posting a five-run eighth that included home runs by Kuan-Jen Chen and Bas Nooij, although the Heat replied with a vengeance when Hall swatted a second bomb (two-RBI) and Matt Dixon followed suit before Jordan McArdle left the yard for Adelaide and the game was wrapped up 17-10 in favour of the Heat. Nine players contributed to the Perth hit parade (Hall and Williams delivering nine RBIs between them), while Chen and McArdle did much of the scoring damage for Adelaide. Official attendance:  695

 

Looking for a change of fortune in GAME THREE – a heritage event celebrating engagement as “Giants” in the earlier Australian Baseball League – Adelaide conceded a run in the first off starter Chris Powell, while Daniel Schmidt held sway until the bottom of three, when the Giants/Bite offence exploded with a five-run outburst on hits to Stephen Lohr (double), Kuan-Jen Chen, Tai-Shan Chang (double), Isaias Quiroz, Karl Hoschke and Nathan Van Der Linden. An Angus Roger RBI-double and a sacrifice flyball by Jordan McArdle scored two more for the Giants/Bite in the bottom of four – for a six run lead – that was extended by one by doubles to Hoschke and Lohr in the fifth. Doubling to lead off the sixth, Luke Hughes sparked a mini-recovery by the Heat – who plated three as the home side called upon Matt Williams to stem the tide. When Jake Fraley swatted a solo homer and Alex Hall stroked an RBI-single with two out it was a two run ball game as Loek van Mil was called from the pen to protect the Adelaide lead. With pressure building in the top of nine, lead-off Jesse Williams singled for Perth and Hughes struck out before some ragged offence that placed runners at the corners for Perth. Van Mil whiffed Robbie Glendinning and Alex Hall popped up to deliver the Adelaide side a memorable 8-6 win before a supportive local crowd. Powell earned the win for Adelaide, which matched the Heat on fifteen hits, with Lohr, Chen, Chang, Roeger, Hoschke and Van Der Linden showing the way – while six of the Perth offence posted multiples in another strong offensive display. Official attendance: 806     

 

A serious chance of splitting its home series against Perth Heat, Adelaide struck first – in the second of GAME FOUR – when Angus Roeger drew a walk and Jordan McArdle belted a two-run homer off Nick Veale. Aggressive in offence as it has been all season, Perth responded with two in the third – including doubles to Jake Bowey and Luke Hughes (RBI), combined with a run-scoring single by Jake Fraley. Two more in the fourth and a Garrett Whitley RBI-double gave the Heat a three-run break after five as the visitors went to Dylan Thompson to maintain the advantage. With Nick Hutchings, Tyler Chappell and Tim Day doing solid work in relief, Adelaide remained in the contest and closed the gap when Tai-Shan Chang left the yard with a solo blast in the bottom of eight. After holding Perth scoreless from the sixth through to the ninth, Adelaide mounted a final offensive with two out in the bottom of the last – when Tom McGarry singled before Rodrigo Ayarza and Stephen Lohr both drew walks to load the bases and bring dangerous slugger Kuan-Jen Chen to the plate. However, an heroic finish to its throwback round was not to eventuate for the Bite, as Perth closer Cameron Lamb induced a flyball to leftfield to seal a thrilling 5-3 result and a series win for the Heat. Thompson carded the win in a hard-fought contest that saw seven players contribute to a somewhat subdued Heat offence, while Chang and McArdle were standouts for an Adelaide outfit that could not quite get the job done.                                                                             

 

GAME ONE                    GAME TWO                    GAME THREE                    GAME FOUR