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Bite, Bandits on fire at home

Kingsley Collins

7 December 2015


Pitching excellence, see-sawing competition, stirring comebacks and some heavy scoring were the hallmarks of Australian Baseball League as we clicked over to the halfway point of the 2015/16 season.


Adelaide (13-14) improved its prospects by taking four of its five games from Sydney (12-15), while Brisbane (15-13) augmented an already impressed home record by taking three from four against sixth-placed Melbourne (10-18).


For a series unseasonably affected by weather in the west, Perth (14-14) held third placing despite losing its four-game series against Canberra (19-9), which continues to highball along at the top of the ABL table.   


After seven rounds the Australian Baseball League ladders stands as follows:   CANBERRA (19-9), BRISBANE (15-13), PERTH (14-14), ADELAIDE (13-14), SYDNEY (12-15), MELBOURNE (10-18).







Whitewashed in the first of the five-game set, Sydney Blue Sox were seriously competitive through Games Two and Three and were in with a chance in a high-scoring Game Four before finally tasting success in another free-scoring finale. Adelaide won the series 4-1.


Adelaide starter Steven Chambers had another terrific outing in GAME ONE, conceding a solitary hit over the first four innings while the Bite offence came out swinging against Alex Balog, who was taken for a run in the bottom of the first and another two in what was – for the big rightie – a scratchy third frame. When Kyle Petty left the yard in the fifth, it was four zip for the Bite, who went on to win the first of five games 4-0. Carding the win for the home side, Chambers was superb over a scoreless seven innings for two hits before Matt Williams allowed a couple of runners on base before Kody Kerski closed out a game in which both sides struggled for offensive production against some quality pitching. Stefan Welch, Petty and Travis Demeritte were best with the bat for Adelaide, while leftfielder Jamie Westbrook posted two knocks from a Blue Sox total of five – the same as Adelaide.


Sydney opened GAME TWO scoring in the first, when Jamie Westbrook hit safely, Rhys Hoskins singled and a ground ball double drove their first across the plate against Dallas Gallant, who was relieved by Nick Talbot after five innings of solid work. Responding in the second, the Bite squared the ledger before getting ahead in the fourth on a sacrifice bunt after lead-off Kyle Petty had singled and advanced on a steal and catcher interference. Hoskins greeted Talbot with a solo homer in the top of six and the Blue Sox took a lead when Alex Howe homered in the top of seven – only for the Bite to square it up again with a sacrifice fly in the bottom half. With both sides wringing the pitching changes, it was the home team that finally gained the decisive break – with a three-spot in the bottom of eight on singles to Stefan Welch and Tom Brice - that set the table for Scott Quinlan, who dutifully delivered with a three-run bomb to guide Adelaide to a 6-3 win.


The Bite carried its offensive form into GAME THREE, swatting four in the first off Sydney starter Luke Wilkins – including a lead-off homer by Jordan Cowan and a two-run double off the bat off Tom Brice. While Wilkins settled into his work to keep the Bite scoreless through the second and third, Sydney struggled to collar Adelaide starter Chris Horne before a lengthy delay occasioned by an apparently serious shoulder injury to Bite shortstop Cowan. Replacing Horne, Josh Tols came under fire and the Blue Sox plated a third run for the innings as Charles Letourneau headed to the hill for Sydney. With both pitchers putting up blanks through the middle innings and the clubs engaging their bullpens judiciously, the Bite held on 4-3 despite Sydney loading the bases in the last against Bite closer Kody Kerski. In another very even contest, Landon Hernandez, Stefan Welch and Tom Brice delivered the offence for Adelaide, while the Blue Sox were best served by Trent D’Antonio (three hits) and Josh Dean.


It was a scratchy first innings of GAME FOUR for Adelaide starter Daniel Desimone, who conceded four early runs on four passes, a hit and a defensive error, although Blue Sox veteran Craig Anderson was treated even less respectfully as the Bite responded with five – compliments largely of an Angus Roeger grand slam. Adelaide continued to take the challenge to Anderson, constructing a three-run third innings around a two-out bomb by catcher Connar O’Gorman, although Sydney hit back to tie it up on a two-run Alex Howe homer off Chris Dula in the top of five before the Bite edged ahead on a Travis Demeritte run-scoring triple in the equaliser. What had been a see-sawing contest turned ugly in the sixth, when the Bite took a chunk out of Sydney reliever Grant Piccoli, tagging him for four runs – including a second O’Gorman moonshot for a five-run lead as the lower half of the Adelaide order continued its offensive barrage. While Rhys Hoskins added to the home-run tally with a three-run shot in the eighth to give the Blue Sox a chance, the Bite hung on for a 13-11 result in a slugfest that saw a combined nine pitchers called upon.


Played in lieu of an earlier rainout, GAME FIVE was bound to test the pitching depth of both clubs, and it was Sydney Blue Sox that halted a four-game losing streak with a 14-9 win effectively decided early. Exploding in the first, Sydney scored four and repeated the dose in the second on the back of timely hitting, aggressive baserunning and costly Adelaide defensive errors. Although the home side responded with three – highlighted by a Kyle Petty solo homer – Sydney was in belligerent mood and pummelled reliever Tom Fiebig for another five in the third, including four consecutive singles. While Nick Talbot, Chris Dula and Hei Chun Lee were able to stem the flow, Blue Sox starter Jan Stoecklin negotiated six – for the three earned runs – before Aaron Sookee chimed in with a scoreless innings. Not such good fortune though for Calvin Drummond, who walked the first three and was on the receiving end of a blistering Bite revival that gleaned six in the bottom of eight – including another Angus Roeger grand slam. Rhys Hoskins (four hits, a walk and four RBIs) had another outstanding game for the Blue Sox, along with Josh Dean (three and three) and Tyler Bortnick (three hits).








While the Bandits had a thumping win in the second of the four-game set, Melbourne was an otherwise worthy foe – despite some internal club ructions – and it could easily have done better than a last-gasp extra innings triumph against an opponent with enormous playing depth that is tough to beat at Holloway. Brisbane won the series 3-1.


Matt Larkins (Melbourne) and Rick Teasley (Brisbane) both gave up a few hits in the early innings and their sides defended stoutly in GAME ONE until the Bandits broke the ice in the bottom of five, when Riley Unroe drove in a run after hits to David Sutherland and Logan Wade. In commanding form on the hill, Larkins struck out the side in the seventh innings to keep it alive for the Aces as the Bandits called on Eric Green and then evergreen Matt Timms in support of Teasley, who was terrific over six scoreless. Back to back doubles by Justin Williams and Mitch Nilsson made it two zip in the bottom of eight to spell the end for Larkins, who had put up another lion-hearted performance without the offensive conversion that his outing deserved. With Ryan Searle slotted into a familiar closing role, the Aces mounted a remarkable comeback – plating two runs with two out in the ninth before exploding with another three in the top of ten to snatch a three-run lead. But even with Virgil Vasquez on the hill for the Aces, it was not enough as the Bandits capped an entertaining ball game with an offensive assault that delivered a four-spot for a 6-5 win.   


With his side still reeling from a tough loss the night before, Melbourne Aces starter Luke Abels was chased from the hill in the bottom of the first in GAME TWO, after doubles to Riley Unroe and Justin Williams, followed by a two-run Mitch Nilsson bomb, a wild pitch, a couple of walks and an Andrew Campbell run-scoring single made it five zip. Although the Aces drew one back off Jason Jarvis in the top of the second, Donald Lutz doubled – with two out in the third – to stretch the lead with two more before Maxx Tissenbaum lined to centre for another couple. Continuing the assault on Aces reliever Hayden Godbold, David Sutherland launched a two-run missile for a ten-run break that was extended further when Tissenbaum tugged a fastball from Jeremy Young over the rightfield wall. Despite conceding some last innings hits and two runs, Jarvis carded an impressive 12-3 win for his club, which had grand offensive contributors in Tissenbaum (three hits and three RBIs), Unroe (three hits), Williams (two and one), Nilsson, Lutz, Sutherland and Campbell.


Playing an aggressive running style in GAME THREE, the Aces plated two in the first off rangy lefty Trent Baker – created by a lead-off Logan Moon double, stolen bases, a defensive error and a sacrifice fly – although the response was immediate when Mitch Nilsson blasted a two-run Yasuo Sano offering over the centrefield wall and Ryan Battaglia followed up with a solo shot in the second. Going to big right-armer Taylor Stanton, the Bandits tacked on another in the third when Donald Lutz doubled to score Nilsson, who drove in another on a two-out double in the fifth. After three innings of scoreless work, Stanton handed the ball to Tristan Crawford, who conceded a third run when Darryl George doubled in the sixth. William Wu relieved for a never-say-die Aces outfit, while the Bandits again fully utilised a deep bullpen, going to Eric Green – who conceded a run on a fielder’s choice before Matt Timms extricated his side from a bases-loaded situation and Ryan Searle closed out a 6-4 game in which Mitch Nilsson made a massive offensive impact.


Looking to avoid an unwanted sweep in GAME FOUR, the Aces made an early statement when Darryl George swatted a two-run homer in the second off journeyman Justin Erasmus. With Mike McMcGillivray dominant on the hill for Melbourne, the Bandits clawed back a run in the third – on a Riley Unroe single – before the Aces again booted away with three in the fifth as the Bandits called Tristan Crawford from the pen for Erasmus. A two-run bomb by Andrew Campbell drew Brisbane back within two before Unroe drew a walk and traversed the bases as Justin Williams launched another two-run missile to draw level. Relieving for Melbourne, Ryohei Fujiwara held the Bandits offence, while set-up man Eric Green extricated himself from a bases-loaded jam in the eighth. With Fujirawa and Matt Timms doing great work for their clubs, the game stretched into extras, when Trey Vavra left the yard off Ryan Searle in the top of eleven and Virgil Vasquez closed out the game 6-5 in favour of the Melbourne Aces.








This series was finally completed after a weather delay caused rescheduling of games – specifically a Sunday doubleheader that was in the end dominated by Canberra Cavalry despite the Heat being in with a chance for both games on the sabbath. Canberra won this series 3-1.


Canberra ace Brian Grening was back to his dominant best in GAME ONE, conceding just three hits and fanning nine on his way to a stunning complete-game shut-out against a Perth offence that could manage just five runners on base for the entire game – one of those on an error. The visitors were on the march early, plating a run in the first and four in the third – including a three-run Boss Moanaroa homer - to set the base for a 6-0 whitewash. When Jack Murphy singled in the sixth and was driven in on a Cord Sandberg double, it was game over for Perth starter Daniel Schmidt, who had an uncustomarily expensive evening. While Josh Silvi and Adam Millsom held Canberra scoreless over the last four, the Heat hitters continued to be seriously outgunned by Grening for his fourth win of the season. Of several offensive contributors, Bryan Pounds (three hits and an RBI),  Moanaroa (home run for three RBIs), Ryan Miller (two and one), Murphy (two hits) and David Harris (two hits) led the charge for the Canberra outfit, which stretched its lead at the top of the table.


Giving his club a great GAME TWO start over six – for five hits, one run and a stunning twelve strikeouts – Edwin Carl collected the 5-3 win for Perth despite his side being out-hit six to nine as the Heat took full advantage of scoring opportunities to score two in the third and a run in the fifth. Although the Cavalry hit back with two in the eighth off Tom Bailey and closer Scott Mitchinson – who carded another save – Perth held on doggedly for a 5-3 win and a share of the series thus far. Using five on the hill, Canberra would be pleased with the output of its pitching staff, who kept their side well in the contest. While River Stevens (two hits and two RBIs) and Derrick Loveless (two hits) were solid with the bat for the Cavalry, Perth was sparked by grand contributors in Tim Kennelly (a hit and three RBIs), Correlle Prime (one and two) and Designated Hitter Jake Turnbull (two hits).


With the sides finally getting onto the park after inclement weather on Saturday, GAME THREE started with a bang as Canberra plated a run in the first and Tim Kennelly replied for the Heat with a solo homer off Steven Kent, who conceded a further two runs in the second – both on an Allan de San Miguel double. Perth starter Christian Garcia loaded the bases and walked a run across the plate for Canberra in the fourth, drawing Ben Shorto into the fray until he too came under fire by walking Jack Murphy and giving up a double to Cord Sandberg in the top of six. Reliever Scott Mitchinson was greeted with a Ryan Miller double that scored both and handed the visitors a 4-3 lead that became the final score in a seven-innings contest that was closed out by Michael Click after Kent had registered another quality outing for his club. Miller (two hits, two RBIs) and Boss Moanaroa (two and one) were best with the bat for Canberra, while the Heat looked to old stagers Tim Kennelly and Allan de San Miguel for the bulk of their offensive production.


Getting after Perth starter Nick Veale early in GAME FOUR, Canberra surged to a four zip break in the fourth – compliments largely of three-run Derrick Loveless blast in support of starting southpaw Scott Cone, who ultimately carded the 5-3 win after tossing five innings for four hits and no runs, then handing the ball to James Darcy for a couple of innings before Colton Turner ran into a spot of bother and Aaron M Thompson closed out the game. The late response came from Perth in the eighth when Tim Kennelly smacked a three-run homer that drew his side within a run until Canberra posted some insurance on a passed ball. Cone earned the win for Canberra, who were carried in offence by Derrick Loveless (two hits and four RBIs), while Tim Kennelly (two and three), Tad Gold and Anthony Caronia helped keep Perth in the contest.









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