Weather a factor as Aces, Heat and Cavalry prevail
3 December 2017
Although inclement conditions played havoc with scheduling - and had a clear effect on attendances - Australian Baseball League Round Three produced some fascinating results as the 2017/18 season begins to unfold.
Canberra Cavalry (6-5) won three of its four-game away set against Adelaide Bite (2-10) – which has already fallen well off the pace – while Perth Heat (7-4) made light of the trip east in taking all three of its games against Sydney Blue Sox (5-6), with the other postponed through rain delays.
Melbourne Aces (7-4) made the most of sodden circumstances at Laverton, completing a three-game sweep by taming the offensive might of Brisbane Bandits (6-4), whose modest scoring output was in stark contrast to that of previous weeks.
Postponed games – and there are three already – may yet have significant bearing on the makeup of finalists should they need to be rescheduled sometime in the New Year. Adelaide is the only club to have played its twelve games thus far, while Brisbane has two postponements in hand and the other clubs one apiece. Australian Baseball League will be hoping for no more – given the logistics of scheduling makeup games, especially towards the point end of the season.
ADELAIDE BITE versus CANBERRA CAVALRY
Canberra won this series 3-1.
After a GAME ONE rain delay of almost two hours, Tai-San Chang opened scoring for the Bite with a two-out RBI single off Brian Grening in the first before Robbie Perkins tied it up with a single to score Connor Panas in the top of the second and Gabriel Arias swatted a two-run triple and himself scored on a throwing error to hand the Cavalry a three-run break. After another rain delay – this time stretching to the following afternoon – Canberra wasted no time in asserting its authority by seeing off Bite starter Chris Powell and making serious inroads into a bullpen that coughed up multiple runs in the fifth and sixth prior to an extraordinary outburst that gleaned nine in the eighth as the Cavalry rollicked away for an 18-3 win. Tossing 4.2 innings of relief on the resumption, Lake Bachar took the win for Canberra, which had a host of offensive contributors including Arias (two hits and five RBIs), Buddy Reed (three and one), Jay Baum (three and one), David Kandilas (two and two), Ryan Kalish (two and two) and Robbie Perkins – while Tai-San Chang and Rodrigo Ayarza were best with the stick for Adelaide.
Back-to-back doubles to Jay Baum and David Kandilas handed the early GAME TWO lead to Canberra before Stephen Lohr smacked a two-run homer for the Bite that was matched with a two-RBI Buddy Reed triple as the Cavalry quickly regained the lead in the top of the second. While both conceding base hits, two of the league’s quality starters in Greg Mosel (Adelaide) and Steven Kent (Canberra) held sway after the early outburst, with five scoreless innings only coming to an end as the Cavalry posted a fourth run in the top of the eighth, when Conor Panas took Bite reliever Jackson Brebner-Russ deep for a solo shot over rightfield. Relieving Kent after a superb six innings (five hits for two earned runs), Dan Lietz tossed two scoreless innings before the Cavalry plated an insurance run in the top of nine – on a sacrifice flyball – and Michael Click was called into the fray to close out the game 5-2 in favour of Canberra. Kent carded the win for a Canberra side that was sparked in offence by Reed, Baum, Kandilas and Panas, while Lohr and evergreen Josh Cakebread (two hits) were best of the Adelaide hitters.
While an extra-innings nail-biter was not what either side wanted for an early Saturday morning start in GAME THREE, the contest developed into a hard-fought affair that remained well in the balance through nine tight innings that produced a 2-2 deadlock. Starters Frank Gailey (Canberra) and Matt Williams (Adelaide) had been quite superb in tossing six innings for one earned run apiece before engaging their respective bullpens. Taking Jackson Brebner-Russ for two in the top of ten after the tie-breaker rule had been applied, the Cavalry pressed on against Wilson Lee, with a David Kandilas single clearing the bases – with none out – for a five-run break. Although Lee was able to sit down three hitters with no further damage being done, it was a tough ask for the home side, with a two-out, two-RBI single by Angus Roeger delivering just some belated hope before Canberra emerged a 7-4 winner. Michael Click took the win and Brebner-Russ the loss – with Kandilas (four hits and three RBIs), Buddy Reed (three and two), Casey McElroy and Jake Amos heading the offence for Canberra, while Josh Cakebread (two hits), Roeger and Tai-San Chang were prominent for the Bite.
Intent on a sweep of this series, Canberra was stung early when the Bite blasted three in the first of a seven-innings GAME FOUR to chase starter Sean Guinard from the hill before the visitors hit back with two of their own in the second – on a single to Gabriel Arias. Adelaide was not about to flinch, however, and it doubled the lead when thus far moderately performed catcher Isaias Quiroz left the yard off Canberra middle reliever Thomas Holland. Although Tyler Herr was able to thwart any further scoring by the Adelaide team, Bite hurler Max Beatty carded the win with a complete-game pearler for five hits, two earned runs, eight strikeouts and no passes. Taking full advantage of its scoring opportunities – including six walks – the Bite had contributors in Stephen Lohr (two hits and a walk), Quiroz (the timely homer), Tai-San Chang and Jordan McArdle (both with a hit and an RBI). Its 4-2 win was a desperately-needed breakthrough for the Adelaide Bite, whose season record improves to a modest two and ten, while Canberra (six and five) remains well in the mix at this early stage.
SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus PERTH HEAT
Perth won this series 3-0 (with one game postponed).
Perth made the early running in GAME ONE of this series, with hits to Jake Fraley and Tim Kennelly (double) setting the table for a Michael Brosseau RBI-double and a fielder’s choice delivering two in the top of the first off Blue Sox starter Trevor Foss – who was matched against Heat right-armer Alex Boshers. After three scoreless frames, Tim Kennelly belted a solo homer in the top of five before Sydney hit back with an RBI-double by Rixon Wingrove and Scott Mitchinson was called from the Perth pen to put out the fire with runners at first and second. Taking the ball from Foss after six innings of quality work, Vaughan Harris ran into strife when Luke Hughes launched a two-run bomb in the eighth to stretch the Perth lead against a subdued, albeit gutsy Sydney offence that finished with a rush – with three runs in a barnstorming bottom of nine – to come up just short as the Heat held on 5-4 under extreme pressure. In a game where both sides delivered flawless defence, Hughes, Kennelly, Brosseau, Garrett Whitley and Ulrich Bojarski played starring roles in offence for the Heat - who have generated a very positive start to their ABL season – while the Sox left their run too late on this occasion.
Rescheduled as a Sunday morning fixture because of the postponed double header on Saturday, GAME TWO began with a flourish, as the Heat piled on four in the first off veteran Craig Anderson, who paid for five hits and a defensive error before settling into his work. While Jacob Younis doubled and scored on an error in the equaliser, Anderson conceded another in the fourth before the Sox bats came alive against Kyle Simon – who was relieved after a three-run blast that included a two-RBI double to the in-form Younis. Two more in the sixth and another in the seventh maintained the ascendancy for Perth, which used Scott Mitchinson, Daniel Schmidt and Tom Bailey to effect in closing out the seven-innings game 8-4 in favour of the visitors. Bailey carded the win for Perth, which had stand-out hitters in Jesse Williams (three hits and an RBI), Michael Brosseau and Zacrey Law, while Younis (two doubles, a walk and two ribbies) and Michael Campbell led a Sydney offence that could muster just seven knocks.
The Blue Sox started GAME THREE with a bang, plating three in the top of the first – thanks largely to a wild pitch and a two-RBI double by Chih-Hsien Chiang off Perth starter Nick Veale – although a run in the second and a solo blast by Luke Hughes kept the Heat well in touch. Despite the Sox adding another run, Tim Kennelly belted a three-run homer in the top of five – for a one run Perth break - after Sox starter Clayton Freimuth handed the pill to Luke Wilkins with runners on. Using Daniel Schmidt and Travis MacDonald effectively in middle relief, the Heat faltered momentarily when Jett Wright conceded singles to Rixon Wingrove and Jacob Younis and Cameron Lamb was summoned from the pen to quell the challenge over 2.2 scoreless to secure a 7-4 result for Perth and a three-game sweep. Schmidt earned the win and Lamb the save in a contest that was evenly matched on offence – with Hughes, Kennelly, Jake Fraley and Alex Hall best for the Heat, while Chih-Hsien Chiang, Younis (two hits, two walks) and Alex Howe were productive for the Sox.
MELBOURNE ACES versus BRISBANE BANDITS
Melbourne won this series 3-0 (with one game postponed).
Notwithstanding dire weather predictions earlier in the day, GAME ONE started in pleasant enough conditions, with Mark Hamburger (Melbourne) and southpaw Ryan Bollinger (Brisbane) producing quality starts that saw the contest remain scoreless until the bottom of five, when an Allan de San Miguel single and a Tomoya Mori walk combined with a defensive throwing error and an effective squeeze play to glean two vital runs for the home club. With Hamburger and Bollinger going head to head in a memorable pitchers’ duel, that one decisive frame was built upon in the bottom of eight, when Jarryd Dale stroked a lead-off double and scored on a Brett Cumberland single that stretched the Aces lead to 3-0 - more than enough for Hamburger, who completed a stunning shutout against a Bandits offence that has been on fire over the past fortnight. Scattering three hits for one walk and seven strikeouts, Hamburger was accorded offensive support by first-gamer Tyler Deslony (two hits), Cumberland and the Dale brothers against an opponent that would be delighted by the outing of its own ace – Bollinger – but was outgunned for just its second loss this season.
Finally under way after multiple lengthy rain delays through Saturday and Sunday morning, GAME TWO saw Aces starter Kona Takahashi rack up early strikeouts while his counterpart Travis Blackley was characteristically efficient on the hill as both sides were unable to convert early scoring opportunities – notably in the top of three, when Takahashi extricated himself from a one out, bases-loaded jam. After Mitch Nilsson teed off for a solo shot in the fifth, catcher Tomoya Mori replied in kind for the Aces in the equaliser – enough to spark the pitching changes as Brisbane called upon Zac Treece and Dan McGrath made his first appearance for Melbourne, whose management would be delighted with the Takahashi outing (eleven strike outs for one earned run over 5.1). Singles to Darryl George and Delmon Young spelled the end for Treece and the Aces plated the go-ahead on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Neslony. Called on to close out the last of a quality contest, Shunta Nakatsuka retired three hitters in order to seal a 2-1 win for Melbourne Aces.
Melbourne starter Jon Kennedy was under immediate pressure in GAME THREE, when Aaron Whitefield and TJ Bennett both singled in the first but were left high and dry before Melbourne opened scoring on back-to-back doubles by Tomoya Mori and Liam Bedford in the bottom of the second. A Whitefield walk and Bennett single spelled the end for Kennedy in the third before the Bandits scored two from successive sacrifice fly balls off reliever Matt Marksberry. With both sides utilising the bullpen, the Aces tied it up in the bottom of four – although the damage could have been greater with bases juiced and one out. Dominant for Melbourne, eventual winning pitcher Josh Tols breezed through a scoreless five innings stint (nine strikeouts), while Pat Young kept tabs on the Melbourne offence before handing the pill to Ryan Searle, who ensured that the scheduled seven-innings contest stretched into extras under tie-breaker rules. After the Bandits failed to convert with runners at first and second, Delmon Young singled to load the bases for Melbourne in the bottom of eight. With two strikeouts, Searle was poised to do what he does best until he lost control of a fastball, plunked Allan de San Miguel and forced the go-ahead across the plate – with the 3-2 win completing a sweep for Melbourne.
An all-too-familiar Round Three sight