Heat on the rise as Aces falter and Canberra fires
27 November 2016
Sluggish at Melbourne Ballpark last weekend, four-time ABL champion Perth Heat (3-5) was strong in splitting its home series against reigning Claxton Shield titleholder Brisbane Bandits (5-3), while Adelaide Bite (4-4) christened its new baseball home with a series win over the Aces (4-4) and Canberra Cavalry (4-4) gained the upper hand over Sydney Blue Sox (4-4) in a series that produced over sixty runs.
While it would still be imprudent for any aficionado to confidently predict how Australian Baseball League standings might look in eight weeks, Round Two demonstrated that there appears very little between six ultra-competitive units all seeking to build a strong season.
Aside from several close finishes and some pitcher-dominated affairs to counterbalance the occasional free-scoring contest, once again there were many outstanding individual performances.
Just two wins separate league-leading Brisbane and sixth-placed Perth, with the other four clubs locked on four wins and four losses apiece, as testament to the closeness of the competition.
While it shared the spoils with Perth, Brisbane showed plenty – especially in Games One and Four – to suggest that it will again be tough to beat with its quality pitching roster and an ever-dangerous offence that has been augmented by the addition of players like Kevin Padlo, who was on fire for this series. For its part, Perth played more like the Heat side that we know - and management would be delighted with several brilliant performances over the weekend, including the hitting of Tim Kennelly and the brutal offence delivered by youngster Ulrich Bojarski.
Speaking of emerging talent for which this league is becoming renowned, Jack O’Loughlin was one of those to feature in Adelaide’s series win over Melbourne Aces, who could score just seven runs over the four games while stranding 25 on base. While it is worth noting that the Bite scored a total of just sixteen – and left 34 on base – those statistics say plenty about the high quality of the pitching and something, possibly, about the hitter-unfriendly nature of the West Beach facility for its opening ABL round. The eleven-innings game especially was memorable for many reasons – including the Matt Williams cameo against an Aces outfit that now has speed to burn and elite pitching that demands a greater degree of offensive support if Melbourne is to live up to much of the pre-season hype.
Aside from Game Three, scoring seemed nary an issue for Canberra and Sydney, who combined to club sixty-one runs in four games – with over half of those delivered in a Sunday run-fest in Wollongong. Sydney showed us glimpses of its best – notably in its whitewash of the Cavalry in Game Two – and supporters would have been in raptures over the Craig Anderson gem and the belligerent, consistent hitting delivered by Shane Kelleher among others. However – despite the Friday night drubbing - Canberra took that series on the back of superb pitching and powerful offence led by the likes of David Kandilas, Boss Moanaroa, Robbie Perkins and Kyle Perkins.
Roll on Round Three. It should be another ripper.
AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE ROUND TWO 2016/17
CANBERRA CAVALRY versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (Narrabundah and Wollongong)
Canberra won this series 3-1.
Starters Lee Sosa (Canberra) and former Los Angeles Angels prospect Trevor Foss (Sydney) breezed through a scoreless first while Can-American rightie Sosa extricated himself from a jam in the second and again in the third of GAME ONE. Plating a run in the bottom of three, the Cavalry errored to concede a Blue Sox score in the top of the fourth before David Kandilas clubbed a solo homer against his former side in the bottom of the frame for a lead that was stretched in the sixth when the Kandy man again went yard – this time for a three-run blast that chased Foss from the hill. Relieving in a tough situation, Gyoung-Wan Lim conceded a two-RBI double to Aaron Sloan and Zech Lemond took the pill for the Cavalry with his side holding a six-run buffer. With both clubs wringing the pitching changes, Sydney surged back into the contest when Alex Howe smacked a three-run long ball off Andrew Case – although the response was emphatic as Mick Reeves blasted a veritable monster over the rightfield wall in the bottom of eight and Steve Kent closed out the game 8-4. Howe (three hits for three RBIs) and Stone Garrett (two hits) provided the limited offence for Sydney, while Kandilas (three hits and four RBIs) was outstanding for the Cavalry along with Sloane (two hits and two RBIs), Reeves and winning pitcher Sosa – who whiffed eight over five innings of work.
With older hands in Hayden Beard (Canberra) and Craig Anderson (Sydney) handed the starting gig in GAME TWO, it was the Blue Sox who scored early – on a Josh Dean single after Malik Collymore was tattooed and stole second – while the Cavalry passed up a bases-loaded opportunity in the bottom of the first. When shortstop Shane Kelleher swatted a two-run bomb in the top of the second it was three zip to Sydney and Scott Cone was summoned to replace Beard in the third. Sydney came alight again in the fourth, when Kelleher and Trent D’Antonio singled to set the table for Collymore, who delivered big-time with a three-run blast over the leftfield wall. Replacing Cone in the fifth, Jackson Lowery was offered no respite, as Kelleher tripled – his third hit of the night – to drive in another couple and scoot home on a passed ball as his side snatched a nine-run lead. A tenth run in the sixth placed the game well beyond reach of a Canberra outfit that had been strangled by the evergreen Anderson, who took the win with five innings of scoreless work for three hits. While Kyle Perkins had two knocks for the Cavalry, his side was totally outgunned 10-0 by the Sox, who owed much to the contributions of Kelleher (three hits and four RBIs), Collymore (one and three), Josh Dean (two and one), Stone Garrett and Michael Campbell (both two hits).
No doubt stung by a drubbing at the hands of the Blue Sox on Friday night, Canberra was able to atone 4-1 in GAME THREE, although the Cavalry certainly did not have it their own way against a five-man Sydney pitching combination – headed by starter Luke Wilkins - that was tagged with two unearned runs in a tight contest. A sacrifice fly ball scored for Canberra in the second and Sydney replied quickly in the third, when Canberra starter Josh DeGraaf walked a run across the plate before settling and going on to be credited with the win as his side hit back hard with a three-spot in the sixth – one of those unearned. Back in harness for the Cavalry, Boss Moanaroa (three hits and an RBI) was an offensive livewire who was well-supported by Robbie Perkins (two hits, including a triple, for an RBI) and Kyle Perkins (a hit and two RBIs), while Michael Campbell and Josh Dean were best of a subdued Blue Sox offence that was well held by winning pitcher DeGraaf (six innings for one hit and five strikeouts), Andrew Case and Steven Kent with the close.
Looking for a series win in GAME FOUR, Canberra exploded in the bottom of the first, belting Blue Sox starter Aaron Sookee hard for five runs as Josh Almonte, David Kandilas, Boss Moanaroa, Kyle Perkins (double), Robbie Perkins and Aaron Sloan all hit safely in a blistering display. Faultless in the first, Cavalry starter Sean Guinard was taken to the cleaners in the second and was relieved by Tyler Herr after conceding four as Stone Garrett (two-run homer), Alex Howe (double) and Malik Collymore (two-run double) blasted Sydney back into the contest. Replacing Sookee, Ryoto Yoshikoshi closed out the second innings for the Blue Sox, who edged ahead in the top of three on a wild pitch and a two-run double by Yuki Yamazaki. Having control issues in the fourth, Herr walked a run across the plate and was relieved by Jackson Lowery with the Sox holding a two-run lead. That was stretched further when Yamazaki swatted another two-RBI double, although the Cavalry responded – in what was already a slugfest – with two-run bombs by David Kandilas and Boss Moanaraoa levelling scores at ten apiece. With the bullpens of both clubs seriously challenged, Mike Reeves handed Canberra a buffer with a two-run shot over rightfield and Robbie Perkins followed suit with a two-run bomb in the sixth before Aaron Sloane went yard for two more in the seventh as the Cavalry charged to a 21-11 win. While Yamazaki, Garrett, Collymore and Tucker Neuhaus were great with the bat for Sydney, their side was buried under an avalanche of twenty-three hits delivered in multiples by the entire Cavalry lineup. CLICK HERE for full game report by ILLAWARRA MERCURY
PERTH HEAT versus BRISBANE BANDITS (Barbagallo Ballpark)
This series was split 2-2.
Taking the GAME ONE start for Perth, Nick Veale landed in strife early days, when a Logan Wade single and Kevin Padlo triple scored two for the Bandits, who were given a solid start by left-armer Rick Teasley. Pouring on offensive pressure, the Bandits exploded to a massive lead with a four-run third engineered by five hits – including a bases-clearing Padlo double - as the visitors sent nine men to the plate and the Heat called Benn Grice from the pen. Applying the clamps to a rampant Brisbane offence, Grice was terrific over four scoreless, hitless innings before Adam Millson held sway over the last two. However, while Tim Kennelly took winning pitcher Teasley for a two-run homer in the bottom of four, Perth was unable to make further inroads against Rhys Niit and Matt Timms as the Bandits emerged a convincing 6-2 winner that was effectively in cruise mode after the early outburst. Tim Kennelly (two-run homer), Nick Ruppert (two hits) and Luke Hughes (two walks) were best of a subdued Heat offence, while Padlo (double and triple, for four RBIs), Wade (two hits and two ribbies) and Aaron Whitefield (three hits – including two doubles) were outstanding for the visitors.
The Bandits were off to another flyer in GAME TWO, blasting four in the first off Michael Lee – compliments of a walk, a HPB, a defensive error and two-RBI singles by Mitch Nilsson and David Sutherland. Brisbane starter Justin Erasmus breezed through the first before Ulrich Bojarski drove in Nick Ruppert after the Heat leftfielder had doubled to lead off the second. Bojarski scored on an attempted steal and Joey Wong scored Sam Kennelly on a sacrifice flyball to draw the Heat within one run heading to the third frame. After four scoreless subsequent innings, the Bandits applied the blow torch to Lee in the top of seven, plating three on a combination of walks and a two-RBI hit to Mitch Nilsson. But if walks had been damaging on that occasion, they were disastrous for Brisbane in the bottom of the frame, when Zac Treece and then Matt Timms struggled with control and were made to pay dearly with a six spot – highlighted with a bases clearing triple by Ulrich Bojarski – that handed the Heat a two-run lead. While the visitors clawed one back in the top of eight, winning pitcher Lex Rutledge and closer Will Dennis were up to the task in securing a 9-8 win for Perth Heat. Of a Perth side that could manage just four hits – but drew eleven free passes – Bojarski was outstanding (two hits and four RBIs), while Nilsson (two and four), Sutherland (one and three) and Logan Wade (two and one) provided the offence for a Brisbane outfit that was uncharacteristically wayward on the hill for that one pivotal innings.
Always a tough proposition at home, Perth Heat took winning form into GAME THREE – a seven innings contest that was the first of a Saturday doubleheader. Two-hitter Tim Kennelly smacked a solo bomb in the second off Bandits starter Kramer Champlin, although a response was forthcoming in the top of three – when Thomas Milone walked, Logan Wade doubled and a Mitch Nilsson grounder levelled the scores. Terrific over six innings for the Heat, Tom Bailey (six hits and five strikeouts) was accorded superb bullpen support by Cameron Lamb and Will Dennis. Racking up seven strikeouts for the solitary earned run, Champlin was relieved by consummate closer Ryan Searle, who landed in rare trouble in the bottom of last – issuing a walk, a wild pitch and a HPB before Tim Kennelly delivered the decisive blow – a one out single to centrefield that gave Perth a 2-1 win and a series lead against the reigning champion. Although retiring just one hitter, Dennis carded the win for Perth – a result that owed plenty to Bailey and Tim Kennelly (a walk and two hits - including a home run - for two RBIs) and Derek Peterson (two hits), while Milone and Connor MacDonald were best of a subdued Brisbane offence with two hits apiece.
As expected, a proud Perth Heat had improved its form rather dramatically from last week against Melbourne Aces, with GAME FOUR offering an opportunity for the host club to post a series win. It looked on the cards early – when Luke Hughes took Daniel Nilsson deep with a solo shot in the bottom of the first – although the Bandits blasted back into contention with a five spot in the third on the back of a two-RBI single by Thomas Milone and a three-run homer by David Sutherland off Perth starter Daniel Schmidt. A run in the fourth and a monster three-run blast by Ulrich Bojarski tied scores in the bottom of seven, although the Bandits responded emphatically with a four spot – on a Logan Wade single and a Kevin Padlo double. Not about to fly the white flag, Perth responded with two in the bottom of eight before the visitors put the 11-7 final result beyond reach when William Thorp and Aaron Whitefield both stroked RBI singles in the top of the last to square the series at two each. Jake Pannunzio took the win with an innings of short relief in an offensive shootout that produced stellar individual performances from both clubs – including Whitefield (five hits and an RBI), Wade (two and two) and Sutherland (one and three) for Brisbane, along with Bojarski (one and four), Hughes and Derek Peterson for the Heat.
ADELAIDE BITE versus MELBOURNE ACES (West Beach)
Adelaide won this series 3-1 at home.
Looking sharp early, Bite starter Steven Chambers retired the Aces in order in the first of GAME ONE and Mark Hamburger stifled a challenge for Melbourne in the equaliser – setting the scene for a scoreless early contest. Struggling to land runners on base, a depleted-looking Aces offence finally had a chance in the top of four before Chambers whiffed the threatening Allan de San Miguel with runners on. Jordan Cowan doubled for Adelaide in the bottom of five and scooted to third on a Stefan Welch single, drawing Josh Tols from the pen for Hamburger, who had been terrific over four scoreless innings. After a ground ball scored for the Bite, Ronald Acuna legged out a two-out triple in the top of six to spell the end for Chambers – who had been quite magnificent in scattering three hits over 5.2, with five strikeouts. While reliever Hei-Chun Lee fanned Roman Collins to end the innings, it was not before Acuna stole home – a rarity in baseball, though not entirely surprising for a person of his lightning speed. Inheriting runners at first and second, Virgil Vasquez walked Angus Roeger in the bottom of seven before whiffing danger man Marcus Greene as Adelaide reached a total of fifteen runners stranded on base. Taking the ball for Adelaide, Loek van Mil closed out the eighth before a frenetic top of nine that saw Acuna score again on some scintillating baserunning for a lead that was protected by eventual winning pitcher Vasquez as a thrilling 2-1 result.
Historically finding it tough going against the Bite in the city of churches, Melbourne Aces were again on script for GAME TWO of this series – which had produced an opening thriller on Friday night. While both sides had their scoring opportunities in the early innings, starters Jack O’Loughlin (Bite) and Keisuke Honda (Aces) were quite superb – although the Aces tagged the Adelaide teenager for a couple unearned in the top of four before the Bite turned to the bullpen. Despite being out-hit, the Aces were looking good until the bottom of seven, when Honda conceded a lead-off hit and a fielding error placed runners at the corners with one out. Reliever Virgil Vasquez was taken for a two-run scoring triple by LeDarious Clark and the game was suddenly at an impasse that neither could break – compliments of some quality work on the hill by both sides. Both had scoring opportunities in the top of the tenth but came up empty before the tie-breaker rule came into play in the eleventh. Although loading the bases with one out, the Aces were held scoreless as Matt Williams whiffed Brad Harman and Josh Davies before the Bite seized upon its opportunity in the equaliser – when pinch hitting Dutch catcher Bas Nooij singled to leftfield for the go-ahead and a 3-2 result in favour of Adelaide. Outstanding over four (for six strikeouts), Matt Williams took the win in a game dominated by pitchers, although Nooij, Stefan Welch, Josh Altmann and Clark were productive in offence for Adelaide against a Melbourne side that could muster just seven hits while making four errors.
Taking the GAME THREE start against his former ABL club – a seven innings contest - Dushan Ruzic breezed through the first but was taken deep with a two-run bomb by Angus Roeger in the bottom of the second, while southpaw Max MacNabb held sway on the hill for Adelaide. Whiffing seven and conceding just two hits over 5.2 innings of work, MacNabb handed the pill to Zach Cooper to retire the dangerous Allan De San Miguel as the Bite looked odds-on to thwart the Melbourne prospects of a first away series win. Despite landing two runners on base in the last, Cooper secured the save as his side ran out a 2-0 winner in what had been a low-scoring and intense three games of baseball. Stranding eight runners on base, the Melbourne offence was again well-held - already totalling only four runs in three games – although its pitching continued to hold up against an opponent which itself could have been more productive given the opportunities presented across the series. MacNabb took the win for Adelaide, which supplied the limited offence through Roeger (home run for two RBIs), Josh Altmann (two hits), Jordan Cowan, Marcus Greene and Stefan Welch (two walks).
Taking the start for Adelaide, knuckleballer Taylor Hawkins sat down the first six Aces hitters he saw in GAME FOUR and Jon Kennedy repeated the dose for the visitors. Although Liam Bedford hit safely to lead off the third, it was the Bite who struck first when Jordan Cowan doubled to score Marcus Greene and Connor O’Gorman, stole third and scored on a wild pitch as it began to unravel for the rangy Victorian. Roman Collins walked before Allan de San Miguel and Mike Walker hit safely to load the bases for Melbourne, although the one-run dividend – on a Liam Bedford single – could have been somewhat greater had Hawkins not stepped up with the big pitches. Josh Altmann doubled to lead off the equaliser, advanced on a bunt and scored a fourth for Adelaide on an infield mis-hit before Kennedy was relieved by Brandon Stenhouse with bases juiced and one out. LeDarious Clark hit safely and Stefan Welch slapped a two-run single to hand the Bite a seven-run break after four, a lead that was reduced on a two-RBI hit to Brad Harman that spelled the end for Hawkins but drew an immediate Adelaide reply with two off Aces left-armer Matt Wilson. Going to its youthful hurlers to close out the game, Adelaide posted a thumping 10-3 win that sealed the series for the home club – which had superb performers in winning pitcher Hawkins, first-sacker Jordan Cowan (two hits and three RBIs) and evergreen Welch (two and three), while Bedford and Mike Walker both posted two knocks for a Melbourne Aces offence that scored a modest seven runs over four games.