Cavalry, Heat force series into Sunday

Kingsley Collins

26 January 2019

 

On the cusp of qualifying for yet another Australian Baseball League Championship Series, Brisbane Bandits were rocked by an explosive revival that turned a deficit into a remarkable 8-6 win for Canberra at Holloway Field this evening.

 

In total contrast with a Friday night blowout in favour of the Bandits, early on this was a pitcher-dominated affair in which starters Tim Atherton and Steve Kent both produced the quality outings for which they are renowned before the game changed complexion dramatically – with Brisbane appearing to have the game in control until Canberra belted five in the top of the eighth.  

 

With Canberra buoyant after this remarkable win – and with chinks perhaps starting to appear in the Bandits armoury – the stage is set for an enthralling Game Three between two most worthy clubs.

 

Outplayed by Sydney in the first game of its semi-final series, Perth Heat rode superb pitching outings by Conor Lourey and reliever Brooks Hall to post a 3-1 win that squared the series and forced a Sunday afternoon finale at Harley Davidson Ballpark.

 

While both sides were well held by quality pitching through four, the Heat plated two in the fifth – on a Carl Chester homer – and another in the sixth to set up a hard-fought win against a Blue Sox outfit that could muster just four hits.

 

SEMI-FINAL 1, GAME TWO:   CANBERRA CAVALRY 8 defeated BRISBANE BANDITS 6

 

With quality starters Tim Atherton (Brisbane) and Steve Kent (Canberra) both on song in the first, this game promised to be a somewhat different affair to the mismatch on Friday night, especially when Cavalry first-sacker Boss Moanaroa landed the first telling blow with a two-run blast over leftfield in the top of the second.

 

While the Bandits struggled to make solid contact with Kent, Atherton toiled hard and efficiently after the early setback and his side mounted its first offensive assault when Andrew Campbell tugged a lead-off triple in the bottom of four and scored on a Mitch Nilsson sacrifice flyball.

 

Two-out singles to Ryan Battaglia and Riley Unroe created an opportunity for the Bandits in the bottom of five – a situation custom-made for TJ Bennett, who belted a double off the wall to drive in both and snatch a short-lived one-run lead that was peremptorily erased when David Kandilas took a gut-high pitch deep over centrefield in the top of six.

 

An outstanding defensive play initiated by leftfielder Kyle Perkins in the bottom of six surely provided impetus for the Cavalry, although Atherton appeared unbowed by retiring Michael Crouse, Moanaroa and Robbie Perkins in the top of seven before nine-hitter Battaglia wrested back the lead for Brisbane with a two-out monster blast over leftfield in the equaliser.

 

Relieving Kent after another typically lion-hearted performance, Zech Lemond closed out the innings for the Cavalry, who mounted a another challenge when Cam Warner and Michael Fransoso both hit safely to draw Ryan Searle from the Bandits pen to replace Atherton – who had been superb over 7.1 (four hits and nine strikeouts for three earned runs).

 

A Kandilas infield hit loaded the bases and set the table for Craig Massey, who drove a two-run single up the middle before Zach Wilson launched a three-run shot over the leftfield wall to help engineer a dramatic turnaround as the Cavalry turned a deficit into a four-run lead against a shell-shocked Brisbane outfit.

 

Not about to lay down, the Bandits responded with an Andrew Campbell single and a two-run Donald Lutz bomb in the bottom of eight to halve the lead going into the ninth, when Battaglia whacked a lead-off double but was left stranded as eventual winning pitcher Lemond closed out a famous win for the Cavalry.   BOX SCORES

 

Game Three of this Semi-Final series is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, at Holloway Field. The winner will progress to the Championship Series next weekend. Check the ABL for times, venues and broadcast details.

 

 

SEMI-FINAL 2, GAME TWO:   PERTH HEAT 3 defeated SYDNEY BLUE SOX 1

 

While both sides landed runners on base in the first, starters Conor Lourey (Perth) and Josh Guyer (Sydney) appeared well in command, although the Sox again stranded runners in the third of a contest that went scoreless through four – with Guyer far more economical on the hill as the Heat remained scoreless since this series started on Friday.

 

Drawing a walk in the top of five, Trent D’Antonio stole second, Jacob Younis forced a fielding error and Lourey (4.1 innings, one hit, and five strikeouts) was relieved by Brooks Hall, who induced a crucial double play to keep the Blue Sox at bay.

 

Alex Hall walked in the equaliser and Carl Chester belted a two-run homer for the Heat’s first runs of the post-season – surely providing a fillip for the home side, which negotiated a scoreless top of six and again challenged in the bottom of the frame, when Tim Kennelly singled and Pete Kozma stroked an RBI-double before being thrown out at third.

 

A Tristan Gray single spelled the end for Guyer (5.1 innings for three earned runs), who was relieved by Chia-Jen Lo, while Hall was dominant through the middle innings against an ever-dangerous Sydney offence that might have been facing a greater deficit were it not for some stellar defence.

 

An error and a Dwayne Kemp single – with none out – created a serious opportunity for Sydney, which plated a run on a flyball to Tim Kennelly but was further thwarted on a slick conversion by the rightfielder for a double play at second before Hall whiffed Jack Murphy to escape the innings.

 

Although Lo and Tyler Herr spun a scoreless innings each later in the game, Perth was up to the task of withstanding a Sydney threat in the ninth as Hall closed out the game with aplomb.  BOX SCORES

 

Game Three of this Semi-Final series is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, at Harley Davidson Ballpark. The winner will progress to the Championship Series next weekend. Check the ABL for times, venues and broadcast details.