Sydney sweeps Brisbane: Canberra kicks away
30 November 2015
It was another fascinating round of Australian Baseball League action, with the Blue Sox taking a broom to the Bandits, with the Cavalry charging to a break atop the table and the Aces demonstrating that they are not far off the pace despite remaining in sixth.
Canberra (16-8) took three of its four games against Adelaide Bite (9-13) - which still has two games in hand - while Sydney (11-11) improved its position dramatically at the expense of Brisbane Bandits (12-8), which has lost five on the trot and is suddenly vulnerable to challenge from lower-placed teams.
Down in Melbourne, the Aces (9-15) broke club offensive records in a Game Three eruption but needed to settle for a split with Perth Heat (13-11), which has edged into second placing.
After six rounds, the Australia Baseball League ladder stands as CANBERRA (16 wins, 8 losses), PERTH (13-11), BRISBANE (12-12), SYDNEY (11-11), ADELAIDE (9-13) and MELBOURNE (9-15).
AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE ROUND SIX 2015/16
CANBERRA CAVALRY versus ADELAIDE BITE (Narrabundah)
With its pitching ace struggling, Canberra was overpowered by the visiting Adelaide Bite in Game One before regrouping for a walk-off win and two more comfortable victories that strengthened its hold on top placing. Canberra won the series 3-1.
Clearly not at his best in recent outings, Canberra starter Brian Grening copped some rare treatment early in Game One, when the Bite offence exploded with seven runs in the top of the third on a string of hits including a three-run bomb by in-form slugger Kyle Petty that brought reliever Wade Korpi from the pen far earlier than would have been expected. Delivered this massive offensive support, Adelaide starter Steven Chambers was delivered more when the Bite plated another three in the fourth compliments largely of a two-run Tom Brice triple. Successive hits in the top of six stretched the lead for the Bite, with Matthew Swilley entering the fray in place of Chambers, who had scattered four hits over five for one earned run. While the Cavalry made a late charge at Chris Dula, they were never in contention and Adelaide won the game 12-4 in amassing fifteen hits to five – led by catcher Landon Hernandez (three hits and three RBIs), Brice (three and two), Petty (one and three), Stefan Welch (two and one), Jordan Cowan and Mark Wik (both with two knocks).
Looking sharp for Canberra, Game Two starter Rafael Fernandes was given early run support when Derrick Loveless drew a walk from Dallas Gallant in the third, stole second, advanced on a grounder and scored on a single by River Stevens, whose sacrifice fly stretched his club’s lead in the bottom of five as the pitchers held sway. Replacing Fernandes in the top of the sixth, Colton Turner came under fire when Jordan Cowan scored after a lead-off double and Stefan Welch left the yard to square the ledger at 2-2. While both sides struggled for offensive production against some quality pitching, it was the Bite who again gained a break - in the top of nine - when Angus Roeger walked and his pinch runner scored after a bunt, a throwing error and a balk by Aaron Thompson in a tense situation. Terrific side that the Cavalry is, though, there was a final twist in this contest as they hit back to level the scores at the death and were treated to a walk-off 4-3 win when Jack Murphy slapped a single from the first pitch he saw from Bite closer Kody Kerski to score the go-ahead.
With the series tied, Game Three evolved into a contest played in two halves, with quality starters Steven Kent (Canberra) and Matt Williams (Adelaide) well in control through the early innings. It was only in the fifth that the Bite scored – on a Jordan Cowan double – although the visitors were rather quickly overwhelmed when the Cavalry offence exploded to smack three in the bottom of six and another four in the seventh to set up a comfortable 9-1 win. Tagged for the runs in the sixth, Williams was relieved by Devon Barker and Daniel Nilsson as the big Canberra bats sprang into action. Although the Bite had multiple hitters in Cowan, Tom Brice and Marc Wik, they were outslugged by a Canberra offence led by Jason Leblebijian (four hits and two RBIs), Bryan Pounds (two and three), Ryan Miller (two and three) and Boss Moanaroa (three and one). Spinning six terrific innings for six hits, seven strikeouts and one earned run, Steven Kent carded another win before Phil Kish and Michael Click slammed the gate at the end.
While the Bite showed real character against an irrepressible Cavalry offence, they were outgunned 12-7 in Game Four as Canberra registered a series win. Although a two-run Stefan Welch homer and a Travis Demeritte double gleaned three in the first for Adelaide, the visitors were subsequently well-held by a surfeit of Cavalry arms until a last innings explosion produced four runs debited to Minnesota Twins southpaw Aaron Thompson. The final scoreline was somewhat flattering to the Adelaide Bite, whose six pitchers came under serious fire in conceding runs in five successive innings as the Cavalry amassed a dozen hits highlighted again by Ryan Miller (three, with four RBIs), Derrick Loveless (two hits, three walks and three RBIs), Jason Leblebijian (two doubles and two RBIs), Jack Murphy and Boss Moanaroa. With two innings of scoreless work, Colton Turner earned the win for Canberra in a game that produced a total of eighteen free passes – ten conceded by the Adelaide pitching staff and eight by Canberra.
MELBOURNE ACES versus PERTH HEAT (Melbourne Ballpark)
While Perth Heat has edged into second placing at the expense of Brisbane Bandits, there were promising signs for the Aces, who again produced some blistering offence and displayed a real capacity to fight back from difficult game situations. This series was a 2-2 split.
Scroll down for a slideshow from the Melbourne versus Perth series (images: Australian Baseball Alumni)
With Perth starter Daniel Schmidt looking solid, the Heat were on the march early in Game One, scoring on a ground ball in the second and plating another in the third on a Derek Peterson double and a Matt Kennelly sacrifice flyball before Jack Barrie – playing his first game for the Aces – halved the lead with a booming home run over left-centre. Perth responded with two unearned at two out in the fourth – on a Tim Kennelly single – to establish a three run lead before William Wu relieved Matt Larkins for the Aces in the top of seven. Melbourne closed the gap in a spirited equaliser when Darryl George doubled to score Jarryd Rogers after the switch hitter had drawn a pass and advanced on a single by Brad Harman, who scooted home on a wild pitch by reliever Edgar Valle to draw the Aces within a run. Certainly not done for the night, former Major Leaguer Harman followed up in a two-out situation in the eighth, driving a two-run scoring double off Scott Mitchinson to snatch the lead for the Aces, who held on for a stirring 5-4 win as Virgil Vasquez closed out the game.
Conjuring up an outstanding eight innings for Perth Heat in Game Two, winning pitcher Edwin Carl totally bamboozled a Melbourne Aces offence that could manage just two hits – both by Brad Harman, who drove in a first Aces run in the fourth before a Trey Vavra sacrifice fly plated a second. Although that innings gave Melbourne a one-run break, it was all she wrote for the local club as the Heat forged ahead with two in the sixth, two in the eight and another in the ninth for a 6-2 result. Whiffing eight in a stellar display, Carl handed to ball to Scott Mitchinson to close out the game for Perth, which played errorless defence and did enough in offence – compliments of the heart of its order in Matt Kennelly, Correlle Prime and Luke Hughes (all with two hits). Taking a loss for the Aces, Mike McGillivray again produced a lion-hearted start to keep his side well in the game – although the headline story was the dominant outing by Edwin Carl.
What a difference a day can make. After being totally dominated on Saturday night, Melbourne Aces – in a Game Three match-up - produced one of the most stunning offensive assaults of the ABL season thus far on their way to a 14-0 whitewash of Perth Heat, which had no counter for Yasuo Sano over seven innings of scoreless work before Jeremy Young closed out the last two innings. While Derek Peterson and third sacker Matt Dixon stroked a couple of knocks apiece, the Aces delivered an avalanche of twenty-one hits – eighteen of those by the halfway point of the game. It was a mind-boggling outburst led by Darryl George (four hits and two RBIs), catcher Takanori Hoshi (four hits), Logan Moon (three and five, including a home run), Kelli Zablan (three and three) and leftfielder Nick Rossell (three and one, with a walk). Heat starter Jon Jones was chased from the hill in the second, and the situation became no better as Adam Millson and Josh Silvi were both taken to the cleaners by an Aces outfit that many believe may have turned the corner in its 2015/16 season.
Scheduled for an early start on Monday morning – Schools Day at Altona – Game Four opened brightly with Tim Kennelly doubling to drive in an early run off Aces starter Jon Kennedy, who was relieved by William Wu in the fourth after being tagged for a second when Allan de San Miguel walked and subsequently scored on a Tad Gold single. Super-efficient over the early innings, Perth starter Nick Veale conceded a solo home run to Trey Vavra in the equaliser before a quick reply when the Heat plated another four. Aces reliever Ryohei Fujiwara struck out the Perth side in the sixth and the Heat went to Ben Shorto after a solid Veale stint. Swatting a massive two-run shot over the centrefield wall, Allan de San Miguel stretched the Perth lead to six to draw Virgil Vasquez from the Aces bullpen. In an extraordinary comeback, however, the Aces blasted six to draw level in the bottom of the eighth on a combination of five hits, two passes and a sacrifice fly – only to be thwarted in their endeavours as de San Miguel launched his second moonshot to snatch back the lead and deliver a 9-8 Perth win.
SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus BRISBANE BANDITS (Blacktown Sportspark)
Despite early predictions that the club might struggle, Sydney Blue Sox has quietly and efficiently gone about its business and this weekend its pitching came to the fore at Blacktown, where the side went undefeated against early-season glamour side Brisbane Bandits. Sydney Blue Sox won the series 4-0.
The Blue Sox opened scoring in the first innings of Game One when Michael Quesada doubled to score two before the Bandits drew one back when Andrew Campbell tripled in the top of three of a shootout between quality starters in southpaw Rick Teasley (Brisbane) and Alex Balog (Sydney). While the Bandits threatened again in the top of five, strikeout pitcher Balog was having a night out – as was his side, which appeared to benefit from a controversial call on their way to stretching their lead in the bottom of six and drawing Tristan Crawford from the pen for Teasley. Playing superb outfield defence, the Blue Sox rode some decent baseball fortune on their way to a 5-1 win that was certainly highlighted by the outstanding Balog performance – his fourth win - before Aaron Sookee closed out the game. Out-hitting the Bandits eight to four, Sydney had terrific offensive contributors in Quesada (three hits and two RBIs) and rightfielder Mathew Smith (two and two).
Sydney started Game Two with a bang, plating two in the bottom of the first and another in the third while starter Wayne Lundgren held the Bandits hitters in check. Combining some short ball with timely hitting, the Bandits drove in three in the top of the fifth, although the reply was immediate by the Blue Sox – when hits to Rhys Hoskins and Josh Dean combined with a sacrifice fly and a two-run Josh Strong triple to again provide a three-run buffer and chase Bandits starter Jason Jarvis from the hill. Nick Ciuffo smacked a solo bomb in the sixth to spell the end for Lundgren before a Justin Williams solo shot off Matthew Rae made it a one-run ballgame – albeit temporarily, as the Blue Sox offence was irrepressible, cashing in on a Bandits error to stretch the lead to 8-5 – the final score. Collecting the win for Sydney, Lundgren had great support from his team’s offence – which racked up thirteen hits to eight highlighted with multiples by Jamie Westbrook, Hoskins, Michael Quesada and Strong – while Williams and Ciuffo led the way for Brisbane in a crowd-pleasing contest.
While both sides scored a run in the first, it was Sydney Blue Sox that was able to exert its dominance in Game Three, henceforth holding the visitors scoreless from the second through to the ninth on the back of outstanding pitching by winning pitcher Craig Anderson – who scattered five hits for one earned run before Luke Wilkins closed out the game 5-1 with an impressive hitless stint against a potent offence. The Blue Sox edged ahead with a run in the second and they made a serious statement with a three-spot in the fifth as the Bandits faltered in defence – overall conceding three unearned runs despite decent outings by Brisbane starter Trent Baker and relievers in Taylor Stanton and Eric Green. A total of five Bandits hits was shared between Mitch Nilsson (three, with an RBI) and shortstop Riley Unroe (two), while Trent D’Antonio (three hits and an RBI) and Jacob Younis (two and one) were best for the Blue Sox, who are unobtrusively but steadily building their season.
Drawing a solid crowd to its Saturday night win, Sydney Blue Sox continued to inspire confidence in its supporter group with a 6-2 Game Four Sunday win that delivered a morale-boosting sweep for the host club. Jan Stoecklin was again a dominant factor for the Blue Sox, scattering four hits over 5.2 innings of work before Brandon Zywicki, Gyoung-Wan Lim, Matthew Rae and Calvin Drummond combined to hold the Bandits to just two runs – both in the eighth, when Bralin Jackson and Justin Williams both tripled and Maxx Tissenbaum singled to create some belated hope of a recovery. Scoring in four of its eight innings, Sydney remained in charge throughout the contest, due largely to the efforts of Rhys Hoskins, Josh Strong and Alex Howe (all with two hits), along with timely conversion by Trent Antonio and Jacob Younis. Stoecklin earned the win for the Blue Sox, who will head to the City of Churches next week riding a wave of genuine confidence.