Australian Baseball League Championship Series 2016/17
Bandits nail championship in two
11 February 2017
Brisbane Bandits have won their second Claxton Shield on the trot – sealing the deal with a 3-1 result over Melbourne Aces in the second of the Australian Baseball League Championship games that was decided at Melbourne Ballpark this evening.
A powerful win in the Friday night game was indicative of the momentum that Brisbane had built during the New Year – it was an irresistible force that culminated in a follow-up demolition of the Melbourne offence, which could muster just four hits despite some quality pitching.
Well done to the Melbourne Aces on setting the playing benchmark for the 2016/17 Australian Baseball League season. Hearty congratulations to the Brisbane Bandits club, which in the end proved an unstoppable opponent that is a most deserving winner of the Australian Baseball League title for a second successive year.
Looking sharp early, Melbourne Aces starter Josh Tols walked Trent Oeltjen and conceded a two-out single to David Rodriguez before whiffing Logan Wade to escape the first unscathed, although the Bandits opened scoring in the top of the second – when Wade Dutton stroked an RBI-single into leftfield.
On song for the Bandits, Kramer Champlin retired the first nine hitters he saw, while the visitors passed up a further scoring opportunity in the top of three, when the Aces played some stellar defence behind Tols to cut down Oeltjen on a play at the plate.
The Champlin dominance was momentarily broken in the bottom of three, when Cody Jones blasted a lead-off solo shot over the rightfield wall to level scores at one apiece as the tension began to build – although the response by Brisbane threatened to be emphatic as Wade Dutton singled and scooted to third on an Aaron Whitefield single to the right side.
Up to the task, however, Tols induced a fly ball from Oeltjen and whiffed Mitch Nilsson – for the third time – before retiring danger man Rodriguez to escape a serious jam and give way to reliever Jon Kennedy in the top of six.
A walk to Kevin Padlo and a hit to Thomas Milone again put runners at the corners for Brisbane, who edged ahead on a passed ball before the Aces replaced Kennedy with Sam Street in another ominous situation – with runners on and one out.
A fielder’s choice and a slow roller produced a third run for Brisbane on the force play, drawing Dan McGrath from the pen to retire Oeltjen as the game remained in the balance.
Calling on evergreen Major Leaguer Peter Moylan to hold the line, the Aces played some characteristically silky defence to hold the lead at manageable proportions before Mike Walker gave his side a chance by laying down a safety bunt in the bottom of eight off pitching match-up Ryan Rowland-Smith, who handed the pill to Ryan Searle with a runner at first and none out.
Untouchable in the Friday night game, Searle conceded a base hit to Liam Bedford and a single to pinch-hitter Ryan Dale that loaded the bases with one out, although the big man came up with the big pitches to fan Kelii Zablan and Jones to escape the innings and effectively bring the season curtain down on the Aces – who fought the game out behind its own superb pitching but who were unable to break the offensive shackles and apply scoreboard pressure.
Winning pitcher Champlin was fantastic over seven for one hit, no walks and the solitary earned run before Searle chimed in with another stingy, scoreless outing (four strikeouts), while Tols and Moylan were quite superb for an Aces club that could muster just four hits against a Bandits outfit that made the most of opportunities presented by Dutton (two hits), Milone (two hits), Padlo and Oeltjen.
For baseball purists, this was a game for the ages – a thrilling, high-standard contest between two clubs replete with sporting talent and managed by some of our most highly-credentialled people in the game.
Well done to both clubs on their seasons.
Special congratulations to the Brisbane Bandits – a deserving winner of the Australian Baseball League title for the 2016/17 season!
Long-ball hurts Aces as Bandits strike first
10 February 2017
Notwithstanding a lion-hearted eight-innings outing by Mark Hamburger, Melbourne Aces played catch-up all evening in Game One of the best-of-three Australian Baseball League Championship Series that was won 6-2 by an impressive Brisbane Bandits at Melbourne Ballpark tonight.
A two-run Trent Oeltjen homer in the top of the first was a decisive opening blow for the Bandits, who withstood a second innings challenge and edged away again as Manager David Nilsson utilised his bullpen to full effect against a home side that played errorless defence but was unable to counter a Bandits outfit that continued its blistering recent offence with four damaging home runs.
With the Bandits now one win away from a second consecutive Claxton Shield title that appeared unlikely two months ago, Melbourne Aces will need to regroup rather quickly and devise a strategy to halt the Brisbane juggernaut when the two teams meet again on Saturday night.
Brisbane was off to the ideal start in GAME ONE, when lead-off Aaron Whitefield looped a hit into rightfield and Trent Oeltjen took a full-count fastball off Melbourne starter Mark Hamburger deep over the rightfield wall for a two-run shot before Justin Erasmus induced an infield double and fanned Allan de San Miguel to stifle an Aces threat in the bottom of the frame.
With the Bandits continuing to apply offensive pressure, Kevin Padlo and Thomas Milone both hit safely in the top of the second for David Sutherland to score a third run on a weak single – although Hamburger was able to strand two runners in a potentially awkward situation.
Mike Walker doubled to lead off the second and the Aces again appeared thwarted with two out - as Brisbane played some quality defence – until Designated Hitter Jared Cruz slapped an RBI-single into rightfield, Kelii Zablan hit safely and Cody Jones smacked an opposite field single to score a second run for the home club.
Settling better into his work, the indomitable Hamburger was taken deep by Brisbane catcher David Rodriguez, who lined a shot over the rightfield wall in the top of three as the Bandits regained a two-run break.
A one-out single by de San Miguel in the bottom of three spelled the end for Erasmus, who was relieved by Ryan Rowland-Smith with the left-handed Walker at the plate. Walker dutifully grounded out and was replaced by Ty’Relle Harris as the Bandits played a carefully-managed situational pitching game – the result of which was vital for both clubs.
Hamburger breezed through the fourth and the Bandits called on Rick Teasley – their fourth pitcher of the game – to toss a scoreless fourth and fifth before Brisbane challenged again the sixth, when Logan Wade hit safely and Milone drew a rare pass from the Melbourne starter, who continued to rack up the strikeouts and was helped out big-time by a stunning infield double by James Beresford.
Called into the fray when Teasley walked Brad Harman with two out in the bottom of six, Zac Treece whiffed Cruz and spun a scoreless bottom of seven before Logan Wade stretched the lead for Brisbane with a massive solo shot over rightfield in the top of eight – followed by a first-pitch blast off the bat of Kevin Padlo that delivered the visitors an unassailable four-run lead.
Summoned from the Brisbane pen in the bottom of eight, Ryan Searle was virtually untouchable, with his heavy fastball and nasty slider proving too much for an Aces outfit that was comprehensively outplayed and will need to regroup very quickly for the Saturday night clash.
Although Teasley earned the win, the six pitchers used by Brisbane were all key components in a creatively managed strategic game by Manager David Nilsson, who would be delighted with the offence provided from a lineup that had standouts in Logan Wade (three hits – including a home run and an RBI), Padlo (two hits, with the solo bomb), Rodriguez (home run) and Oeltjen (the decisive two-run shot to set the early tone for his club).
From the Melbourne Aces' perspective, Hamburger (ten strikeouts) was superb in keeping his side in the contest after the early setback, although there was insufficient forthcoming in offence aside from Jones (three hits and an RBI), Walker (double) and Cruz.
Game Two of the Australian Baseball League Championship Series will be held at Melbourne Ballpark on Saturday 11 February, starting at 6.30 PM (AEDST). Game Three, if required, will be played at Melbourne Ballpark on Sunday 12 February, starting at 2.30 PM local time.