Blue Sox, Bandits continue to impress: Bite lurking
13 December 2015
Now on an eight-game winning streak at Blacktown, Sydney Blue Sox (16-15) continued its surge in Australian Baseball League standings by winning all four of its home games against league-leading Canberra Cavalry (19-13), while second-placed Brisbane Bandits (18-14) extended its impressive home record with a series win over Perth Heat (15-17) – which has slipped to fifth.
Just a whisker shy of third placing, Adelaide Bite (15-16) was skinny on offensive production in Round Eight, although still able to force a series split with Melbourne Aces (12-20), who will need at least another sixteen wins - two thirds of all games - to have any hope of post-season action.
A highlight of the ABL Season will be the All-Star Game to be played at Altona on Wednesday evening.
Our preview of the game is published HERE.
ABL ROUND EIGHT REVIEW 2015/16
MELBOURNE ACES versus ADELAIDE BITE (Melbourne Ballpark)
This series treated supporters on both sides to some quality pitching counter-balanced by some imperious offence by the Aces in the Friday and Saturday games. Taking Games One and Four, Adelaide scored just six runs to Melbourne’s eighteen over the four-game set. The series resulted in a 2-2 split.
The Aces scored in the first innings of GAME ONE, when Brad Harman singled and crossed the plate on a Trey Vavra double and a fielding error before Adelaide speedster Kyle Petty tied it up on an Angus Roeger sacrifice after drawing a pass from Melbourne starter Jon Kennedy and stealing second and third. While Logan Moon swatted a solo homer off Bite starter Steve Chambers in the third, both pitchers were well in command despite Kennedy giving up an equalising run in the top of five that drew former Major Leaguer Shane Lindsay from the pen for his first appearance after a layoff. A wild pitch scored a third for Adelaide, who played some superb defence in stranding Aces runners on base in support of reliever Matt Williams before Hei Chun Lee – after issuing two walks in the bottom of the eighth - was replaced by Kody Kerski, who slammed the door 3-2 on a Melbourne club that was unable to convert some solid offence provided by Trey Vavra, Darry George and Kevin Curcio. Chambers earned the win – his fifth – while Kennedy was saddled with the loss.
Exploiting Adelaide defensive blunders in the first innings of GAME TWO, the Aces were quickly on the board when Keith Curcio doubled to score Logan Moon and Tanner Vavra, followed by a third run in the second when Kelii Zablan doubled, went to third on a flyball and Moon drive him in. With his side held in check by Melbourne starter Matt Larkins, Bite rightie Nick Talbot came under fire in the bottom of four – when he loaded the bases and was relieved by Japanese debutante Takuro Ito, who branded Tanner Vavra for a four zip lead. In turn loading the bases in the bottom of five – with none out – Ito handed the pill to Josh Tols, who conceded a run-scoring sacrifice fly to Jarryd Rogers, a costly walk to Moon and a two-run single by Tanner Vavra to stretch the lead to 8-0 – the final score. Scattering four hits and conceding just a solitary walk, Larkins was sensational in spinning a complete-game shutout for the Aces, who had terrific offensive contributors in Moon (three hits and two RBIs), Tanner Vavra (one and three), Zablan and Nick Rossell (two hits apiece).
Looking to keep their slim post-season hopes alive, the Aces took an early lead in GAME THREE – on a Jack Barrie single in the second – and steamed away through the middle and late innings for a clear-cut 7-1 win over a Bite outfit that was dominated by Melbourne starter Yasuo Sano, who tossed an absolute pearler over eight innings for five scattered hits, one walk, nine strikeouts and a solitary earned run. While Sano and closer Ryohei Fujiwara scattered just six hits, the Melbourne offence could boast contributors right through the order – led by Logan Moon (three hits and an RBI), Barrie (two and two), Trey Vavra (one and two), Tanner Vavra and Darryl George (both with two knocks). Although Adelaide was still in the game with a two-run deficit after six, the Aces effectively iced the game when Trey Vavra smashed a solo bomb in the seventh and was instrumental for another crooked number in the eighth. Strong through the early innings, Dallas Gallant wore the loss for Adelaide, who called upon Hei Chun Lee and Loek van Mil to stem the tide, though they received minimal support from a subdued offence aside from Stefan Welch and Landon Hernandez (both with two hits).
Starters Wilson Lee (Adelaide) and Mike McGillivray were solid through the early stages of GAME FOUR, which produced a baseball rarity in the third – in the form of a triple play turned on an infield line drive with runners both breaking on a hit and run. After the Aces stranded two Adelaide runners in the fourth, Kyle Petty opened scoring for the visitors with a two-out homer in the fifth. The reply came in the bottom of six, when Kelii Zablan laid down a safety bunt, advanced on two wild pitches and scored when Bite shortstop Mason Pickard booted a ground ball. Terrific over seven for six hits and the one earned run, McGillivray was relieved by Sam Street while the Bite called on rangy Loek van Mil. Giving up singles to John Schultz and Angus Roeger – followed by a walk to Travis Demeritte - Street was replaced by Virgil Vasquez, who kept the damage to one run and a lead that Melbourne was unable to peg back. Van Mil was credited with the 2-1 win and Street tagged with the loss in a pitcher-dominated affair that saw the Bite out-hit the home side eight to six.
BRISBANE BANDITS versus PERTH HEAT (Holloway)
Already boasting an outstanding record at home this season, Brisbane thrilled its supporters with a powerful offensive performance in the opening game and lost the first of a Saturday doubleheader before demonstrating great depth to outclass Perth Heat – which has dropped to fifth placing. Brisbane won this series 3-1.
Derek Peterson and Luke Hughes combined to score for Perth in the first of GAME ONE and Brisbane replied with a Justin Williams solo shot before the visitors again applied the heat when an error allowed two more to cross the plate. Dangerous offence that they are, the Bandits hit back when Bralin Jackson cleared the bases with a triple in the fifth to draw Ben Shorto from the pen for Daniel Schmidt – who had conceded eight hits for five runs. Still not done, Brisbane plated another in the sixth, although Luke Hughes replied with a solo homer run off Taylor Stanton to draw the visitors back within two. The recovery was short-lived, though, as Brisbane challenged Perth reliever Cameron Lamb in the bottom of eight, when David Sutherland singled, Tyler Bennett doubled and Riley Unroe stroked a two-run double and Stanton closed out for an 8-4 Brisbane win. Starter Rick Teasley carded his fourth win for the Bandits, who amassed fourteen knocks to seven – led by Unroe (three hits and three RBIs), Bennett (two and one), Ryan Battaglia (two hits), Sutherland (two hits) and Williams (home run), while Peterson and Hughes were best with the stick for Perth.
The first of a Saturday double-header, GAME TWO was an extraordinary affair that showcased quality pitching arms by both clubs but in the end was decided on two swings of the bat by Perth Heat catcher Allan de San Miguel, who went yard in the second - off Justin Erasmus - and again in the seventh – off Eric Green – in helping deliver a 2-1 win for the visitors to square the series. Tossing the complete seven-innings game for Perth, Edwin Carl conceded just five hits – two of them to Logan Wade – and withstood a last gasp challenge by the Bandits, who plated a run in the last and looked threatening before an infield ground ball ended the truncated contest. Other than de San Miguel, there was nothing much doing for the Heat offence, which faced some of the league’s better pitching in Erasmus (four innings for the loss), Matt Timms (scoreless over two) and Green.
Re-scheduled as a second seven-innings contest after a rain delay, GAME THREE of this series developed into another tight affair – even after the Bandits took former Victorian Nick Veale to the cleaners in the first innings, when they smashed four runs on a combination of singles to Riley Unroe, Justin Williams and David Sutherland, a Donald Lutz walk and a wild pitch all interspersed with a three-run scoring double by Mitch Nilsson. While Perth hit back with two in the second and another run in the fourth, the Bandits steadied with another in the bottom of the frame to set up a 5-3 win for Brisbane – with Jason Jarvis credited with the win and Ryan Searle the save. Out-hitting their opponent nine to eight, Perth had contributors in Correlle Prime (two hits and an RBI) and Michael Benjamin (two hits), while Nilsson (one and three) Sutherland (three and one) and Unroe (two and one) headed the Brisbane offence.
Looking to square the series in GAME FOUR, Perth was on the board first, plating a run in the second on a ground out by Sam Kennelly after Michael Benjamin and Allan de San Miguel had both hit safely. The Bandits replied on Bralin Jackson’s sacrifice fly ball in the third and they built a two-run break when Mitch Nilsson doubled and Maxx Tissenbaum left the yard off Heat starter Tom Bailey in the fourth. Ringing the pitching changes, Brisbane used Josh Warner and Trent Baker before calling on Tristan Crawford in the fourth. Leftfielder Derek Peterson doubled in the sixth, advanced on a Correlle Prime single and scored on a wild pitch to draw the Heat back to within a run, although Brisbane made it tough when Jackson laid down a run-scoring safety bunt off reliever Adam Millson and Donald Lutz smacked a two-run scoring double off Scott Mitchinson in the seventh. As if further insurance was required, Tyler Bennett homered and a Riley Unroe sacrifice plated another in the eighth as Brisbane motored to an 8-2 win credited to Tristan Crawford.
SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus CANBERRA CAVALRY (Blacktown Sportspark)
Sydney had this series wrapped up in three games – even before the Monday morning Schools Day clash. The Blue Sox were dominant in all facets of the first game, they prevailed in a Saturday slugfest and stifled the vaunted Canberra offence in the Sunday fixture. Sydney won the series.
With well performed starters Brian Grening (Canberra) and Alex Balog (Sydney) looking good, it was Sydney that scored first in GAME ONE when Josh Dean doubled and scooted home on a Cavalry throwing error in the second. Trent D’Antonio led off the fifth with a booming home run off Grening, who was relieved after five with his side still well in the game. Not for long, though, as Balog continued to retire the Canberra hitters and the Blue Sox erupted with five runs in the bottom of six – four of those off relievers Colton Turner and Phil Kish as James Yates and Jacob Younis both hit safely to set the table for run-scoring shots by D’Antonio, Tyler Bortnick, Rhys Hoskins and Dean. When Alex Howe singled to score off James Darcy in the seventh, it was 8-0 to the Blue Sox – the final score behind a stunning complete game shutout by Balog, who walked one while conceding just three hits. With its side playing errorless defence, the Blue Sox shared offence between eight players – the standouts being Dean (three hits and two RBIs), D’Antonio (two and three), Hoskins and Howe.
Buoyed by its Friday night success, the Blue Sox came out firing on all cylinders in GAME TWO, blasting four in the first two innings to chase Rafael Fernandes from the hill and provide run support for Sydney starter Wayne Lundgren – who breezed through the first three before the Cavalry came alive in the fourth and fifth innings. Mugging Sydney reliever Luke Wilkins in the top of six, Canberra plated three for a one run break – thanks largely to a two run single by River Stevens – although the Blue Sox responded with three of their own off Michael Click. The Cavalry clawed one back in the seventh before the Blue Sox booted away with a three-spot in the eighth – driven by a two run Josh Dean triple that set up an eventual 11-7 win in favour of the Blue Sox. While Canberra rightfield Cord Sandberg (two hits, two RBIs and a walk) and catcher Robbie Perkins (a hit and two RBIs) were productive for Canberra, Sydney gave up a string of unearned runs and owed much to Dean (three hits and four RBIs) and D’Antonio (three and three) – both of whom are having superb seasons.
With Steve Kent starting for Canberra and wily veteran Craig Anderson on the hill for Sydney, GAME THREE remained scoreless until the bottom of three, when Kent walked two and tattooed form hitter Trent D’Antonio before Tyler Bortnick scored on a sacrifice fly ball and Rhys Hoskins doubled to deliver the Blue Sox a three-zip lead. Throwing a high percentage of strikes, Anderson worked around a tricky situation in the fourth before Jason Leblebijian crushed a solo home run for Brisbane in the top of six. Relieving Anderson after he had completed six innings of work for five hits and four strikeouts, Aaron Sookee breezed through the top of seven and Canberra right-armer Phil Kish was called from the pen for Kent, who was not his dominant self but still gave up just two runs over six. Tacking on another run on three consecutive singles and a Bortnick ground ball, the Blue Sox forged ahead for another two in the eighth - and a winning break closed out at 6-1 by Brandon Zywicki. Matching Canberra with seven hits, the Blue Sox were better able to capitalise on opportunities through Hoskins and Bortnick (two ribbies each) – although the star of the contest was winning pitcher Craig Anderson.
Spinning another terrific start for Sydney in GAME FOUR, Jan Stoecklin scattered six hits over 6.2 innings – for nine strike outs – while holding the Cavalry to a solitary run in the top of the seventh, when Derrick Loveless and Cord Sandberg smacked back to back doubles. After tossing three scoreless frames for Canberra, Scott Cone came under fire in a two-run fourth, followed by a three-run blast in the fifth compliments of a HPB, a defensive error and hits to Tyler Bortnick and Michael Quesada. Maintaining the pressure on Canberra relievers James Darcy and Phil Kish, the home side smacked another three for an eight-zip lead after six. Looking down the barrel of a rare series sweep, the Cavalry plated a second run in the top of eight – off Todd van Steensel – before Calvin Drummond closed out the last for an 8-2 Sydney win. While winning pitcher Stoecklin was the star of the show, Blue Sox management would be delighted with a team effort that saw seven players contribute hits – with multiples by Josh Strong, Rhys Hoskins, Mathew Smith and Jacob Younis. With four of his side’s eight knocks, lead-off David Harris was a standout for the Cavalry.