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Bandits sweep Blue Sox:  Bite climbs to third

Kingsley Collins

29 December 2015


Brisbane (24-16) has assumed top billing on the Australian Baseball League ladder with a four-game sweep of Sydney Blue Sox (19-20), which slips to fourth behind Adelaide (20-19) after the Bite split its series with Canberra (23-17) to nudge the Cavalry back to second.


In the west, Melbourne Aces (15-25) won its Saturday doubleheader before dropping the ensuing two games to Perth Heat (18-22), which will need at least ten wins from its remaining sixteen to earn a shot at defending its Claxton Shield title.


During a characteristically hectic time, there will be little respite for any club as hostilities resume on New Years Eve.  






Although the Blue Sox was right in it for the opening game and was valiant in the last two of this all-important series, Brisbane asserted its authority over a quality opponent to build upon an outstanding home record this season, again highlighting the depth of the Bandits bullpen and club capacity to out-muscle any club in offence. Brisbane won this series 4-0.


Having a great time of it recently, Trent D’Antonio helped give Sydney the perfect start in GAME ONE when his lead-off double was backed up by first innings singles to Tyler Bortnick and Michael Quesada that forced two across the plate off Brisbane starter Jason Jarvis. The reply was prompt as Donald Lutz and Logan Wade banged doubles off Craig Anderson and TJ Bennett blasted a three-run homer to hand the Bandits a two-run break. Although Sydney leftfielder Grant Heyman swatted a solo bomb in the third, Jarvis settled and was accorded run protection when Mitch Nilsson drove a two-run shot over the centrefield wall. Again delivering in the clutch, D’Antonio tugged a two out, two-run double in the sixth. Relieving Anderson, Vaughan Harris conceded an opposite field homer to Bennett – his second blast – while the Bandits called on Eric Green, Matt Timms and Ryan Searle to close out the 7-5 contest with a scoreless innings apiece. Jarvis collected the win and Searle his ninth save, while Bennett (two home runs for four RBIs) was magnificent in offence for the Bandits.


GAME TWO Starters Wayne Lundgren (Sydney) and Justin Erasmus (Brisbane) breezed through the first innings at a damp Holloway Field before Jacob Younis plated a Blue Sox run in the second. A TJ Bennett single, a defensive error and a safety bunt loaded the bases for Brisbane with none out in the third, setting the table for a run scoring Bralin Jackson single, another on a throwing error and a Donald Lutz two-run double into centrefield for a three run lead. Replacing Erasmus after five quality innings for one earned run, Tristan Crawford threw a scoreless sixth for Brisbane and Matthew Rae took the pill from Lundgren. Again demonstrating its depth, the Bandits called on Sam Holland, who loaded the bases - with two out - and left-armer Eric Green walked a run across before whiffing the dangerous Grant Heyman. Well in control, Brisbane loaded the bases in the bottom of seven, when Rae walked a run across the plate, pinch hitter Ryan Battaglia smacked a two run double off the centrefield wall and Logan Wade singled for another to draw Grant Piccoli from the Blue Sox pen as the Bandits exploded to a lead that stretched to 10-2 as Rhys Niit closed out the game.


Looking to reverse its series fortunes in GAME THREE, the Blue Sox started young professional Lachlan Wells while Brisbane went to Rick Teasley – who looked very sharp early days. After Sydney loaded the bases for no result in the third and Wells picked off Bralin Jackson in the equaliser, the Bandits played tight defence to stifle a threat in the top of four. Loading the bases on consecutive hits in the top of five, the Blue Sox again came up empty against Teasley before the Bandits opened scoring on a grounder after TJ Bennett doubled and advanced on a ground ball. Continuing to create scoring opportunities, Sydney relieved the impressive Wells with Keiji Uezono, who conceded a single to Logan Wade before a run-scoring triple by David Sutherland and an Aaron Whitefield RBI-single for a three zip Bandits lead. Relieving Teasley (winning pitcher) after six, Eric Green threw a scoreless seventh and Matt Timms was efficient in the set-up role before Ryan Searle closed out the game 3-0 for the Bandits – his tenth save - after an even contest that could have been far closer had Sydney converted its opportunities.


Brisbane starter Trent Baker came in for some early treatment in GAME FOUR, being chased from the hill after a five-run second innings highlighted by a three-run homer – with two out - to Trent D’Antonio. While eventual winning pitcher Taylor Stanton was steady in relief for the Bandits, Blue Sox big man Jan Stoecklin had an ugly third in walking a run across the plate - with two out - and conceding a three-run double to Logan Wade for a four-run inning. After his side replied with a run in the top of four, Stoecklin was relieved in the equaliser by Aaron Sookee, who gave up three earned runs on a Ryan Battaglia homer and a two-run Bralin Jackson double for a two-run Bandits lead that was stretched further when Battaglia drove in  Max Tissebaum in the fifth. Relieving Stanton, Tristan Crawford walked Josh Strong and paid dearly when Josh Dean cleared the rightfield wall to shave the lead to one and draw Rhys Niit from the pen. When Mitch Nilsson launched a two-run blast off Todd van Steensel it was back to a three-run break for the Bandits, although the Blue Sox clawed one back before Ryan Searle closed out an 11-9 slugfest in favour of Brisbane.







Receiving terrific support from its parochial and engaged supporters, Adelaide again demonstrated that it is up to the challenge against any contender, on this occasion scoring an identical number of runs as Canberra over an enthralling four-game set that ebbed and flowed for one and two run winning margins throughout. This series was split 2-2.


After Canberra threatened early in GAME ONE, Adelaide opened scoring when Davis Page and Kyle Petty smacked back-to-back doubles off Brian Grening, although the response was decisive against Bite starter Steven Chambers, who was taken for three second innings runs highlighted by a two-run double to Jason Leblebijian. Adelaide drew level with a two-run Mark Wik double - after Page had hit safely and Tom Brice walked - and John Schultz left the yard to give the Bite a short lived one-run break after four before Leblebijian homered to again draw Canberra level. Relieving Grening after five, Colton Turner breezed through the sixth but ran into trouble when old Tom Brice and Angus Roeger doubled to edge ahead in the bottom of seven. Doing a grand relief job for Adelaide, Takuro Ito spun a scoreless couple before issuing an eighth innings pass to Derrick Loveless, who tied it up when Cord Sandberg doubled off Kody Kerski – compounded further when a bases loaded situation with two out in the ninth was exploited with some shoddy outfield work for two runs that delivered a 7-5 victory to the Cavalry. This game produced an extraordinary statistical imbalance that saw the sides amass a combined twenty hits counterbalanced with twenty-eight strikeouts.


Adelaide starter Wilson Lee ran into early trouble in GAME TWO, when Jason Leblebijian cracked a two-run homer in the first for a lead that was well-protected by Cavalry ace Steven Kent, whose side made it three-zip in the fourth when Cord Sandberg walked, Ryan Miller doubled and Aaron Sayers delivered a sacrifice fly. Angus Roeger doubled and scored for Adelaide on a Travis Demeritte single in the fourth before Jason Sloan and Boss Moanaroa combined with base hits to reply for the Cavalry. Davis Page went long for the Bite and Kent was replaced by Phil Kish, who conceded an inherited third run on a Demeritte single. While Josh Tols, Chris Dula and Hei Chun Lee held the Canberra offence scoreless, Aaron M Thompson was equally effective for the Cavalry before Michael Click conceded the equalising run when Connar O’Gorman doubled to score Demeritte in the bottom of nine. The Cavalry had their chances in the top of the tenth before their closer James Kennedy loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame and tattooed teenager Mason Pickard to seal the deal 5-4 in favour of the Adelaide Bite.


Settling after a shaky first innings, Dallas Gallant settled for Adelaide in GAME THREE, while Cavalry starter Scott Cone conceded a solo home run to Angus Roeger in the second – although the response was prompt, as Jack Murphy cleared leftfield for a two-run homer in the third, followed by a solo shot to River Stevens that gave Canberra a two-run break after four. Again displaying a capacity to respond, the Bite blasted four in the bottom of the fourth as Travis Demeritte, Connar O’Gorman (double), John Schultz and Davis Page hit safely to exploit three walks issued by Cone for the innings – although the Cavalry tied it up again as Derrick Loveless walked, Aaron Sayers doubled and the Bite defence faltered in the top of six. Replacing Cone after four, Aaron J Thompson conceded the go-ahead run when Page doubled in the bottom of seven and was driven in by Tom Brice – although the lead was short-lived as Cavalry pinch hitter Bryan Pounds smacked a two-run bomb in the top of eight that translated into a 7-6 Canberra win that was protected by Canberra closes Michael Click.


Looking to square the series at home, Adelaide was under early pressure in GAME FOUR when Boss Moanaroa hit safely in the second, advanced on a Bryan Pounds double and scored on a Cord Sandberg sacrifice fly. Aaron Sayers homered off Bite starter Matt Williams in the third before Rafael Fernandes walked a run across the plate and Connar O’Gorman left the yard for Adelaide to tie it up after four. A solo Davis Page homer and a run-scoring Travis Demeritte double gave the Bite a two-run break after five before the clubs traded blows with one apiece in the seventh – courtesy of solo shots by Pounds and by Kyle Petty for the home team. Going to Kody Kerski to close out the game, Adelaide had a few anxious moments when the Cavalry landed two runners on base before a final infield out to seal a hard-fought contest 5-3. Carding the win for Adelaide, Williams was well-supported by a belligerent offence led by Petty (home run and two doubles), while the Cavalry had grand contributors in Sayers and Pounds (both with two hits, including a home run).







In the cellar for the majority of the season thus far, Melbourne posted a club milestone by winning its first ever doubleheader away from home, a modest achievement that was rather quickly forgotten as Perth hit back in a desperate effort to keep its season alive. While a post-season appearance for both is still statistically possible, the Heat would need to go 10-6 and the Aces 13-3 over the next month for either to have any chance. This series was split 2-2.


The Aces threatened in the early innings of GAME ONE but the Heat infield turned two crucial double plays in support of starter Edwin Carl before his side opened scoring when DH Michael Benjamin smacked a lead-off homer off Aces left-armer Jon Kennedy in the bottom of the third and Junior Arrojo crossed the plate after a Derek Peterson hit and a one-out ground ball. The home club stretched its lead in the fourth when Allan de San Miguel singled and scored on a Luke Hughes double before Benjamin went yard again – this time for a two-run shot and a five zip lead that drew Luke Abels from the pen. While Carl had been in command since the first innings, it unravelled for the Heat in the top of seven, when the Aces plated five on a combination of defensive errors, a string of hits and some errant pitching by reliever Jay Johnson. With Abels and Jeremy Young tossing scoreless innings, the Aces went to William Wu (winning pitcher) – who watched his side squander a go-ahead opportunity before Melbourne made the home side pay for more defensive slip-ups by scoring in the top of nine for a 6-5 lead that was protected by closer Shane Lindsay. While Benjamin was a standout, this was a ragged performance by the Heat and a much-deserved win for a dogged Aces outfit that was well-served by its bullpen and a standout offensive game by Tanner Vavra (four hits and an RBI).


Providing starter Matt Larkins with some early support in GAME TWO, the Aces put up a three-spot in the second as Jarryd Rogers cleared the bases with a double after Trey Vavra, Darryl George and Mike Hill had hit consecutive singles. Starting for Perth, Daniel Schmidt came in for further punishment in the third, when the Aces piled on another four through a walk, a hit, an intentional walk, a passed ball and a two-out, three-run double to Jack Barrie. An eighth run in the next spelled the end for Schmidt, who was relieved by Josh Silvi with the seven-innings contest well in hand for the visitors. Tossing an outstanding scoreless six innings for the Aces – for a solitary hit – Larkins carded a well-deserved win when Kohsuke Tomita and Hayden Godbold closed out the last for a thumping 8-1 win. Although Larkins was the start of the show, defensive errors were again costly for the Heat, who were put to the sword by an imperious Melbourne offence led by Trey Vavra (three hits), Hill (three hits), Rogers (one, with three RBIs) and Barrie (one and three). 


Buoyed by the prospect of its first away series win, Melbourne Aces went to Virgil Vasquez to start GAME THREE, which loomed as a tight battle until Anthony Caronia swatted a two-run homer in the bottom of three - while Nick Veale held sway for the Heat in what developed into a pitchers’ duel that minimised the scoring opportunities of both sides. Throwing an outstanding 8.2 scoreless innings in the 3-0 result, winning pitcher Veale scattered five hits before Scott Mitchinson took the ball to retire the final out in a pressure-cooker situation with bases loaded. Despite throwing seven walks, Vasquez went the complete game for the Aces and pitched himself out of jams in the fourth, sixth and eighth. Heading to the series finale, Melbourne has the chance of registering its first ever away series win, while Perth will be desperate to keep its playoff hopes alive.


It was a bright offensive opening for both clubs in GAME FOUR, with the Heat plating two in the first off Aces starter Luke Abels and the visitors replying with a string of hits to Logan Moon, Mike Hill, Liam Bedford and Jack Barrie erasing the deficit against Tom Bailey. A Jake Turnbull walk and an Anthony Caronia double in the bottom of the second spelled the end for Abels, who was relieved by William Wu, with a sacrifice fly handing the lead back to Perth. Tanner Vavra doubled – for his second hit of the game – but the Aces came up empty before Derek Peterson doubled and Mike Benjamin swatted a massive shot over leftfield for a three-run Perth lead. Keith Curcio singled and Tanner Vavra wore a pitch before the Heat turned a telling double play in the fifth. Relieving Wu, Matt Wilson tossed a scoreless fifth before Moon greeted Heat reliever Cameron Lamb with a solo homer to draw the Aces within two – only to have Matt Dixon score for the Heat on a sacrifice fly. Although Troy Marks tossed a couple of scoreless innings for Melbourne, Perth had enough in the bank to run out a 6-3 winner, with Bailey earning the win and Warwick Saupold the save.



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