Final standings still not settled

Kingsley Collins

17 January 2016

 

In a scenario that has characterised the Australian Baseball League since its resurrection, the final round will again prove vital in determining the post-season contenders.

 

Still at short odds to host the Championship Series, Brisbane Bandits (33-19) did enough to take three games from Melbourne Aces (19-33), while Canberra Cavalry (30-22) had comparable success against Sydney Blue Sox (24-28), which remains a rough chance of sneaking into third.

 

Although not yet safe given its last round series against Canberra, Adelaide Bite (27-25) holds third clearly after winning its series over Perth Heat (23-29), which will miss post-season action for the first time.  

 

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE ROUND THIRTEEN

 

MELBOURNE ACES versus BRISBANE BANDITS (Melbourne Ballpark)

 

While the Bandits were not at their free-scoring best for this series, the depth and quality of their pitching - especially with the addition of Travis Blackley - was sufficient, with the assistance of the long ball, to secure three narrow victories before a Melbourne offensive breakout in the finale that would have sent some fans home at least temporarily entertained if not deliriously happy. Brisbane won this series 3-1.

 

Both displaying great command, GAME ONE starters Matt Larkins (Melbourne) and Rick Teasley (Brisbane) put up noughts over the first four, although the Aces had a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the first and the Bandits racked up several hits until scoring came to fruition when Justin Williams banged a two-run homer in the top of five. David Sutherland drew a pass in the top of six and trotted home as TJ Bennett drove a ball deep over the rightfield wall for a four zip Brisbane lead. Relieving Teasley after six innings of scoreless work – for three hits – Eric Green walked Liam Bedford, who advanced on a wild pitch but was stranded. Landing two runners on base in the eighth after another lion-hearted outing, Larkins was relieved by Kohsuke Tomita while the Bandits went to Rhys Niit – who landed runners at the corners with none out in nine before Ryan Searle put out the fire 4-1 in favour of the Bandits. Carding the win for his club, Teasley enjoyed decisive run support from Williams and Bennett as the Bandits amassed ten hits to five by a Melbourne offence struggling to convert.

 

Taking the start for Melbourne in GAME TWO, Sam Gibbons was tagged for two solo bombs by Bandits shortstop Logan Wade while Justin Jarvis delivered his side another superb outing in a game that drew extra interest with the cameo of former Major Leaguer Peter Moylan – who tossed a scoreless fifth for the Aces before handing the pill to William Wu. Struggling for immediate control, Wu loaded the bases and conceded a run on a David Sutherland sacrifice fly for a three zip lead to the league leader. After a stunning start, Jarvis ran into strife in the eighth – loading the bases for Logan Moon to deliver a two-run scoring single that kept the game alive while the Aces called Sam Street from the pen and the Bandits summoned quality closer Ryan Searle. Mike Hill wore a pitch, advanced on a Josh Davies sacrifice and Liam Bedford drew a walk before Searle slammed the gate for a 3-2 Brisbane win. Carding the well-deserved win, Jarvis shared man of the match honours with Wade (three hits, including two homers), while James Beresford (two hits) and Moon (a hit and two RBIs) headed an Aces offence that posted seven hits to four without being able to capitalise on its chances.   

 

Pitchers dominated the early innings of GAME THREE, as Melbourne starter Troy Marks conceded a solitary hit through three and Travis Blackley was in command for the Bandits despite conceding a couple of early passes. Brisbane opened scoring when Donald Lutz smacked a solo shot deep over the right-centre wall as Blackley settled into his work. Terrific over six innings for five hits, one earned run and five strikeouts, Marks was relieved by Brandon Stenhouse while the Bandits called on Taylor Stanton after Blackley had conceded two hits and whiffed six over a stellar six-innings outing. Hits to Josh Davies, Mike Hill and Tanner Vavra loaded the bases but Stanton was able to stifle the challenge. A two out single, an error and an Andrew Campbell single delivered an eighth innings run for the Bandits before Shane Lindsay tossed a scoreless ninth for Melbourne and Brisbane handed the pill to Ryan Searle to post a remarkable sixteenth save of the season – despite the Aces scoring a late run in the 2-1 result for Brisbane.

 

With starters Jon Kennedy (Melbourne) and Justin Erasmus (Brisbane) well in control through the early innings of GAME FOUR, there was nothing doing in offence until Aaron Whitefield left the yard with a solo shot for the Bandits in the top of four. Apparently stung into action, the Aces responded emphatically when Logan Moon banged a two-run shot and Mike Hill followed with a two-run blast over rightfield. Swinging the defensive changes and calling Sam Street from the pen in the top of five, the Aces stretched their lead in the equaliser when Brad Harman hit a two-run single into centrefield. Josh Davies homered off Rhys Niit in the sixth - while Kohsuke Tomita and and William Wu held the Bandits scoreless – and Moon stroked a run-scoring single to spark a massive eighth inning that featured a three-run double by Tanner Vavra to drove Niit from the hill with the Aces holding a ten-run break. While the Bandits drew a couple back in the ninth, the final score was 11-3 in favour of Melbourne Aces – who amassed eighteen hits to six for their last home game of the season.

 

BOX SCORES:          GAME ONE     GAME TWO     GAME THREE     GAME FOUR

 

 

CANBERRA CAVALRY versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (Narrabundah)

 

There have been some stirring battles between these clubs over the duration of the new league, and this series was no exception as the Cavalry sought to strenghen its position in the top two and the Blue Sox battled to keep its play-off prospects alive. Three tight games were capped off by a Canberra win in the finale that owed pleety to one of the most remarkable pitching outings of the season. Canberra won this series 3-1.

 

With the Thursday rainout rescheduled to Saturday, GAME ONE took centre stage at Narrabundah on Friday night and developed into a tight contest as a first innings Cavalry run was matched by the Blue Sox in the top of the second. As two of the league’s premier hurlers in Craig Anderson (Sydney) and Brian Grening (Canberra) held sway early on, there was nothing much doing in offence until the sixth – when a run to Sydney was countered by a reply that edged Canberra ahead on a David Harris triple and a River Stevens grounder off Sox reliever Brandon Zywicki. Relieving Grening after six innings of quality work for two earned runs, Colton Turner and Aaron M Thompson tossed a scoreless innings each before Michael Click closed out a 3-2 win for the Cavalry. With ten hits to seven – including multiples by Tyler Bortnick (three hits), Trent D’Antonio (two), Rhys Hoskins (two) and Michael Quesada (two), New South Wales failed to cash in on its opportunities, while the Cavalry was able to convert in more timely manner – especially in that pivotal sixth frame.  

 

With its finals aspirations dwindling fast, Sydney Blue Sox sent Lachlan Wells to the hill in GAME TWO to counter Cavalry star Steven Kent, who was taken for a run in the third when Trent D’Antonio singled, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a Tyler Bortnick double. Giving his club a superb start, Wells was accorded further run support in the sixth, when Sydney loaded the bases and Grant Heyman lined a run-scoring single into leftfield before Kent extricated himself from a bases loaded jam by inducing a timely double play. James Kennedy relieved Kent in the top of seven while the Blue Sox called on Todd van Steensel after Wells had complete a stellar 5.2 innings for three scattered hits and five strike outs to ultimately earn the win. Despite walking a couple, van Steensel negotiated an awkward seventh to close out the contest 2-0 in favour of Sydney, which was well served in offence by Heyman (two hits and an RBI), D’Antonio (two hits) and Bortnick (one and one.

 

Off to a terrific start in GAME THREE – with two in the top of the second – the Blue Sox were rocked by a Cavalry outburst that gleaned five in the equaliser as evergreen Wayne Lundgren was put to the sword in an innings highlighted by a two-run Davis Harris single, a River Stevens triple and a Jason Sloan RBI single. Runs in the third and the fourth provided solid support for Canberra starter Louis Cohen, who departed the fray with an impressive 7.1 innings for two earned runs against his name. While the Blue shaved the lead in the eighth, a two-on, two-out opportunity was passed up as reliever Phil Kish escaped the innings with the Cavalry ahead by three. Called on to close out the game, Michael Click did so with ease, sealing the 7-4 win for player of the match Cohen. Amassing thirteen hits to eleven, Canberra had standout performers in Harris (three hits and two RBIs) and Sloan (three and one) in a team offensive effort, while the Blue Sox looked to Grant Heyman (three and one), Tyler Bortnick (three hits) and Alex Howe (two and one) to supply the offence.

 

With a fair bit potentially riding on GAME FOUR for both clubs, Canberra was out of the blocks early when Jack Murphy singled for a run in the bottom of the first. While Scott Cone (Canberra) and Jan Stoecklin (Sydney) put up noughts over the next few, the Cavalry sprang to life with two in the fifth – driven in by a Ryan Miller single – causing the Blue Sox to head for the pen to stay in the contest. However, with Cone well in control, Canberra took Aaron Sookee for two more in the seventh – and a 5-0 lead that held up as the final score. It was an extraordinary complete-game outing by Cone, who conceded a solitary run, walked three and struck out just one as the Blue Sox hitters struggled to make solid contact. For its part, Canberra produced the offence when it mattered – with nine hitters making a contribution to the team tally, led by Murphy (two hits and an RBI), Aaron Sayers (two and one), River Stevens (two hits), Jason Leblebijian (two hits) and Miller (one and two).

 

BOX SCORES:          GAME ONE     GAME TWO     GAME THREE     GAME FOUR

 

 

PERTH HEAT versus ADELAIDE BITE (Barbagallo Ballpark)

 

There was plenty on the line for both clubs in this series, with Adelaide requiring at least a split - and preferably better - to strengthen its hold on third placing, while Perth was akin to the boy with the barrow in shooting for at least six wins over its past eight games to have a chance of post-season action. While the Heat were in all of the first three losing contests, they were unable to generate the offence to secure their sixth consecutive post-season appearance. Adelaide won this series 3-1.

 

With both sides desperate for a series win, Adelaide gained a decisive early break in GAME ONE with three in the top of the second generated from a walk, a Travis Demeritte single, a grounder, a sacrifice fly and a Wilson Lee single, although Perth clawed one back on a Sam Kennelly sacrifice. While Perth starter Daniel Schmidt went scoreless over the next three, his side chipped away with another in the third – and then in the fourth – to square the ledger. While eventual winning pitcher Steven Chambers remained solid for the Bite, the visitors launched a two-out assault on Warwick Saupold that yielded another two as Davis Page and Kyle Petty stroked RBI singles in the seventh for a 5-3 break that held up as Hei Chun Lee and Kody Kerski closed out the game. Matching the Bite with eight hits, Perth was well-served by Anthony Caronia (three hits), Allan de San Miguel and Matt Dixon, while Adelaide owed plenty to Petty (three hits and an RBI), Wilson Lee (two and one) and Demeritte (one and one).

 

Adelaide opened scoring in GAME TWO with a run in the first, although the home side replied in the bottom of the second when Luke Hughes left the yard for a solo blast off Josh Tols. Despite racking up hits,  the Bite were unable to take a further piece out of Perth starter Edwin Carl, who whiffed six of the first twelve outs made by his side. With a run apiece in the sixth, the game remain deadlocked until the Bite launched an attack on Heat reliever Jay Johnson in the eighth – when walks to Tom Brice and Mark Wik and an Angus Roeger single loaded the bases for Travis Demeritte to swat a two-run single before Wilson Lee hit safely for a third. With Travis Gallant and Loek van Mil holding the Perth offence scoreless, Adelaide ran out a 5-2 winner and effectively put paid to Heat chances of post-season action while strengthening its own hold on third. Amassing eleven hits to five, the Bite delivered telling offence through Demeritte (two hits and three RBIs), Roeger (two hits), John Schultz (two hits) and Lee.

 

Perth was first on the board in GAME THREE when Derek Peterson walked in the bottom of the first and scored on an Allan de San Miguel double off Adelaide starter Nick Talbot. Scoreless through three as Nick Veale held sway for the Heat, Adelaide came alive in the fourth when Angus Roeger and Mark Wik both stroked RBI singles after Davis Page and Stefan Welch had hit safely. With Hei Chun Lee (two innings) and Kody Kerski terrific in relief for Talbot, the Heat was unable to score again despite opportunities in the sixth and again in the ninth. Whiffing seven over his seven innings of work, Veale did all that could reasonably be expected of him before Cameron Lamb tossed two scoreless frames to keep the score at 2-1 in favour of Adelaide – a result that takes Perth out of playoff contention. In a game where hitting was at a premium, Page, Roeger, Wik and Welch made the difference, although Allan de San Miguel (two hits and an RBI) was a livewire again for Perth – as he has been all season.

 

Taking the GAME FOUR start for Adelaide, Matt Williams was in control in the first two innings before the Heat launched a four-run assault in the third on a two-run Allan de San Miguel double and a two-run Joseph Dunigan bomb, while Tom Bailey racked up the strike outs for Perth – six, in fact, before being relieved after an outstanding five-innings scoreless stint for one hit. Adelaide made its move against reliever Warwick Saupold in the top of six – loading the bases on successive singles – although the damage could have been far greater than one run scored on a ground ball.

A fielding error delivered a second run to Adelaide in the eighth, drawing Scott Mitchinson from the pen to replace Saupold with runners at first and second and none out. With the sidewinder doing the job for his club, Perth Heat emerged a 4-2 winner of a contest that saw the home side out-hit Adelaide ten to six due largely to the offensive efforts of de San Miguel, Dunigan and Sam Kennelly (two hits). Bailey carded the win and Mitchinson the save, although their efforts were to no avail in the context of the post-season – for Perth Heat, anyhow.

 

BOX SCORES:          GAME ONE     GAME TWO     GAME THREE     GAME FOUR

 

 

Tom Bailey was a star for Perth in Game Four