Heat on fire: Tuatara, Geelong-Korea write history           

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Kingsley Collins

25 November 2018

 

While weather conditions – at one time or another - were less than favourable at venues across the league, ABL Round Two unsurprisingly produced its share of thrills, tight games, extra innings, blowouts, individual heroics and just a slice of history.

 

Taking two of its three games played against Brisbane Bandits (4-3), Auckland Tuatara (2-5) won its first ABL game – and its first on home soil – while Geelong-Korea (1-7) emulated that achievement of a first win at its home ground, although the news was far from brilliant for the home club after achieving the milestone.

 

Perth Heat (7-1) leads both league divisions by virtue of its series success at Geelong Baseball Centre, while Canberra Cavalry (3-5) brought its early season back to a reasonably even keel with a series win over Sydney Blue Sox (5-3) and Melbourne Aces (6-2) forced a split with Adelaide Bite (3-5) at West Beach.

 

Although weather conditions caused delays and even rescheduling in Auckland, Geelong and Adelaide, fifteen of the sixteen Round Two games were played out, with just Game Four of the Tuatara versus Bandits series to be scheduled for a later date if required.

 

While weather may have impacted upon modest attendance figures at some games – notably at Waurn Ponds and West Beach – Blacktown recorded another Saturday night crowd of well over 1100, a great result for the Blue Sox organisation.

 

Streaming and online coverage of games appeared to have again been a mixed bag, although there seemed to be some terrific work done among some that was less than inspiring – which is to be expected as the league transitions properly to private ownership. Although there was the usual high quality of photographic material and match reporting provided through the Australian Baseball League website, it is disappointing to note that a couple of clubs - for whatever reason - have not yet been able to develop their own self-sufficiency and thereby their own unique club style, presence and identity in that regard. Sound bites and a graphic or two are not going to cut it.

 

As always, there was a plethora of highlights, lowlights and outstanding individual efforts that will be reported on in depth during the coming week. Pitching duels, pitching dominance, hitting, quality defence, controversy, ejections – all part of our great game.

 

Scoring thirty-eight runs in two games against Geelong-Korea on Saturday, Perth Heat has likely threatened league records going back as far as the original Australian Baseball League. Perth smacked ten home runs across those two games – albeit with a breeze howling out to leftfield – is a statistic of which the host club will not wish to be reminded.

 

Speaking of bombs, the effort of Adelaide Bite slugger Michael Gettys will not be lost on his own club, or for that matter on Melbourne Aces, who were thwarted largely in their bid to win their away series at West Beach by the San Antonio Missions outfielder, who belted three home runs for five RBIs in the Sunday afternoon finale.

 

Australian Baseball Alumni contributor and media maestro @AJ Mithen has a ripper interview with a league personality that will be posted here and on A Sporting Discussion early this week. And AJ will be back with us later in the week with his take on Round Three, as Australian Baseball League gathers serious momentum.

 

GEELONG-KOREA versus PERTH HEAT

 

Perhaps in deference to the occasion, Geelong-Korea – one of two new clubs admitted to Australian Baseball League this season – made light of breezy, cool and ultimately soggy conditions at Waurn Ponds in GAME ONE on Friday evening, smashing a shell-shocked Perth Heat 7-1 to create history in its first official game. Coming off four straight losses to Sydney in Round One, Geelong-Korea was a markedly different proposition playing at its home ground for the first time, and the contrast from Blacktown last week – especially in offence – could hardly have been more pronounced. Attendance:  450   ALUMNI MATCH REPORT            BOX SCORES

 

It was a rocky start for Geelong-Korea starter Jae-Gon Lee in GAME TWO, when Heat leadoff Tim Kennelly singled and scored on a Tristan Gray double off the leftfield wall, Carl Chester walked and Chris Betts was tattooed to load the bases in bleak conditions. When Alex Hall tugged a bases-clearing double into rightfield and Jake Bowey grounded out for another, it was five zip for the visitors, although conditions were equally difficult for Heat starter Nick Veale – who walked two before the rain came down. On resumption the following afternoon, Ryan Flores assumed pitching duties for the Heat, who added a sixth run in the top of the second – on a Pete Kozma triple and a Gray sacrifice fly. Jae-Gon Lee absorbed further punishment in the third, when Perth plated four – compliments of timely hitting by Chris Betts, Alex Hall, Chris Clare (RBI), Jake Bowey (two-RBI double) and Tim Kennelly (sac fly). Solo home runs by Gray, Chester and Hall stretched the score to thirteen zip after four and the carnage continued into the next, when Tim Kennelly (solo homer), Kozma (double), a HPB and a bases-clearing Chester triple gleaned another four off the hapless Lee – who was finally relieved by Ki-Hoon Ryu with the game well gone. A Clare safe hit, a two-run bomb by pinch-hitter Adam Courcha, a further Clare RBI-single in the seventh and a sacrifice flyball in the ninth combined with a two-run Bowey round-tripper to round out a 23-2 Heat massacre of an opponent that plated late runs as it thankfully played out a disappointing mismatch. Attendance:  354       BOX SCORES

 

With the series deadlocked at a win apiece coming into GAME THREE – a seven innings contest – Perth Heat showed that it was again in no mood for niceties, taking a clearly rattled Geelong-Korea outfit for six in the second innings on half a dozen hits, a walk and a wild pitch. With Conor Lourey in control on the hill, the Heat pressed on in the third, when a HPB and two walks set the table for Tim Kennelly – who blasted a grand slam over the leftfield wall. While Hwi Kwon tossed a scoreless fourth for Geelong-Korea, his side was facing a serious challenge against a strong opponent that had not been deterred by unfortunate earlier histrionics. Having a great series with the bat, Tim Kennelly doubled in the top of five and scored on a Tristan Gray single before Carl Chester launched a two-run missile to stretch the Heat lead to thirteen. When Adam Courcha launched a solo blast off Sang-Hak Lee, a second game today was approaching embarrassing proportions as Ji-Woong Park was called from the pen to confront a rampant Heat offence. Lourey (5.2 innings for one hit and nine punchouts) was relieved by Lochlan Southee and the Heat forged further ahead when Pete Kozma cleared the left-centre wall. Doubles by Tae-Joon Lim and Kwang-Min Kwon followed by a Seung-Won Shin grounder plated a couple for Geelong-Korea in the bottom of seven before Southee wrapped up the contest 15-2 in favour of Perth Heat. Amassing fourteen hits to three – including another four home runs to add to six in the earlier game – the Heat was just far too powerful for a Geelong-Korea side that will need to regroup rather quickly for its Sunday finale. Attendance:  354              BOX SCORES

 

Far more pleasant conditions greeted players and spectators for GAME FOUR, and Geelong-Korea had a pleasing spring in its step - after a tough Saturday - as starter Na-On Gil gave his side a quality outing over four while his own offence opened scoring with a third-innings run off Perth reliever Cristopher Sanchez, who conceded a double to Hak-Jun Noh and an RBI-single to Tae-Joon Lim. It was only in the top of five that the wheels started to fall off for Geelong-Korea, as Gil walked three on the trot before conceding a run on a wild pitch, two more on a Tristan Gray double followed by a booming two-run blast by Carl Chester that drew Ki-Hoon Ryu from the pen. A HPB and an Alex Hall two-run bomb made it seven for the inning as what had hitherto been a tight contest was turned on its head. Although Geelong-Korea chipped away with a run in the sixth, and again in the eighth, Perth had unassailable lead that was shaved somewhat when Heat closer Cameron Lamb was taken for a couple in the bottom of nine, when Yong-Wook Lee (double) and Hak-Jun Noh (RBI-single) combined with a run-scoring grounder to provide gutsy late resistance in the 9-5 scoreline. Out-hitting Perth twelve to eight, Geelong-Korea had grand contributors in Lee, Noh and Dae-Gun Kook (each with two hits), while Gray, Chester, Hall took full toll of a Geelong-Korea pitching staff that gifted a dozen walks. Attendance:  345     BOX SCORES

 

Scroll down for a selection of Alumni-taken images from Game Four.

 

Perth won this series 3-1.

 

AUCKLAND TUATARA versus BRISBANE BANDITS

 

Adding another dimension to an already historic Round Two of Australian Baseball League, Auckland Tuatara – in its first game on home soil - led throughout against three-time reigning champion Brisbane Bandits to post a 5-4 GAME ONE result decided in the bottom of the ninth. Attendance:  600                 ALUMNI MATCH REPORT             BOX SCORES

 

With persistent rain washing away prospect of play on Saturday, a double-header was scheduled for Sunday – albeit still with deals before GAME TWO of the series could be completed as a seven-innings contest. While two of the league’s best starters in Kyle Glogoski (Tuatara) and Travis Blackley (Bandits) were pitted against each other, it was the home club that made the early running – when Eric Jenkins walked, stole second and scored on an infield play. Hitting safely in the second, Guiyuan Xu stole second with two out and scored on a Kuo-Chun Wei single before Tuatara applied the clamps with a two-spot in the third – compliments of a Daniel Lamb-Hunt solo homer, a Max Brown double and a Zach Clark RBI-single that spelled the end for Blackley. Although the Bandits pen was effective in keeping Auckland scoreless after the third, it was the Glogoski show for a second weekend on the trot as the rightie spun a flawless five innings for one hit and six punchouts before Ryota Okumoto slammed the gate 4-0 with two scoreless innings at the end. David Sutherland (double) posted the sole Brisbane hit, while Lamb-Hunt, Clark, Brown and Xu delivered the offence for the Tuatara, who lead this series two zip. Attendance:  297    BOX SCORES

 

Seeking to assert its authority against a tough Auckland club at home, Brisbane was again set on its heels early in GAME THREE, when Luke Hansen tripled in the bottom of the third and scored on a Daniel Lamb-Hunt single to open scoring for the Tuatara, whose Max Brown homered to lead off the fourth. Daniel Nilsson (triple) and Mitch Ellis (RBI-single) scored off Atsuki Taneichi in the top of five before TJ Bennett doubled and crossed the plate on a grounder to level scores after six. Giving Brisbane a quality start over seven (four hits, six strikeouts and two runs), Tim Atherton was relieved as the deep Bandits bullpen came into play and the contest stretched into the tenth inning, when Tomihito Sakai was called into the fray with the international tie-breaker rule brought into effect. Starting at first and second, Brisbane runners advanced on a passed ball, pinch hitter Jay Meyers singled to score and Andrew Campbell followed suit with an RBI-knock for a 4-2 lead that was protected as the final score by Sam Holland, Ken Frosch and Matt Timms – who each retired a batter in a pressure situation. Attendance:  297      BOX SCORES

 

With Auckland Tuatara leading this series two games to one, GAME FOUR between these clubs – if required – will be added to the return series in Brisbane.

 

Auckland leads this series 2-1.

 

ADELAIDE BITE versus MELBOURNE ACES

 

With both clubs possessed of high quality pitching options, it was no surprise that GAME ONE developed into an intense arm wrestle as Marcus Solbach (Adelaide) and Luke Westphal (Melbourne) traded blows over early innings that saw the Bite create a serious scoring opportunity in the bottom of four that was thwarted by a timely strikeout. The deadlock was broken in the top of six, when Aces centrefielder Rudy Martin reached on a fielding error, stole second and scored on a DJ Burt single with two out before Luke Hughes drove in a second run on his single and a subsequent throwing error. While Solbach had been terrific (5.2 innings for three hits and two earned runs), Westphal carded the win with 6.1 innings for four hits, six punchouts and no runs before Tyler Fallwell and Hiromasa Saito closed out the game 2-0 for an undefeated Melbourne, which has thus far conceded a paltry six runs in five games played. Hughes and Darryl George posted a pair of hits apiece for the Aces, who were matched with five by the Bite in a pitcher-dominated contest decided by two unearned runs. Attendance:  353             BOX SCORES
 

Assisted by some shaky Aces defence, Adelaide started aggressively in GAME TWO, plating three in the bottom of first off Melbourne starter Luke Abels – including a two-out RBI double by Nicholas Shumpert – while Kurt Heyer held sway for the Bite. Relieving Abels, originally-slated starter Jack Enciondo paid for two passes when Aaron Whitefield fisted a base hit into centre, Mikey Reynolds swatted an RBI-single, Stefan Welch grounded out to score and Michael Gettys made it another three-spot with a sacrifice flyball. Continuing to dominate – and with his offspeed coming to the fore – Heyer pitched out of a jam in the top of five before Luke Hughes smacked a solo homer over left-centre and Jarryd Dale scored a second run on an infield play. Steady over four innings for three hits and three earned runs, Enciondo handed the ball to Ryan Chico Phillips, who conceded a two-out, two-RBI double to Reynolds to make the assignment super tough for the Aces. Although Blake Cunningham tossed a couple of solid late innings for the Aces, Adelaide was well in control and posted an 8-2 win. Heyer (six innings for nine hits, five punchouts and one earned run) carded the first home win for an Adelaide side that was out-hit ten to eight but took full advantage of its scoring opportunities – with Reynolds and Gettys posting multiple RBIs each.  Attendance:  623   BOX SCORES

 

A rain-interrupted start to GAME THREE saw the Aces open proceedings with two in the top of the first by way of a DJ Burt RBI-triple and a Luke Hughes sacrifice flyball off Bite starter Greg Mosel. Back after a delay – and with Jorge Perez replacing Mosel for Adelaide – the Aces manufactured a third run in the top of the second before the Bite opened their account in the bottom of three when Aaron Whitefield singled and Mikey Reynolds drove an RBI-double into leftfield. Stefan Welch drew a walk and Michael Gettys hit safely to load the bases before Mitch Edwards singled into rightfield to score Reynolds for a one-run ballgame. Outstanding over 3.1 innings, Perez was relieved by funky sidearmer Tohrue Kikue while Scott Kuzminsky took the ball for Melbourne as both clubs put up zeroes from the fourth through the eighth. Holding a one-one break into the last, the Melbourne offence ignited against Ryo Takeuchi, with Garrison Schwartz and Jake Romanski (RBI) both stroking doubles before Mike Walker hit safely and Jarryd Dale smacked a sacrifice fly off Ryan Chaffee allowing Tyler Fallwell to close out the game 5-2 in favour of the Aces. Kuzminsky earned the win in another tight contest, with the Aces marginally out-hitting the Bite seven to six. Attendance:  435        BOX SCORES

 

Darryl George (double) and DJ Burt (RBI single) combined for a Melbourne run in the top of the first of GAME FOUR, stretching their lead in the second – when Garrison Schwartz and Mike Walker both belted solo homers off Michael Gahan. While Hayato Takagi retired Adelaide in order in the bottom of the first, he was taken for a solo shot by Michael Gettys in the second and a second run on a sacrifice fly ball in the third. Melbourne added to its tally with runs in the fourth and fifth, though the Bite stayed well in touch when Mikey Reynolds left the yard and Gettys belted his second bomb in the bottom of five – to spell the end for Takagi. Still facing a one-run deficit, Adelaide launched an assault on Aces reliever Harrison Cooney in the bottom of seven – when Reynolds singled, Stefan Welch walked and Gettys smacked his third-round tripper of the game, this time a three-run shot to hand the Bite a 7-5 lead that was protected by Ryan Chaffee in closing out an entertaining contest. Although Chaffee carded the win, Gettys (three home runs for five RBIs) and Reynolds (three hits, including the home run) enjoyed an extraordinary day out, while Walker and Schwartz did the long-ball damage for Melbourne Aces. Attendance:  167     BOX SCORES

 

This series was split 2-2.

 

SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus CANBERRA CAVALRY

 

Coming off a winless first round in Melbourne, the Cavalry began brightly in GAME ONE, with first sacker Zach Wilson stroking an RBI-single in the top of the first off Sydney starter Alex Maestri before Cavalry starter Steve Kent exercised his early authority by retiring the Blue Sox in order. A lead-off single and a HPB created an opportunity for Sydney in the bottom of three, and Dwayne Kemp delivered with a sacrifice flyball to tie the scores at one apiece. Maestri extricated himself from a bases-loaded jam in the top of four, although Canberra again challenged in the top of five – when Craig Massey hit a lead-off single, stole second and scored on a David Kandilas hit that brought Shogo Nakashima from the pen to relieve Maestri. The well-travelled Japanese reliever was welcomed unceremoniously as Robbie Perkins slapped an RBI-single, Cam Warner hit safely and Justin Lopez belted a bases-clearing triple for a clear Cavalry lead that was stretched in the top of seven when Warner cracked an RBI-single off Craig Anderson. While Hao Wei Shen drove in a Blue Sox run in the bottom of eight, Canberra was never really in doubt after the fifth innings outburst as Yuki Kuniyoshi and JR Bunda combined to close out the game 7-4. Kent took the win for a Cavalry outfit that amassed fourteen hits to seven – with Wilson (three hits and an RBI), Warner (three and one), Lopez (one and three), Boss Moanaroa (two hits, two walks) and Massey (two hits) making strong contributions. Attendance:  661       BOX SCORES

 

Canberra began GAME TWO in another positive vein, plating early runs on a Zach Wilson double and a Craig Massey RBI-single in the second as the Cavalry bunched half a dozen hits already off Blue Sox starter Nick Fanti. Doubling again to lead off the third, Wilson advanced on a Robbie Perkins single and scored on a Cam Warner sac flyball to provide a three-run buffer for Canberra hurler Frank Gailey – who conceded singles to Gift Ngoepe and Trent D’Antonio in the bottom of the frame but was able to escape the innings with no damage done. Robbie and Kyle Perkins both singled in the top of five and Justin Lopez hit safely – with two out - to plate a fourth Cavalry run that drew Dean Aldridge from the Sydney bullpen with his side under serious pressure in the seven-innings contest. Whacking a solo homer in the top of seven, Robbie Perkins effectively placed the game beyond reach of Sydney, whose offence had no counter to left-armer Gailey – who carded the 5-0 win with a stellar complete-game outing for five hits, six strikeouts, one walk and no runs. Of all nine in its offensive lineup posting hits, Canberra had standouts in Robbie Perkins (three hits, including the homer), Wilson (two hits and an RBI) and Kelvin Melean (two hits), while five Sydney players posted a hit apiece in an errorless defence game. Attendance:  1181                   BOX SCORES

 

Looking for its first win in this series, Sydney Blue Sox were rocked early in GAME THREE, when Zach Wilson singled, Boss Moanaroa hit safely to score the Designated Hitter, Kyle Perkins drew a walk and Moanaroa scooted home on a throwing error for a two-run Canberra second that could potentially have been far worse for the home club. While Blue Sox starter Luke Wilkins was otherwise solid for his club, Shota Imanaga was lights out for the Cavalry in whiffing ten over six innings of scoreless work before handing the ball to reliever Zech Lemond with the game still on a knife edge. After Tyler Herr had tossed a scoreless innings in relief for Sydney, submariner Garrett Granitz pitched out of a jam in the top of eight and retired the Cavalry in order in the ninth before Canberra closer Kyle Kinman delivered the last rites – compliments of a timely double play - in a 2-0 win for the visiting ball club. In a contest dominated by quality pitching, Imanaga carded the win for a Canberra squad that made the most of its six hits to four, although just one of its runs was earned in a thrilling arm-wrestle. Attendance:  1181              BOX SCORES

 

Facing the ignominy of being swept at home, Sydney was under the pump early in GAME FOUR, when Justin Lopez doubled for the Cavalry and Zach Wilson knocked him in with a single into leftfield. However, while Blue Sox starter Josh Guyer recovered beautifully from the first-innings hiccup, his own offence came to the party with three in the second and a match-breaking five-spot in the third – including timely offence by Gift Ngoepe (three hits and an RBI from his first three trips), Dwayne Kemp, Jacob Younis and Zac Shepherd, who all found Canberra starter Josh Warner to their liking. While reliever Steve Chambers cooled the Blue Sox hitters through the middle innings, Shogo Nakashima replaced Guyer after a superb six innings (four hits, six punchouts and one run) as both clubs struggled to make further scoring inroads – at least until the bottom of eight, when hits to Rixon Taylor-Wingrove, Jack Murphy, Shepherd, Michael Campbell and Max Brennen help glean three more for the Sox off JR Bunda before Todd Van Steensel closed out a one-sided contest 11-1 in favour of Sydney. Guyer earned the win for Sydney, whose offence amassed seventeen knocks to five – with the standouts being Shepherd, Ngoepe, Kemp, Younis and Campbell. Attendance:  614   BOX SCORES

 

Canberra won this series 3-1.