Bandits, Heat through to Championship Series
27 January 2019
Seriously challenged by a Canberra Cavalry outfit that led for much of the deciding game of their Australian Baseball League semi-final series, Brisbane Bandits produced the decisive and timely offence that enabled it to post a 9-5 win at Holloway Field this afternoon.
Brisbane has qualified for the Championship Series, when it will play host in Games Two and Three (if required) to Perth Heat.
Perth Heat has qualified for a crack at Brisbane Bandits in the Australian Baseball League Championship Series with an imperious 11-6 win over Sydney Blue Sox – which rallied late in the deciding game but came up short of nailing its first appearance in the final weekend of the revamped national league.
Final scheduling for the ABLCS will be made at discretion of the higher-seeded Brisbane Bandits, with the decision to be announced by league management.
Congratulations to both Brisbane Bandits and Perth Heat – both worthy combatants who are bound to turn on a fantastic exhibition in pursuit of the Claxton Shield prize that they have dominated over the past decade.
SEMI FINAL 1, GAME THREE: BRISBANE BANDITS versus CANBERRA CAVALRY
Quality starters Travis Blackley (Brisbane) and Frank Gailey (Canberra) breezed through the first before the Cavalry made an emphatic statement in the top of the second – when Zach Wilson hit safely and Michael Crouse lifted a two-run shot deep over the leftfield wall for an early lead in what, for many pundits, shaped as a pitching duel between two of the league’s best.
Not to be out-done, the Bandits squared the ledger immediately as Mitch Nilsson singled, Wade Dutton whacked an opposite field shot and Wynton Bernard followed suit for a lead that was short-lived – erased by a solo blast from Cam Warner over centrefield wall in the third.
With the offensive blowtorch being applied to Blackley and to workhorse Gailey – who had tossed a truckload of pitchers in the last nine days – Robbie Perkins drove another long ball deep over rightfield in the top of four to regain the lead for Canberra in a rapidly-developing slugfest under benevolent hitting conditions at Holloway.
Poor base-running threatened to become costly for the Cavalry, who faltered in defence in the bottom of five – when the Bandits loaded the bases against the heroic Gailey, who was relieved by JR Bunda at a pivotal moment in the game.
A force out at the plate, a Lutz strike out and a flyball extricated the Cavalry from a dangerous situation before Zach Wilson doubled in the sixth and Loek van Mil relieved Blackley to get out of the innings with no damage done.
A David Kandilas home run stretched the Canberra lead in the top of seven, but the break was short-lived as the Bandits forced a defensive error in the equaliser and cashed in on an Andrew Campbell RBI-double, a Logan Wade single and a booming Lutz homer that turned the deficit into a two-run advantage further built upon in the eighth – when David Sutherland and Riley Unroe both went deep off Madison Younginer for a 9-5 lead that was protected by Ryan Searle as the final score.
An extraordinary total of nine home runs was amassed between the two teams, with the Bandits hitters producing big-time when it mattered in the later innings of an exciting contest against a tough opponent whose rare mistakes were unceremoniously punished. BOX SCORES
While Canberra Cavalry was a brave and skilled opponent – especially reflected over the last two games – the club again came up short against a Bandits outfit that will play host to either Perth Heat or Sydney Blue Sox as it strives for its fourth championship on the trot at next weekend.
SEMI FINAL 2, GAME THREE: PERTH HEAT 11 defeated SYDNEY BLUE SOX 6
Sydney was off to a perfect start in the series decider, when Trent D’Antonio smacked a lead-off homer off Heat starter Nathan Kuchta, followed by a second run when Jacob Younis singled, advanced on a wild pitch and grounder before crossing the plate on a Gift Ngoepe single.
Playing his farewell season for the Sox, evergreen Craig Anderson conceded a Pete Kozma bleeder and a Tristan Gray walk before Robbie Glendinning stroked an RBI-single, Alex Hall belted a two-RBI triple into the rightfield corner and Chris Clare spun Anderson’s cap with a run-scoring single up the middle for a two-run lead after one complete.
Michael Campbell and Jack Murphy both drew passes to lead off the second for Sydney, but they were left high and dry before the Heat were again on the march against Anderson, loading the bases, with one out, to set the table for Glendinning – who delivered with a two-run single to draw Luke Wilkins from the Sox pen.
A Carl Chester RBI-single delivered Perth an imposing five-run lead that was bloated even further when Chris Clare launched a three-run missile over the left-field wall to pose a real challenge for the Blue Sox – who hit back with a run in the top of three to draw Nick Veale from the Perth pen with a commanding seven-run lead.
Leading off the fourth with a base hit, Sydney catcher Jack Murphy was left out there as Veale came up with the pitches and the game progressed through a relatively sedate phase until the top of the eighth – when the Sox plated further runs off seasoned Heat reliever Cameron Lamb to force another pitching change, with runners on, in the person of southpaw Daniel Schmidt.
Campbell slapped an RBI-single – still with none out – before a double-play ball allowed a sixth run to cross the plate for Sydney and give the Sox a rough chance of an unlikely comeback that was made even tougher when Ulrich Bojarski belted a solo bomb off Todd van Steensel in the bottom of eight.
With a five-run buffer, Schmidt was untroubled in closing out the last innings for Perth, which enjoyed a superb regular season and has thoroughly earned its berth in another ABL Championship Series – while the Blue Sox came up just short but would be justifiably proud of a season in which it delivered so much playing success and supporter enjoyment. BOX SCORES