Tuatara wins thriller first-up at home

Kingsley Collins

23 November 2018

 

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 result decided in the bottom of nine.

 

Auckland was off to the ideal start in GAME ONE of its opening series on home soil, when starter Jimmy Boyce retired the Bandits in order in the top of the first and his team offence took charge in the equaliser – when Eric Jenkins hit safely, stole second and scored on a Daniel Lamb-Hunt single.

 

Swinging the bats with authority against Bandits veteran Ryan Searle, Auckland tacked on another in the second – after Guiyuan Xu stroked a lead-off single, advanced on an error and scored on two grounders – before Andrew Campbell (single) and TJ Bennett (RBI-double) combined for Brisbane’s first run, although the response was immediate as Max Brown tripled and Kris Richards (double) drove in a third for Tuatara in the bottom of three.

 

Leading off the fourth with his second hit, Xu advanced on an Andrew Marck single and a sacrifice bunt – scoring on Luke Hansen’s single before Searle induced a double play to end another productive innings for the Tuatara.

 

Bennett hit safely to lead off the sixth for Brisbane and Wade Dutton walked to force a pitching change that drew left-armer Ryota Okumoto from the pen to replace Boyce, who had done a superb job over 5.1 innings (four hits and two walks for one earned run).

 

At a huge point in the contest – with runners on and one out – Okumoto whiffed Donald Lutz and induced a pop-up from fellow slugger David Sutherland to escape the inning with his side still holding a three-run break.

 

Relieving Searle in the bottom of six, Ko-Chien Lin retired his first hitter before Marck reached on a fielding error and Beau Te Wera Bishop singled to put runners at the corners – only for the Tuatara to come up empty.

 

Calling on Elliot Johnstone in the seventh, the Tuatara were again placed under pressure when Ryan Battaglia walked, advanced on a balk and scooted to third on a Daniel Nilsson single. Danny De La Calle hit safely to score Battaglia and Andrew Campbell grounded out to place runners at second and third – drawing Scott Cone from the pen with one out.

 

While a Bennett grounder plated a third Brisbane run, the Auckland club appeared in control until the Bandits placed the blowtorch on Tuatara closer Yuki Harada with two out in the top of nine – when De La Calle doubled and scored on a pair of wild pitches to level scores at five apiece.

 

With his side not about to lay down, Te Wera Bishop singled into rightfield and advanced on a Hansen sacrifice bunt before the dangerous Eric Jenkins was passed up to create a force with Lamb-Hunt at the plate – though the strategy came to naught as Bishop stole third and motored home on an errant throw into leftfield for a thrilling 5-4 win in the first Australian Baseball League game played internationally. 

 

Playing errorless defence in front of a crowd estimated at around 1000, the Tuatara out-hit Brisbane eleven to seven- with eight players contributing in a serious team effort - while De La Calle and Bennett were standouts for an unusually subdued Bandits offence.   GAME ONE BOX

 

This series will continue at McLeod Park Auckland (weather permitting) with a double-header on Saturday 24 November before Game Four on Sunday 25 November (check ABL scheduling for times and broadcast details).