Bite go Bang, Bang, Bang
Adelaide Bite scored a nail-biting 3-2 victory in game one of the Australian Baseball League Championship Series at Norwood Oval against Perth Heat to go one-up in the three game set on Friday nights (February 6). It was a tense game that looked likely to be a negative result for the home team, until, trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning, the first three batters to the plate smashed home runs – bang, bang, bang! Starting pitchers Mike McClendon for the Heat and the Bite's Morgan Coombs – the two best hurlers in the ABL this season based on their ERAs – were solid through the first six innings. Perth got the perfect start in the first frame with a two-out home run from Tim Smith for the early lead, and went 2-0 up in the fourth dig after an error and Rene Tosoni's RBI single. For the home side there seemed little joy, with a lead-off double in the third frame by Ben Lodge, which wasn't converted, the best chance through six innings. An opportunity to score went begging for Perth in the fifth frame, when Matt Kennelly left third base early after an outfield catch in an attempt to score, and was called out on an appeal play. Then it looked like the Heat was going to seal the deal, with a seventh inning lead-off double to Allan de San Miguel, a single to Jordan McDonald, and, after an out, Brian Pointer's walk loaded the bases. But Coombs bared down to retire the next two hitters to keep the score 2-0 going into the bottom of the seventh. Stefan Welch gave the Adelaide faithful some hope after watching two called strikes, with a long bomb to rightfield for a lead-off home run. Two pitches later the game was tied after Tom Brice followed suit, with his low line shot clearing the fence in right centrefield. The next hitter was Mitch Dening, who faced nine pitches, including fouling off four, before smashing the longest hit of the game over the rightfield netting, with the ball disappearing into the night – and the Bite was up 3-2!
McClendon was relieved on the mound for the Heat by Mac Acker, who managed to halt the avalanche. In the top of the eighth frame, Adelaide reliever Matt Williams entered the game and induced the Perth batters to go out one, two, three, as did Adelaide in the bottom of the inning, although a magnificent diving catch by Heat shortstop Joey Wong robbed Brice of another hit. Down to its final three outs, Perth had runners on third and first base courtesy of two walks and a wild pitch, with one out. Adelaide saves leader Tyler Brunnemann came in and induced Heat batter Brian Pointer to hit into a double play to end the game. It was an incredible fightback and a dream run with three consecutive home runs, which leaves the Bite requiring just one win, from either Saturday's game two at Norwood Oval from 7pm, or, if required, the decider on Sunday evening at 7pm, to win its first championship in 35 years.
Images Peter Argent/OSLSA