GAME ONE: Dunmark Crushers (3-0) 6 def JSR Plumbing Wasps (2-1) 2
In the tilt for the top, only one side could move to 3-0. While there was a fight-back by the Wasps, it was the free-scoring Crushers who claimed the early pole position in season one of the SLBA.
Led by an RBI double from the Highway Player of the Game, Matt Hutchings, and Ben Andrews’ two-run homer, the Crushers piled on five runs in an explosive third inning.
Hutchings said postgame players have enjoyed the opening three weeks of the SLBA, challenging them to be their best each night.
“It really pushes you, I’m getting close to that level and it’s just that step up,” he said.
“It’s pretty exciting for the young guys out here, we’ve got old guys on the team… not old, veterans, Cakey [Josh Cakebread], Cressy [Jeremy Cresswell], Talby [Nick Talbot]; all those guys to be around, it’s really good.”
In seven-inning games, pitching is just as crucial as hitting and Wasps starter Jared Wilson had his side off the best start possible with three strikeouts in two clean innings, touching 94mph on the radar regularly.
His purple counterpart in Joel Chapman was just as good, conceding only one hit.
The game changed when bullpens were called upon, however, and the Crushers punished the Wasps with their hot bats.
Hutchings finished 2-for-3, his second hit a looping RBI single into right field for a 6-0 lead.
Against pitcher Josh Tindall there was finally a response from the hive, they backed up Mitch Lightbody’s lead-off single in the fourth inning– his fifth hit of the tournament.
He scored on an error by Chris Sims, followed by big-man Stef Welch on Jackson Brebner-Russ’ sac fly. Lightbody continued his stellar SLBA season with some marvellous plays at short stop.
In a four-run ballgame there was life on both sides and the Crushers threatened to pull away, but were denied.
Jordy Grose kept the Wasps hitless through two frames befoe Anthony Herrera denied a late comeback when Tyrone Hambly hit a lead-off double in the bottom of the seventh.
A follow-up hit could have turned the tide, as Hambly moved to third, but with two out Herrera teased out a swinging strikeout from Dennis Christiansen for the win.
GAME TWO: CARP (1-2) 9 def CLIPPERS (0-3) 2
The Carp entered the battle of the winless sides with just three runs from two games, and that all changed against the Clippers as they turned into flying fish and soared to victory.
A quartet of Bite players did the damage with Curtis Mead, Angus Roeger, Wilson Lee and Mason Clavell collecting two hits each, while a complete pitching performance restricted the Clippers to two hits.
17-year-old Blake Farr had a day to remember. He went 2-4 with two runs and an RBI.
“It’s a cool opportunity to play in this league. It makes you a lot better by just playing against quality players like this every week,” he says.
Mead had the first hit of the game in the first and scored soon after, the 17-year-old coming home on a Roeger RBI single after stealing second.
For the Clippers, despite the loss, starter Tyler Chappell put in arguably the best outing by a pitcher in the SLBA with five strikeouts from the sidearmer.
Nathan van der Linden, meanwhile, had a pair of strikeouts, likewise Ryan Duncan from his sole inning.
The focus was on hitting for the Carp and in the third a deep double from Blake Farr scored Duncan from before a poorly thought-out throw to home by Dylan Brammer allowed Farr to sneak an extra base.
He scored on a sac fly from Mead and a 3-0 lead looked like just the start.
The ship had not sailed for the Clippers, though, and Dylan Brammer worked a walk, slyly stole second and scored on Dylan Ridding’s RBI single to get his side on the board.
Running rampant in the fifth, the scoreline blew out to 6-1 for the Carp, while they added three more in the sixth.
Jay Sanderson joined in on the party with Lee, driving home two runs off a double, and the big hits continued against the luckless Clippers as Nick George doubled in the sixth, followed by a trio of RBIs by Mead, Roeger and Lee, all of which signalled the end.
Down 9-1, the Clippers could have rolled over and let the game end but a late breathe of life in the form of an RBI double from Declan Steel added a late run.
Any thoughts of a comeback were far away, though, and Lee capped off a great game with a strikeout to finish off a strong night by the Carp.
Winning streaks are on the line as the Carp (1-2) and Crushers (3-0) face off next Wednesday. The Crushers won 7-1 back in Round One, but after Wednesday’s hot hitting the Carp look to be in much better form.
For the Clippers (0-3), they face the Wasps (2-1) who had a walk-off 4-3 win in their previous meeting. It was an unlucky finish for the Clippers who are now facing a must-win game if they want to make the grand final.