GAME ONE: CRUSHERS (3-1-1) 3 CLIPPERS 3 (1-1-3)
There was tension and drama as the Dunmark Crushers and Clippers played out the first draw of the SLBA season, an eight-inning thriller which is a result that could be a crucial result in four weeks’ time.
Highway Player of the Game, Anthony Herrera, said the Crushers were tight in defense, while he went 2-for-3 in the lead-off spot with a run and walk also.
He praised his sides defense after the game.
“We’re definitely a team that’s very well put together, we put together some hits and runs early and backed it up defensively late in the game.
“When the game is tight, it’s more trusting my catcher; Landon did a great job calling pitches, telling me to go a slider.”
Hernandez brought home all three of his side’s runs, he opened the scoring with a sneaky RBI single that faded away from Dalton Probert in right field and just bounced in safely.
Their lead was shortlived as the Clippers went on a roll with three runs in the first, backed up by the best hitting run of the game.
A lead-off double from Dylan Brammer started the party before Theo Lakmeche singled in his first SLBA at-bat, while Evan LeBlanc and Alex Carter, who had two hits, made their mark.
At third base Herrera was a shining light amongst a defensively sound Crushers unit, making a pair of stops throughout the game which denied potentially costly extra bases.
In the sixth he dived on a low hit by Dakota Thompson and gunned him out on the throw to first.
The Crushers’ bullpen was dominant, led by two strikeouts from Luke Keogh and three to Herrera in the final two innings of the game.
That defensive prowess ensured the Clipper were scoreless through the final seven innings while the Crushers scored twice in the third thanks to Hernandez’s hot bat.
For the Clippers, their American trio of Chris Burkholder, Dylan Brammer and Terrell Joyce combined for two hits, two walks and two strikeouts over five scoreless innings.
In the eighth, even International Rules could not split the sides and they were both forced to settle for the draw despite loaded bases by the Clippers.
GAME TWO: CARP (3-2) 7 def WASPS (2-3) 0
The Carp rode a wave of offense as they surged past the JSR Wasps and into second on the SLBA table.
Their mix of youth and experience paid off, with teenagers Curtis Mead and Liam Bull collecting two hits each while Angus Roeger and Wilson had a pair as well.
Mead blasted a double off the fence in the first inning as Roeger’s RBI single opened the scoring.
“It’s fun playing with the young kids because they’re doing so well, but they make me feel old,” Roeger said.
“I’m only 28 but they make me feel like I’m 58 when 16-year-olds are hitting so well.”
Despite the loss, Wasps starter Jackson Brebner-Russ put in a classy performance with five strikeouts over two innings. Matt Watkins also impressed with one hit and one strikeout in two innings.
Against Wasps reliever Matt Rabe the Carp added a pair of runs in the third as Carp kids shone, including Blake Farr and 16-year-old Bull.
The young talents impressed all game against senior opposition with composed at-bats, while Philadelphia prospect Mead was again thriving at a high level.
Pitching power also ensured the Carp gave up just one hit, with new arrival Justin LaPiana throwing a clean first inning, and Tom Norley went through two with no trouble.
In the sixth a defensive mishap by Dennis Christiansen allowed Brodie Keeping to score on a hit by new marquee man, Patrick Inglis, before a wild pitch made it 5-0 in a hurry.
Struggling with his zone, Justin Woods gave up loaded bases and not even a pitching change helped as Lee clubbed a ground ball two-run double down right field.
In the sixth a pair of walks nearly saw the Wasps hit the scoreboard but the Carp held on to protect their shutout with tight defense.
Only four games remaining and it’s tight. The Crushers lead the league by one point and next round play the Wasps, who have lost their past three, a run of defeat that started against the Crushers. This will be a game of redemption.
The Carp are on a three-game win streak and the Clippers undefeated in two, the complete opposite to when they last clashed as 0-2 sides. Good form can only last for so long in this league and the Clippers are the more desperate team as a loss would likely end their grand final chances.