Sydney 18 bt Canberra 11
Calvary's Jon Berti is tagged between second and third base by Blue Sox player Joshua Dean, far right. Photo: Graham Tidy
Normally 11 runs and 17 hits would be enough for the Canberra Cavalry to win comfortably, but this was no ordinary Australian Baseball League preliminary final game.
The Cavs were smashed by the Sydney Blue Sox 18-11 in what turned into a pitcher’s nightmare at Narrabundah Ballpark on Friday night.
They now must win both games on the road in Sydney to progress to the ABL championship series against the Perth Heat in Western Australia.
Unfortunately for the reigning ABL champions they bore the brunt of some brutal Blue Sox batting, with Sydney designated hitter Trent Oeltjen amassing six runs batted in and a massive home run.
It fell short of what’s believed to be the highest scoring games in ABL history - Canberra’s 18-13 win over Melbourne earlier this season and Perth Heat’s 19-12 demolition of the Cavalry last season.
In a bizarre twist, the home team was the away team, while the visitors were at home.
Because Sydney finished second they were deemed to have home advantage and batted second on the night despite playing at Canberra’s Fort.
The ABL also allowed Sydney to field first base Boss Moanaroa, who had only played two series - not the three required to be eligible for finals.
Not that it made much difference.
While the Cavs bolted out of the gates with their first two batters getting on base, it was Sydney who dominated for most of the night.
By the bottom of the second, they were six runs down and gun starting pitcher Brian Grening had been replaced on the mound.
Grening went just 1.1 innings and gave up five hits and five runs before Aaron Thompson replaced him for a similar return: one inning, seven hits and four runs.
Thompson was welcomed to the plate with a Trent Oeltjen three-run homer that brought back memories of former Cavs-now-Cincinnati-Reds slugger Donald Lutz - it was big.
Canberra produced a rally in the top of the third, with Casey Frawley hitting a two-run double then Jack Murphy driving him in as well.
But no sooner were they back in the game and they were out of it, with the Blue Sox driving three in the very next frame.
The haemorrhaging continued with four more in the fourth and Cavs pitching coach Hayden Beard would’ve been pulling his hair out if he wasn’t recovering from shoulder surgery.
But Michael Collins’ Cavalry doesn’t quit.
They should’ve handed out umbrellas for the top of the fifth when it started to rain runs.
Michael Wells hit a two-run single. Berti, Warner, Frawley and Barnes all brought runners home to complete a six-run inning.
Sydney gave themselves some breathing space with four runs in the fifth, including a Keon Broxton three-run home run.
All of a sudden it became a comparative pitching duel and there was only two runs in the final three-and-a-half innings.
Eric Massingham and Matt Wilson managed to keep things quiet for the Cavs, while Aaron Sookee and Wayne Lundgren did a similar job for the Blue Sox.
The two teams travel up the Hume Highway for game two at Blacktown on Saturday at 6pm.
Canberra 0 0 3 1 6 1 0 0 0 - 11r 17h 1e
Sydney 1 5 3 4 4 0 1 0 x - 18r 23h 3e
Cavalry’s best: SS Frawley (2-6, 3RBI), RF Warner (3-6, 2RBI), DH Wells (1-5, 2RBI), P Massingham (1.2I, 2H, 1R, 3K).