The Blue Sox played the Cavalry in the second game of four last night and it was my first trip to an ABL game outside of Blacktown Olympic Park. The Cavalry have a bit of a reputation for putting on a really good show, so I was keen to see it first hand. On the field, the Blue Sox have the chance to secure a home final if they notch up a few wins. The Cavalry don't have as much at stake, but are looking to add some annoyance value to things and to put on a good show for their final homestand. With all that in mind, your intrepid correspondent made the trek to the Nation's capital to report on the action.
Firstly, some thoughts on the Fort Narrabundah experience. The playing surface and overall feel of the park is great, and although the stadium is not as big as Blacktown, there are plenty of bleachers and viewing areas on both first and third base lines. Sitting on the bench seating was a less comfortable way to watch the game, and the layout of the stands could improve with some more entry points and more user-friendly steps on the bleachers. But overall it was a good place to watch a game.
The Canberra crowd was vocal (some might say rabid) and they were ripping into the Blue Sox from the get go. Chris Oxspring, whom the Cavalry managed to beat on Thursday, and Alex Johnson, the Sox DH, were fave targets. The best line of the night goes to the Canberra fan who labelled Johnson 'the worst number 23 since Michael Clarke'. That was about as witty as it got though. A traveling contingent from the
Sox Draw made sure the Sydney team got plenty of support.
The ground announcing and between inning activities were comparable to Sydney's. Best walk up music goes to Canberra catcher Michael Collins; daggy-turned-retro-cool Phil Collins' 'In the Air Tonight'. The crowd participated well in the game, really chanting in unison 'HWA!!!' and 'WOO!!!' when the Cavs' Korean imports came up. There seemed to be quite a few 'new to baseball' spectators. I heard a few people discussing the rules and the usual questions - 'are they called referees or umpires', 'what is an error' - and so on. This is surely a good sign for the League. Last home series of the season, nothing really for the home team to play for, but they still drew a crowd of 1400.
On the field, the Blue Sox turned to David Welch to steer the team to victory, while the Cavalry tossed the ball to Chris Morgan. Both pitchers were pretty effective through five innings. The Sox picked up their two two runs through a double smacked down the third base line from the increasingly reliable Trent Schmutter. In the bottom of the 5th, the Cavalry hit back with three runs of their own.
Welch, who i have really enjoyed watching (and who I think shows a lot of promise) was a little unlucky as the Cavalry picked up their runs through some good fortune. Didi Gregorious drove in a run through what should have been a regulation grounder to 1B, but which became a double to right field due to a NASTY hop that nearly took Josh Dean's head off. Further to this, Gregorious reached second and was met with a tag from Michael Lysaught that should have been the second out. However, much to the chagrin of Lysaught, Welch, and Sox manager Glenn Williams, the ump called him safe. Later in the inning with two out and two on, Welch got deep in the count against Michael Wells. Wells then hit a deep fly ball to right centre, which Mitch Dening put down, allowing two runs to score. Welch eventually got out of the inning by drawing a fly out from Tom Vincent.
It didn't look good for the Sox from that point, as they struggled to compile any sustained offensive pressure. However, in the 8th and 9th innings they managed to pile on some rallies and get runs on the board. Hits by Josh Dean and Michael Lysaught in the 8th inning brought in two runs. Then in the ninth, a timely loaded bases double to Pat Maat brought in two more runs, before a Josh Dean single and a Michael Lysaught homer brought in another four runs. By this time the Cavalry were flat on the canvas. Koo came back and mercifully stopped proceedings without fuss.
All up, it was a good night at the ballpark and a much needed win for the Sox. The Perth Heat also won last night, so Sydney is still in second place in the standings. They will look to pick up another two