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Dening delivers as Blue Sox take ABL opener
Outfielder lines RBI single to snap draw in eighth
11/06/2010 11:47 PM ET
Chris Oxspring turned in a sparkling six-inning effort for Sydney.
Chris Oxspring turned in a sparkling six-inning effort for Sydney. (ABL)
SYDNEY - Fans of Australian baseball had waited over a decade for this. Eight more innings of tense baseball couldn't hurt.

Mitch Dening snapped a scoreless tie with an eighth-inning RBI single, Dae-Sung Koo nailed down the final out for his first save Down Under, and the Sydney Blue Sox claimed the first victory of the new Australian Baseball League's inaugural season 1-0 over the Canberra Cavalry.

A day filled with historical implications for the baseball community of this Southern Hemisphere nation began with a nod to its past as players from the last Australian Baseball League, which ceased operations eleven years ago, participated in pregame activities. Current ABL Baseball Operations Manager Ben Foster, who caught the final pitch for the Gold Coast Cougars to claim the 1999 Claxton Shield, arrived on the Blacktown Olympic Park field in a helicopter along with young Australian baseballer Louis Verdon, who was born on 13 February 1999, the day of that final ABL game. Foster passed the very baseball he caught on that February night to Verdon who delivered the inaugural ceremonial first pitch to kick off the evening's festivities.

As Blue Sox starting pitcher Chris Oxspring took the mound moments later to give the league its first breath of life, he set the tone of the night early with a 1-2-3 first inning: pitching, pitching, pitching. Oxspring and a cast of Cavalry pitchers dueled for the first six innings with Sydney's veteran right-hander keeping the Canberra lineup off-balance throughout his first start of the 2010-2011 campaign. Oxspring allowed just four baserunners in six innings of work and struck out eight batters while not allowing a run, though he was saddled with a no-decision as each offense scuffled early. Canberra starter Steven Kent went just two frames but impressed as well, striking out two and walking a pair, only giving up one hit. Kent yielded to his bullpen to begin the third, and behind him, Michael Lennox and Jung-Min Lee combined to allow just one more Blue Sox base knock over the next four innings.

Sydney's best offensive chance on the night came in the sixth when the Blue Sox loaded the bases with one out, but Lee worked out of the jam, striking out Pat Maat looking and inducing a groundout back to the mound from Andrew Graham to end the threat.

With just five hits between the two sides entering the eighth inning, the Blue Sox finally strung together a two-out rally. Tim Auty got the Sox charge started with a single through the hole at shortstop and slid into second base with the first steal of the year under an errant throw from catcher Sung-Woo Jang. Dening didn't miss the opportunity. Sydney's center fielder sliced his only base hit of the night over leaping Canberra shortstop Didi Gregorious to plate Auty from second and send the sellout crowd into a state of delirium. The base hit made a winner out of Sydney reliever Wayne Lundgren (1-0). Jun Hyeok Heo (0-1) took the loss allowing just Sydney's one tally in two innings of work.

Veteran Korean legend Koo (S, 1) nailed down the final out for the Blue Sox in his first game with his new club. The 41-year-old struck out Canberra's Nick Kimpton to seal the victory.

The Blue Sox welcome the Cavalry for three more games at Blacktown Olympic Park Friday 12 November through Sunday 14 November. Tickets are available for the three-game set by visiting the Blue Sox website at SydneyBlueSox.com.au. This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.