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Walk-off Wednesday: Schmutter lifts Sox
Sydney erase 4-0 deficit, ninth-inning single pushes Sox within one half-game of league-leading Bite
01/12/2011 11:20 PM ET
Schmutter's walk-off single pushed the Sox to a half-game back of Adelaide.
Schmutter's walk-off single pushed the Sox to a half-game back of Adelaide. (SMP Images/ABL)
SYDNEY - Never in his baseball life had Trent Schmutter stroked a walk-off base hit. Not as a kid, not in club ball, and not in the Australian Baseball League. Now, the Sydney Blue Sox outfielder has played the role of last-gasp hero, and he might have the bruises to prove it.

Schmutter lofted a two-out RBI single to centre field in the bottom of the ninth inning to score Mark Holland, and his jubilant teammates mobbed him between second base and the pitcher's mound as the Sox snapped a season-long four-game losing streak in loud fashion with a 5-4 Wendesday win over the Adelaide ETSA Bite at Blacktown Olympic Park.

"I just wanted to get up there being aggressive," Schmutter said of his game-winning final at-bat. "I knew [Bite reliever Tom Becker] was going to try to get ahead in the count, and I just thought, 'If I see something good, I'm going to drive it.' I didn't exactly drive it, but whatever it takes. That's what we did tonight to get a win."

Before the Blue Sox could even think about the possibility of their first final at-bat win of the year, however, they had a hill to climb offensively. Adelaide jumped on Sydney starter Chris Oxspring with a run in the second, another in the fourth, and two more in the fifth, the final one crossing on an Oxspring wild pitch. Having allowed four runs, all earned, on ten hits in five innings, Sydney's ace left in line for his second consecutive loss with his club trailing 4-0.

Sydney's struggling offence continued to sputter early against Adelaide starter Mark Brackman to the tune of just three hits through their first six innings at the plate. As the evening wore on, however, the home side's lineup got their starter off the hook.

"Brackman threw the ball really well for the first four or five innings," Blue Sox manager Glenn Williams said. "Got a lot of movement on the ball, he was moving it in and out. He's got great command and kept us off-balance, so he did a really good job. Guys were kind of grinding it out and not having too much go their way and not squaring too many balls up. Later in the game, maybe a little bit tired, [Brackman] got some balls up, and we got a few hits here and there."

The Blue Sox finally broke through in the bottom of the seventh inning when Moko Moanaroa, Pat Maat, and Mark Holland all reached via one-out base hits, the latter a double to drive in Moanaroa. That forced the end of Brackman's day, and Sydney didn't quiet down against reliever Reed Brown. Trent D'Antonio's two-out single off Brown brought home Maat and Holland to bring the Sox to within one.

In the eighth, it was Josh Dean's turn. With a man aboard, Sydney's hot-hitting first baseman sliced an RBI single down the left field line to plate pinch runner Shannon Pender, on following a one-out Alex Johnson single, and draw the home team even.

Blue Sox reliever Rich Thompson (1-0), of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, worked around two base hits in the ninth, freezing Scott Gladstone on an inning-ending called strike three to get his team to the bat rack with the ballgame still knotted at 4-4.

Then came the bottom half and Schmutter's heroics. After Holland's leadoff single and trip to second base on D'Antonio's groundout to first for the second out of the inning, Schmutter didn't miss his chance on a Becker (0-1) offering, smoking it into centre in front of an on-rushing Jamie McOwen. Holland made it home without a throw, and the mob scene was on.

"We haven't walked off this year at all," said Schmutter, "and we've had it done plenty of times to us, so we know what it feels like to be on the other end of it. [Adelaide's] going to be going home tonight thinking, 'We had that game, and it was taken away from us.' For us, it's a massive thing to end that four-game losing streak. Looking forward to tomorrow night."

Manager Williams kept a level head about Sydney's exciting victory while not understating a win that came on the heels of a four-game sweep at home by the Perth Heat. "It's the business end of the season, and we're not really looking at who's there and who's in front of us. We know that destiny is in our hands, and the better we play, the more opportunity we're going to have at the end of the season. We have to make the playoffs, and if we play outstanding in the next eight games, then we've got a chance to finish first or second and have some advantages that go along with that.

"To come out here after four tough games against Perth, against a tough [Adelaide] ballclub who really got on us early against an ace in the staff in 'Ox', for us to grind it out, the pitching staff kept it close, and then we got the big hit right at the end, it's massive."

The win puts Sydney (18-14) a half-game behind the first-placed Bite (18-13) and even with the idle Heat for second place in the ABL standings. The Blue Sox and Bite resume their four-game set Thursday night at Blacktown Olympic Park with first pitch scheduled for 7.30 PM.

THU: LHP Paul Mildren (2-5, 4.13) v LHP David Welch (4-0, 1.58)

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.