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Kennelly blasts Heat to game one win
First baseman drives two-run shot in ninth to snap 2-2 tie, send Perth to series lead
01/28/2011 12:41 AM ET
Matt Kennelly is greeted at home plate after his decisive home run Thursday.
Matt Kennelly is greeted at home plate after his decisive home run Thursday. (SMP Images/ABL)
SYDNEY - It was everything playoff baseball should be. Low-scoring, tightly contested, and in the end, like his team's manager predicted earlier in the week, one swing of Matt Kennelly's bat was all it took.

Just days after "Alcohol Think Again" Perth Heat skipper Brooke Knight declared that his club's first round playoff series against the Sydney Blue Sox might come down to one swing, game one did just that. Perth first baseman Kennelly drove a mammoth two-run homer over the left field fence to break a 2-2 tie in the ninth and send his club to a 4-2 victory over the Sox and a 1-0 series lead in their best-of-three Delta Air Lines ABL Postseason Round One series Thursday night at Blacktown Olympic Park.

In a season series that was split down the middle with four wins apiece for each team-all for each side coming on their opponents' home soil-Thursday's playoff opener was a fitting one. Blue Sox starting pitcher David Welch and Perth starter Daniel Schmidt matched wits early, and the game entered the fourth inning scoreless when the Heat broke through.

Allan de San Miguel's leadoff triple set up a Luke Hughes sacrifice fly one batter later that settled in David Kandilas's glove in foul territory and brought home Perth's first run. Following the productive out, Baltimore Orioles farmhand Robbie Widlansky singled and stole second, touching home plate on a subsequent Evan McArthur single to make it a 2-0 lead.

Welch retired the last five men he faced before departing after six innings having allowed two runs on five hits while striking out six and not issuing a walk. And yet his admirable effort was nothing against Schmidt's.

Perth's lefty dominated. After Mitch Dening's two-out double in the first, Schmidt retired 17 straight Blue Sox hitters until Sydney's offence was finally able to crack him in the seventh. Following Dening's second double of the night, veteran first baseman Brendan Kingman lined his third home run in as many games out to left to draw the Blue Sox even. All of Schmidt's brilliance was undone with one mistake pitch, and the southpaw departed with a no-decision following seven outstanding innings.

Out of the bullpen, the Blue Sox summoned ace Chris Oxspring to start the seventh and tasked him with holding the lead in the eighth and beyond. Oxspring (0-1) became the victim of Kennelly's big swing with Ronnie Welty aboard in the top of the ninth. It was the third loss for the Blue Sox right-hander in his last four appearances.

"Ox is backing it off getting ready for spring training [with the Detroit Tigers next month in the US]," Blue Sox manager Glenn Williams said. "With a three game series, one of the starters was going to be out, so we opted to go with Ox there. Really good guy to come out of the pen for us, and he really threw the ball great tonight, kept the game really close for us. We had some opportunities there. Kennelly put a good swing on a pitch that was one of the least good ones that Ox threw all night. It was still a good pitch, but Kennelly put a good swing on it. That's the game. Hopefully it'll be us tomorrow night, but we'll regroup and be ready to go."

Perth reliever Benn Grice (1-0) earned the victory for Perth in his one inning of relief of Schmidt. Brendan Wise (S, 1) pitched around a one-out walk to Dening in the ninth to pick up the save.

"It's disappointing. It's tough to go down in that first one," said Sydney starter Welch. "We've got to win the next two, and that's all we're looking at. Guys are a little bit down after that, but we just need to turn around and come back firing tomorrow."

Williams, with his team now one loss away from a trip to the losers' bracket and a Round Two date with the winner of the Adelaide-Melbourne series, said his club's approach will remain the same that earned them the league's top postseason seed.

"We'll regroup. Obviously the guys were disappointed, but it's a three-game series for a reason. We're confident that we've played pretty well this year, and we'll be ready to play tomorrow and give them a challenge. It was a pretty good ballgame tonight. They played really well, and we played OK.

"We'll ride into tomorrow with a chance."

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