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The Alcohol Think Again Perth Heat walked off in dramatic fashion on Friday night, going deep into extra-innings before defeating the Sydney Blue Sox 4-3 at Barbagallo Ballpark in the third game of the Eleventh Round of the 2011-2012 Australian Baseball League season. The marathon saw outstanding starting pitching, even more marvelous relief appearances, and a Perth native making a strong case for why he should be the ABL MVP.
Perth got the scoring started in the bottom of the 2nd when James McOwen hit a two-out double and Allan de San Miguel singled him in to make it 1-0 Heat. The Blue Sox did not take long to strike back, evening the score at 1-1 in the top of the 3rd thanks to an RBI single by Tyler Collins. That was the only run Heat starter and former Major-Leaguer Virgil Vasquez (pictured below) gave up on the evening, going six strong innings in his Barbagallo Ballpark debut while allowing five hits, striking out five, and walking none.
The Heat took the lead back in the bottom of the 4th inning when Luke Hughes reached second base on an error and shortstop Mitch Graham brought him in with an RBI single to make it 2-1. Perth held this lead until the 7th inning when Alex Johnson and Joseph Hage reached on back-to-back singles before Jacob Younis reached on an error to make it bases loaded and no outs. Cameron Lamb got a big strikeout of Andrew Graham, but Michael Lysaught followed up with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2. Geoff Brown then appeared in relief to strike out Collins and escape the inning.
This started an extra-innings marathon, as the Heat and the Blue Sox went into the 10th inning tied 2-2. Mitch Dening hit a one-out double in the top of the frame, later scoring on a throwing error to put the Sox up 3-2. Facing elimination, Matt Kennelly hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the 10th to get things started. Adam Courcha put down a sacrifice bunt to move him to third, but Sydney reliever Matt Williams had trouble with the play and threw the ball past first base to allow Matt Kennelly to score and tie the game at 3-3.
The crowd of 1462 got even more extra baseball on fan appreciation night as the teams traded zeroes deep into extra-innings. Jacob Clem (pictured above) went an incredible seven innings of relief while allowing just two hits, and Tim Kennelly eventually rewarded him and all of the fans that stuck around late into the night. Just before midnight in the bottom of the 15th inning, Tim Kennelly led off with a walk-off line drive bomb over the left field fence that ended the longest game of the season for the Heat and broke the hearts of the Blue Sox. The victory put the Heat up 2-1 in the series, kept Sydney from securing their playoff bid, ensured that no team other than Perth can finish the season with a winning record, and showed why Tim Kennelly is a favorite for the 2011-2012 ABL MVP.
"I'm happy it's over but it was fun while it happened," said Clem about his seven-inning relief performance. Tim Kennelly explained the fly ball he hit over the fence to end the game, saying "The other ones were a little bit higher and kind of holding up in the wind, but that one was a little lower and it carried a little."
The Heat and the Blue Sox will meet up again on Saturday night at 7:20 as Perth looks to take a series victory and stay strong going into the postseason. The Heat will host the first round of the ABL Finals on January 26th at Barbagallo Ballpark at 2pm. For tickets and more information visit www.perthheat.com.au.