There was a lot of scoring early in this one. After an 11-pitch battle with Perth starter Daniel Schmidt, Aces leadoff man Dominic Ramos hit a home run to left field, starting his team off with an immediate 1-0 lead.
Perth got two back in the bottom of the inning, coming on a home run from star outfielder Tim Kennelly. After the Heat's second batter of the game, Brenden Webb, was forced to leave the contest with an injured elbow after being struck by a pitch, Adam Courcha entered to run in his place. The next batter was Kennelly, whose two-run shot off Travis Blackley placed the Heat ahead by a 2-1 score.
The Aces would continue to score throughout the early innings, adding two in the second and another in the third. In the second inning, they sent eight batters to the plate, with five reaching on two hits, two walks, and an error. After they loaded the bases with two outs, Josh Davies scored from third on a walk to Ramos and John Edwards scored when Luke Hughes mishandled the throw on an Elliot Biddle grounder.
Melbourne didn't relent in the third, as Justin Huber led off with a double and later scored on a base hit by Davies. Schmidt had enough left to get out of the inning, but it would be his last. He allowed six hits, two walks, and four runs (three earned) in a rough start.
Other than a fifth-inning RBI by Courcha, the Heat offence was quiet after their first inning runs. In fact, neither team scored from the fourth through eighth innings, as Aces starter Travis Blackley was in control and Jack Frawley gave the Heat six solid frames in relief. Blackley struck out eight in 5.2 innings, surrendering seven hits and three runs.
Things got wild once the ninth inning rolled around. In the top half, Ramos was at it again, leading off with a single. After Elliot Biddle walked, Brad Harman laid down a sacrifice bunt, giving the Aces men on second and third with one out. Frawley then intentionally walked Justin Huber to load the bases, but the plan backfired when he next issued a walk to Kevin David, forcing in a run. The next two batters, pinch hitter Mitch Ayres and left fielder Scott Wearne, followed with an RBI single and sacrifice fly, respectively, and Melbourne took a seemingly safe 7-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
That four-run lead, however, was not as safe as it seemed. The first three batters of the inning reached base, with Mychal Givens scoring on Tim Kennelly's third RBI of the day and the tying run quickly coming up to bat in the person of Hughes. After an Andrew Russell wild pitch moved the runners up to second and third, Hughes hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Aaron Bonomi and cutting the deficit to two. After Mitch Graham followed with an infield single, Russell was replaced in favor of closer Cameron Forbes, who entered with two on and one out.
Forbes was unable to save this one, though, as James McOwen singled to make it 7-6 and Graham then scored on a Matt Kennelly groundout. With two outs and McOwen on third base representing the winning run, Forbes got Corey Adamson on a ground ball to end the inning, but not before the Heat tied the score to force extras.
In the tenth, the Aces showed their resilience. After allowing a late-game lead to slip away, they could have been deflated, especially facing Perth's outstanding closer Benn Grice. Instead, they quickly bounced back and scored another run. With one out, Ramos reach on a walk, his fourth time on base in the game. League RBI leader Biddle then knocked him in with a hit to right field, putting the Aces ahead again.
In the bottom of the inning, Forbes showed his own resilience, retiring the Heat in difficult fashion to earn the win. With runners on second and third and just one out, he issued an intentional walk to Hughes, loading the bases for Graham, who had 37 RBI this year. Facing quite a jam, the Melbourne right-hander got Graham to ground into a double play, ending the threat and the game.
The Aces are now just two wins away from a chance to host the ConocoPhillips ABL Championship Series. The Heat, meanwhile, find themselves in an unfamiliar position, needing to come back after a tough loss. After beginning the season with 11 consecutive wins, they have been ahead of the pack throughout.
Game two will begin tomorrow at 7:20PM. The expected starters are league ERA leader Warwick Saupold for the Heat and Nic Ungs for the Aces.