Heat win Gm. 3 thriller, repeat as ABL champions
The Heat celebrate their 2nd straight Claxton Shield title. (SMP Images/ Theron Kirkman)
PERTH, 12 February - The 'Alcohol Think Again' Perth Heat pulled out the Game Three victory over the Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces, repeating as Claxton Shield champions in the 2012 ConocoPhillips ABL Championship Series. For the second straight night, this tightly-contested game went on for 13 pressure-packed innings, with James McOwen racing home on a wild pitch to score the winning run. Reliever Jack Frawley threw four scoreless innings to finish off the game and earn the win. Virgil Vasquez, who pitched his team to a complete game victory in Game One, was named series MVP.
In the first inning, each team made a statement that this would not be a low-scoring affair like the first two games. The Aces loaded the bases against Geoff Brown with one out, bringing centre fielder Elliot Biddle to the plate. The ABL's RBI leader showed exactly how he achieved that feat, hitting a deep fly ball to the wall for a bases-clearing triple.
Trailing 3-0 to begin their half of the first, the Heat wasted no time in responding. Mychal Givens led off with a double and two batters later he was knocked home by Tim Kennelly, quickly cutting the deficit to two. Next up was catcher Allan de San Miguel, who crushed a home run to left field, tying the score at three.
Melbourne kept up the attack in the second, scoring two more against the normally stellar Brown. Brad Harman remained hot, knocking home Josh Davies and Dominic Ramos with a single and Brown was knocked out before the inning was completed. The Pitcher of the Year finalist lasted just 1.2 innings and surrendered five earned runs, his shortest start and most runs allowed this season.
The Aces scored another in the third, going up 6-3 and giving starter Jeff Jamnik his second three-run lead to work with. This one didn't last either, however, as Perth's bats remained hot. They added one in the fourth and two more in the fifth, the tying score coming on a McOwen sacrifice fly.
After the fifth, with the score tied 6-6, the bullpens took over. Bubbie Buzachero was incredible for the Aces, throwing 115 pitches over 8.0 innings just a day after throwing 49 pitches in 3.1 scoreless frames in Game Two. He took over for Jamnik with a runner on in the fifth and pitched all the way into the 13th, allowing just four hits and two runs, striking out seven.
Perth's bullpen was equally outstanding, with Jacob Clem quieting the Melbourne bats after Brown's rough start, surrendering just one run over 6.1 innings before giving way to Brendan Wise and Jack Frawley. Wise pitched a scoreless ninth to send the game into extras, while Frawley allowed just one hit over four shutout frames, striking out four.
Each team had only a few chances to score in the late innings. The Aces had Josh Davies at second base with one out in the 11th, but consecutive groundouts by Scott Wearne and Brad Harman ended the inning. Perth had Mychal Givens on base in the 9th and 11th, but he didn't reach scoring position on either occasion. Givens had four base hits in the game.
This one went all the way to the 13th before the Heat were finally able to dispose of Buzachero. After he hit McOwen with a slider to begin the inning, Andrew Russell was brought on to replace him. A sacrifice bunt and groundout followed, leaving McOwen standing on third base with two outs and Corey Adamson in the batter's box. The second pitch of the at-bat was a wild slider that eluded catcher Kevin David, sending McOwen racing for home plate. He just beat the tag, scoring the winning run to clinch the championship, earning redemption just a year after watching the Heat take the title against his Adelaide Bite.
Frawley earned the win for his outstanding performance, needing just 42 pitches to get through the final four innings, allowing just one runner to reach base. Buzachero was tagged with the loss as the Heat celebrated their second consecutive Claxton Shield.
Even with all the tremendous performances in this series, one stood out above the rest, as Perth's Game One starter Virgil Vasquez was named Championship Series MVP. Vasquez got the complete game win in Friday's contest, surrendering just five hits and one run, almost single-handedly getting the Heat that important first victory.
This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.