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First things first: Bandits start season on top
Sunday win gives Brisbane series victory at Sydney
11/11/2012 4:44 PM ET
Brisbane's Hirotoshi Onaka slides in ahead of a tag Sunday.
Brisbane's Hirotoshi Onaka slides in ahead of a tag Sunday. (Joosep Martinson / SMP Images)
SYDNEY, 11 November - The friends, family, fans and teammates of Chris Smith have been anxiously awaiting his first appearance as a member of the Brisbane Bandits.

Just one week ago, the native of Kentucky threw a no-hitter in the Greater Brisbane League, a loop he has been dominating since his arrival in Australia. Everyone around Smith was hoping that the 24-year-old's achievements would translate over to the Australian Baseball League, brought to you by 'Be the Influence: Tackling Binge Drinking'.

Smith appears to have made the transition with ease.

In the Sunday afternoon matchup against the Sydney Blue Sox, the right-hander made his ABL debut and quickly earned his first win with a standout performance on the mound. Smith struck out nine Blue Sox batters over six strong innings in Brisbane's 5-2 win over Sydney, helping the Bandits to their first series win of the year.

"Smith was a pleasant surprise," Bandits manager Kevin Jordan said. "I was very impressed with how he came out and how he went after their hitters. It was a real good start to the season for him."

The young righty was happy with his performance and the outcome of the game, though one more strikeout on the day might have just added icing to the cake.

"Back home in the States, my kryptonite was double-digit strikeouts," he said. "I could always get close but I can never seem to get into double digits. It would have been nice to get 10 but coming away with the win and the series victory was great and the most important thing."

The native of Kentucky is fresh off just his first full season in professional baseball, a successful year with the Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League. He found himself in Australia upon the recommendation of his Wild Things skipper, who was also once the manager of Aussie baseball legend David Nilsson.

"My manager in Washington is Chris Bando," Smith said before the season began. "He's really good friends with David Nilsson and he coached David when he was in the majors. CB just said, 'Hey look I have a pitcher over here who's really looking to play winter ball.

"I had a really good season back home so he sent my stats and everything like that to David. David said, 'Well, Gary [Nilsson] is the pitching coach for the Bandits,' and Bob, his other brother, is the coach for Pine Hills [of the GBL]. So he said it was going to be a good fit to get me over with them. Two weeks later I got on a plane and I headed over."

Smith (1-0) was helped to victory by a strong Bandits offence that got started early. Brisbane (2-1) scored three runs in the first inning, playing some small ball and getting some help from the Sydney defence. The Bandits scored two insurance runs in the fourth to give them some room to work with.

Japanese outfielder Hirotoshi Onaka, catcher and Arkansas native Cody Clark, and left fielder Andrew Campbell each had two hits in the game. Onaka, Clark, Josh Roberts and Adam Gordon each drove in one run for the Bandits.

California native Carlos Alonso appeared to bring in a run with a suicide squeeze attempt in the first inning, but the play was scored a throwing error to the Blue Sox (3-3).

"We usually sit on our pitchers," two-time team MVP Roberts said. "They carry us through the season and we try to get some hits together to score them some runs."

Veteran reliever John Veitch came on in the seventh for the Bandits and closed out the game with three solid innings of work for Brisbane. Veitch earned his first save of the season allowing no runs on four hits with one strikeout.

Vaughan Harris (1-1) took the loss for the Blue Sox. He went 3 1/3 innings allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Luke Wilkins, Tyler Herr and Timothy Cox combined for 5 2/3 scoreless innings of relief.

"Today we felt we were where we wanted to be as a team but there's still a lot of work to do," Jordan said. "It was nice to get the series win but now we put this series behind us and look towards next week."

Brisbane will head home for Round Three of ABL action, where they will take on the Canberra Cavalry as a part of their community series in a three-game set on Friday and Saturday. Games will take place at Redlands Baseball Club, the GBL home of starter James Albury.

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