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Clark paces Bandits to win in Adelaide
Cody Clark had three hits and four RBI in Brisbane's 6-2 victory
11/22/2012 11:57 PM ET
Cody Clark had three hits and four RBI in Thursday night's game
Cody Clark had three hits and four RBI in Thursday night's game (Joe Vella / SMP Images)
BRISBANE, 22 November - The tale of the Brisbane Bandits so far this Australian Baseball League season has mostly consisted of great pitching and solid defence.

Thursday night's 6-2 victory over the Adelaide Bite was complete with highlight-reel catches and continued success from the Brisbane bullpen, but the game also indicated that the Bandits bats are starting to heat up.

Veteran catcher Cody Clark led the visitors' offence with three hits, a walk and four runs driven in to start Round Four of the ABL, brought to you by 'Be the Influence: Tackling Binge Drinking'. Bandits manager Kevin Jordan has been impressed with what he's seen from the Arkansas native in all facets of the game, noting that his hitting prowess is a nice bonus.

"Anytime you have a catcher, defence is their priority," Jordan said. "Any catcher that you can get who swings the bat the way he swung it for us is definitely an asset. He brings so much to the team just with his experience, with his game-calling; I think he has a very calming effect on our pitchers. It's definitely been good for us having him out here."

The Bandits got off to an early start in the game, putting up a four-spot on Bite starter Dushan Ruzic in the third. With bases loaded, Brad Dutton knocked the first run in with an RBI-groundout. A second run crossed the plate courtesy of a throwing error by Adelaide shortstop Jeremy Cresswell.

Clark then took advantage with a two-run single, giving Brisbane the 4-0 lead. The American catcher added two more RBI to his total in the top of the fifth inning, giving the Bandits a six-run advantage with his double to the centre-field wall at the Norwood Oval.

The six-run lead for Brisbane was enough to knock Ruzic (0-1) out of the game and send the Bite to their relief corps. The native of Darwin completed five innings, allowing six runs (three earned) on five hits with four walks and six strikeouts.

While Clark's standout performance at the plate was the difference in the game, Jordan was quick to talk about what Japanese centre fielder Onaka was doing on defence.

The 24-year-old astonished both his teammates and the crowd with two fantastic diving catches late in the game. He also went 2-for-3 with two walks in the matchup and has been a pleasant surprise for Brisbane's second-year skipper.

"I didn't know what to expect from him," Jordan said. "All I knew was we were getting an outfielder. He's really slowly and steadily just improved. Every game he just shows little strides of improvement in his game. We're pleased with him. We're happy. He takes good instructions and he definitely is someone who wants to get better, which obviously from a coaching standpoint is good."

Onaka's first highlight-reel play came in the eighth inning. He made an incredible diving stop going back to the wall in centre and crashing into it, somehow coming up with the ball after a few extra moments on the ground to recover.

The outfielder will have plenty of time to recover from his next amazing play of the game, since his second spectacular grab, this one in left-centre field, ended the game and secured the Bandits win. Onaka left both the crowd and his manager wanting more.

"He gets good reads on the ball," Jordan said. "You want him in infield/outfield, you watch him in [batting practice]; he does a great job of getting good reads off the bat. He really works on it so for us obviously we're pleased with him making those plays and we're just hoping that that's something that becomes routine for him."

Bandits starter Justin Staatz will also be looking to make his Thursday night performance more routine than his previous appearances. After two rough starts, the California native returned to form in Adelaide. Staatz (1-2) threw five frames and allowed two earned runs on four hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

"[Staatz] probably did a better job of trusting himself and trusting his stuff," Jordan said. "For him it's just all about trying to make improvements from game to game and he definitely showed signs of improvement tonight over his previous two starts."

The Bite threatened in the sixth inning when the right-hander hit the leadoff batter and then followed with two straight walks to load the bases. When one run came in courtesy of a single for Ethan Paquette, that marked the end of the day for Staatz.

"He just ran out of gas," the Bandits manager said. "Everyone runs out of gas at one point or another and it just so happened to be that he ran out of gas in that inning."

Young right-handers Steven Chambers and Rhys Niit combined for four innings of scoreless relief, allowing just one hit and one walk between them. Brisbane's bullpen has shown huge improvements over last season, and is just one more facet of the Bandits game that they will be looking to continue.

"We want to have that situation where we feel that everyone who comes out of our bullpen has a chance to help us out," Jordan said. "So far it's worked out that well."

The Bandits will face the Bite in the second game of the four-game set in Adelaide on Friday night. Brisbane will send Chris Smith to the mound, the recipient of the Delta Air Lines Pitcher of the Week award for Round Three, hoping he can have a similar performance to last week.

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