In the second game of Saturday's doubleheader against the Adelaide Bite in Round Four of the Australian Baseball League, brought to you by 'Be the Influence: Tackling Binge Drinking', the Bandits broke out the bats and proved that not only can they play small ball, but they have some power-hitting prowess on the team too.
After dropping the afternoon game 5-2, Brisbane came back to take the nightcap by a score of 7-3 thanks to home runs from Cody Clark, Josh Roberts, and a three-run shot from Andrew Campbell. The long ball for Clark was his second in as many nights and he is quickly becoming both a fan and team favourite.
"He's what you call a professional hitter," Bandits manager Kevin Jordan said. "Obviously him being a Triple-A guy he has enough experience and he's faced enough pitchers that he takes what the pitcher gives him and he doesn't try to do too much. That's probably the biggest compliment you can give a hitter, is that he is a professional hitter, and Cody's definitely been that for us."
Clark came to Brisbane after spending his most recent season with the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers. The native of Arkansas spent his last six seasons in the Kansas City Royals organisation and came down under as he entered free agency.
He will certainly continue to garner plenty of attention swinging the bat the way that he has so far in addition to his ability behind the plate. In just Saturday's doubleheader, the catcher went 4-for-8 with a home run, a double and two runs driven in. His solo shot pulled the Bandits ahead of the Bite and started the four-run inning that was the difference in the game.
"It was real big with Cody hitting that home run to put us up 3-2 because Adelaide did such a good job the whole week of whenever we thought we had a lead, they did such a good job of coming back," Jordan said. "They're similar to us and their hitters don't give up. They just bunch up good [at-bats]. When you play teams like that, you almost feel like you have to be perfect just to win."
Southpaw Chuck Lofgren took the mound for the Bandits in the night game, his first start of the season. The California native went 3 1/3 innings allowing one unearned run on one hit with three walks and three strikeouts. He left the game after 59 pitches after not having thrown a lot so far this year.
Ryan Searle finished the game and recorded the win for Brisbane in his season debut. The hard-throwing right hander threw four innings and allowed one run on two hits with one walk and three strikeouts. Searle (1-0) was a welcome addition to the club and to the game on Saturday.
"Searle is probably going to be coming out of the [bullpen] for us early on and as he gets closer to spring training we'll probably convert him to a starter," the Bandits skipper said. "It's good because last year we didn't get him until later on. And obviously he's a guy who pounds the strike zone and goes after hitters. So it definitely helps us."
In the afternoon matchup against the Bite, starter Chris Smith just didn't have his usual stuff, battling command issues for the first time this season. Round Three's Delta Air Lines Pitcher of the Week went 4 1/3 innings, allowing five runs on four hits, walking three and striking out five.
With the Bandits up 2-0 in the fourth Smith (2-1) got into trouble to start the inning. Stefan Welch led off the inning with a double, Ji-Man Choi followed with a single, and then Ethan Paquette cleared the bases with a three-run home run, his first long ball of the season.
"He just couldn't get his fastball over, similar to [James] Albury [on Friday]," Jordan said. "He didn't have command of it and anytime you don't have command of your fastball then you end up getting in a lot of hitters' counts. And that one inning, all it took was a couple guys getting on and a big three-run home run to put them up 3-2."
The Bandits head back home with a series split against the Bite, and look forward to what the next round of play can bring. Regular sluggers David Sutherland and Brad Dutton have yet to start swinging the bats the way everyone knows they can, meaning the team can only continue to get better.
"They're close but they're still not where we want them to be and I'm sure they'd say the same," Jordan said. "But a lot of it is just timing and being able to put enough good [at-bats] together and they haven't been able to string enough good at-bats together. But it is what it is.
"We're fortunate in that we've still been able to at least break even in these series like this one when we have two of our better hitters who haven't been swinging the bat the way we know they're capable of."
Brisbane's General Manager Paul Gonzalez is impressed with what he's seen so far from the squad and is looking forward to continued success throughout the season.
"The team showed that it has an ability to rise to the challenge this weekend," Gonzalez said. "To bounce back on the road after two tough losses shows that this team has the makeup to compete for a playoff position this season. This team will only continue to get stronger as they continue to play more games throughout the year."