Scheduled for a 16-inning combined doubleheader, the home team stretched their two games against the Adelaide Bite into 21 total innings on Friday at the RNA Showgrounds in Round Seven of the Australian Baseball League, brought to you by 'Be the Influence: Tackling Binge Drinking'.
Brisbane dropped the afternoon pitching duel 2-1 in 11 frames but sent everyone home happy as the team walked off with a 6-5 comeback victory to end the nightcap. The Bandits have seemingly made a habit of stretching their games out over the last few seasons, regularly taking seven-inning games into free baseball and logging extra time on the field.
"We're just one of those teams," Brisbane manager Kevin Jordan said. "We're going to play close games all the time. That's just the kind of team that we are. It just seems that we're one of the teams that seem to play a ton of close ballgames."
While a 21-inning day might be both mentally and physically exhausting for many squads, Jordan believes that playing in so many tight affairs has helped them in dealing with it.
"I don't want to say we're used to it, but we come expecting that's the kind of team that we are," the second-year skipper said. "Even in the second game you could see that when we were down, we weren't out. Guys were still battling, figuring out a way how to get on base and hopefully try to tie the game against these guys.
"[The Bite] are such a good team that we were just trying to figure out some way to get a run against them."
Down by four in the third inning of the night game, the Bandits rallied for four runs of their own in the bottom of the fourth. The Bite went ahead again in the fifth just for Brisbane to tie the game up in the bottom of the ninth inning, thanks to a Brad Dutton RBI-single.
Ryan 'Boof' Battaglia was the hero for the second time in as many days when he launched a double into right field in the 10th inning to score Cody Clark and secure the walkoff win. A long day can quickly become much less exhausting after a dogpile on the field ensues.
"Any win is good," Jordan said. "We don't have the luxury of going into any series assuming that we're going to win the series. We approach every game as it is and we try to win each game individually. After losing the first game, we were just hoping that we could figure out a way how to win that second game. We were fortunate that we were able to."
As Battaglia has logged more playing time, he has continued to become a more reliable player for the Bandits. Brisbane's manager has been impressed with the Team Australia All-Star and might have some decision-making to do in the near future on how to get both of his catchers into the everyday lineup consistently.
"He's getting better," Jordan said. "I think with him, like a lot of our younger guys, the more [at-bats] that they're getting, then the better approach that they're taking with their at-bats. Boof did a great job; he had a good approach. He had a good two-strike approach in that last at-bat and was fortunate to hit one in the gap and give us a chance to win."
Brisbane's offence came out in nightcap, with five different players notching multi-hit games. Clark went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and Battaglia led the team with two runs driven in.
The late run-scoring earned John Veitch his first win of the season. Veitch (1-0) threw the final three innings of the game and allowed three hits and struck out three. James Albury started for the Bandits and went four frames, giving up five runs (four earned) on three hits with four walks and six strikeouts. Simon Morriss threw three innings in relief, allowing two hits and striking out two.
Friday's first game was much the opposite of the second, taking a pitcher's duel right to the end, and both teams combining for only six total hits in the matchup.
Chris Smith had a stellar start for the Bandits but received a no-decision for his efforts. The native of Kentucky went seven strong innings and allowed just one unearned run on one hit, both coming in the seventh inning after 6 2/3 no-hit frames from the World All-Star.
He walked two batters and struck out 11, bringing his season total to 46 strikeouts on the year. That number moves the 24-year-old right-hander far into the league lead, with Sydney's ace Chris Oxspring and Perth's ace Virgil Vasquez next in line with 41.
"Smitty couldn't have thrown a better ballgame," Jordan said. "But at the same time, we were only winning 1-0. Anytime it's only one run, it makes a world of difference in this game. Obviously if it was a five-run game or a six-run game, then you can afford to give up one run. But when you're only up that one run, it's the tying run."
Bandits closer Ryan Searle came on in relief of Smith and threw three scoreless innings, allowing two hits, one walk, and striking out three. Justin Erasmus came out of the bullpen for one frame and took the loss, allowing one unearned run on one hit with one strikeout.
In the final game of the four-game set on Saturday, Brisbane will send Jimmy Schult to the mound for his second start of the season. The Bandits will hope that the native of New York can continue the success that he found in Round Six, but stretch it past the three-inning limit that he was held to in his first appearance.