The Brisbane Bandits have faced plenty of tough pitching already this Australian Baseball League season with teams like the Perth Heat and the Adelaide Bite deep enough on their staffs to have aces starting Game Fours.
Last week in Perth, Brisbane faced the Heat's Daniel Schmidt, one of the league's top pitchers. To finish Round Seven of the ABL, brought to you by 'Be the Influence: Tackling Binge Drinking', the Bandits stepped up to the plate against Adelaide's Dushan Ruzic.
It didn't go well, and the Bite beat Brisbane 6-1 to split the four-game set at the RNA Showgrounds. Adelaide's deceptive right-handed starter is a hurler who was named as one of the toughest guys to face in the ABL by big leaguer and Perth native Luke Hughes. The Bandits might be in a position to agree.
"There's one guy that I hate facing and I shouldn't tell him because he'd love it," Hughes said during the off-season. "It's Dushan Ruzic from South Australia. I don't know what it is. I think it's because he's just crazy. He's just nuts. You never know where the ball's going to go. He just uncorks one every now and then."
Brisbane couldn't get much going against Ruzic (1-2) on Saturday as he earned his first win of the season with six innings of one-run ball, allowing just four hits, walking four and striking out five.
"He was on," Bandits manager Kevin Jordan said. "It was funny because we've played a couple of teams now where they've taken their aces from last year, like how Schmidt was [Perth's] fourth-game starter and Ruzic was their fourth-game starter; these guys are aces on most clubs. It always makes it difficult when in the fourth game you're facing an ace, which Ruzic is."
Logan Wade notched the lone RBI for Brisbane in a two-hit day for the third baseman. Catcher Cody Clark had a three-hit game with a trio of singles, pulling him further into the team lead in most statistical hitting categories.
Jimmy Schult took the hill for the Bandits and suffered his first loss of the season in a quality outing. The native of Wappingers Falls, New York went 5 1/3 innings in his second appearance and allowed two runs on four hits, walking two and striking out five. The only blemish on his pitching line was a two-run shot by Bite first baseman Ji-Man Choi in the fourth.
"He threw real well," Jordan said. "He gave up the two-run home run to Choi, it looked like on a knuckleball, but he pounds the zone. He is definitely improving."
Not only is the right-hander improving, but he is beginning to become more acclimated to the league down under and he is starting to find familiarity around the field and in the clubhouse.
"He still hasn't faced a couple of the other teams," Jordan said. "Obviously they haven't seen him, nor he them. I think that with him probably the biggest thing initially is just getting comfortable with your teammates and kind of finding out where your place is, so to speak. He jumped in real well with the guys."
Following the matchup, six of the Brisbane Bandits took off for Melbourne in order to suit up in the 2012 ConocoPhillips ABL All-Star game on Sunday. Clark, Hirotoshi Onaka and Chris Smith will play for Team World and Josh Roberts, Ryan Searle and Ryan Battaglia will don the green and gold for Team Australia.
"I want all my players to do well," Jordan said. "Just like last year when [Bandits ace Alex] Maestri went down there and threw well; Josh [Roberts] homered. I love to see our Bandits players go there and do well for themselves and their families and the organisation."