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Weekend sweep leads Sydney into first-place tie
Atherton moves to third place in league ERA race
01/14/2013 1:50 AM ET
Tim Atherton moved into third place among ABL ERA leaders.
Tim Atherton moved into third place among ABL ERA leaders. (Joe Vella / SMP Images)
SYDNEY, 13 January - Behind a dominant outing from Tim Atherton and a three-run sixth inning, the Sydney Blue Sox (22-16) completed the four-game sweep of the Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces (13-25) with a 4-1 win Sunday afternoon at Blacktown International Sportspark.

The Sydney win, paired with the Canberra Cavalry driven by Rolfe Renault loss, catapults Sydney in to a two-way tie for first place with the Cavalry, setting up a critical matchup when Sydney visits Canberra next weekend with only eight games remaining.

Atherton (2-1) picked up the win, turning in a brilliant outing. The Minnesota Twins farmhand tossed seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits while striking out four. A three-run sixth inning was enough for the Sox pitching staff, as a combination of Luke Wilkins, Dae-Sung Koo and Matt Williams shut the door for the Sox. Williams earned his league-leading 15th save in as many chances, and his third in three nights, with a perfect ninth inning.

"I thought Atherton was very good again, but the most pleasing aspect was that we played a clean defensive game," Blue Sox manager Jason Pospishil said. "It was a fantastic achievement to sweep the series but we're not getting ahead of ourselves. We know there's still eight games left and a long way to go."

In the sixth inning, with Geoff Klein on third base and Shane Benson on first, Boss Moanaroa hit a sacrifice fly to centre field to score Klein and tie the game at one. Trent D'Antonio followed up with a single down the left field line, scoring Benson all the way from first base on an error from left fielder Ben Leslie. On the play, D'Antonio went all the way to third, enabling him to score on JD Williams' two-out RBI-single to right field to put the Blue Sox ahead 3-1.

In the bottom of the eighth, Sydney tacked on an insurance run. Chris Snelling led off with a single, moved to second base on a throwing error, and later scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of D'Antonio to close the scoring at 4-1.

Melbourne got on the board first, striking with a run in the first inning. Carlo Testa led off with a single before the next batter, Brad Harman, doubled to left field, putting runners on second and third with only one out. Then Justin Huber lifted a sacrifice fly to centre field, scoring Testa and giving the visitors a 1-0 advantage.

The Blue Sox had perhaps their most balanced offensive attack of the year, as six players had two-hit days in the 13-hit outburst. Moanaroa, D'Antonio and Williams collected the RBIs, while Mitch Dening became the first player in Sydney's history with 100-career hits.

Adam Blackley (1-4) suffered the loss for Melbourne, allowing three runs (two earned) on 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Heading in to the final eight games of the season, the Blue Sox are a combined .500 against all league competition except for the Aces, who they defeated in the season-series 7-1.

The Blue Sox are back in action on Thursday, 17 January when they travel down the Hume Highway for their most important series of the season against Canberra. The four-game series kicks off at Narrabundah Ballpark at 7:00 p.m.

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