MELBOURNE - The Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat are at their best when runs come in bunches. The last two days, they've come in heaps.
Perth withstood a ninth-inning rally by the Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces that sent their Sunday finale to extra innings, pulling away for the win and a series split with a two-run top of the tenth in a 13-11 victory at a windy Melbourne Ballpark.
The Heat appeared to have control from the first moments of Sunday's game. With the aid of two players hit by pitches and two walks, Perth scored five times in the opening dig against Melbourne starter Adam Bright, who didn't record an out on his day.
After Melbourne reclaimed a run in the bottom of the first, the Heat rebuilt their five-run cushion on Luke Hughes's first homer of the season in the top of the third. The Aces, however, refused to go away. In the bottom of the third, Melbourne thrust themselves back into the series finale with a four-run rally helped by two Perth errors. Jared Schlehuber singled to bring in two runs in the inning and help cut the deficit to 6-5.
Following an Aces run to draw even in the fourth, relievers from both sides battled until the game's latter third when it appeared Perth had seized control again. With a run in the sixth and four more in the seventh, the Heat regained a five-run advantage at 11-6. Melbourne pitcher Justin Erasmus, called upon in a tough spot in the first, was brilliant in relief, allowing just two runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings. When he tired, though, the Heat got after Andrew Russell for four more tallies.
Once more, the home team mounted a charge pushed along by the visitors' miscues. Justin Trapp singled home a run in the eighth, and the Aces brought in four more to tie the game in the ninth. Brad Harman, Jared Schlehuber, and Ryan Casteel each batted in runs. Two came across to tie the game at 11-11 on a ball off the bat of Casteel that resulted in an out at second base but a crucial throwing error in an attempt to turn what would've been a game-ending double play.
The Heat got out of the jam with the tying run on the basepaths in the ninth, though, and didn't waste time retaking the lead in the tenth. Brandon Tripp followed Tim Kennelly's one-out single with a two-run homer, his seventh of the season, off Eric Marzec (L, 0-2_ to gain a 13-11 advantage.
Cameron Lamb (W, 2-0), who had entered in relief of Brendan Wise during the tense bottom half of the ninth, worked a drama-free tenth, retiring the Aces in order for the save.
Melbourne could've matched Canberra for second place on the ladder with a win. Instead, the win earned Perth a split of this four-game set and actually gained the Heat yet another game in the standings due to the Cavalry's loss. Perth, now three games up on their next-closest competition on the league ladder, are back home at Barbagallo Ballpark in Round 11 to host the Bandits while the Aces will travel to Adelaide.