BRISBANE - In need of some of their requisite magic, the Canberra Cavalry driven by Rolfe Renault came through during the first game of a crucial Saturday doubleheader at Holloway Field.
Jeremy Barnes singled home two runs in the top of the third inning, and the league's reigning champions needed no more, holding on for a 2-1 win in the opener of a day-night twinbill in Brisbane.
Winners of the 2013 Claxton Shield and Asia Series, the Cavalry are in an unfamiliar position entering the final days of the regular season, not in control of their own destiny for ABL Postseason play. Saturday, they found themselves down early. David Sutherland reached on a bunt single in the bottom of the first, scoring Josh Roberts and giving the Bandits a 1-0 lead.
Cavalry starter Ethan Cole found his stride, though. Working around four walks, Cole (W, 5-5) held the line with the lead, allowing just that first-inning tally on four hits over 6 2/3 innings.
Brisbane's Andrew Aizenstadt was nearly as good. Through five, Aizenstadt (L, 2-4) walked four, struck out three, and surrendered two runs on seven hits.
Cole pitched to within an out of the complete game, but it was Sean Toler who closed out the victory. Toler (S, 10) induced a a flyout from Roberts to end the scheduled seven-inning affair, a makeup of Thursday night's rainout.
Brisbane Bandits 3, Canberra Cavalry, driven by Rolfe Renault 2 - Round 13, Game 3
BRISBANE - The Brisbane Bandits aren't ticketed for Postseason play in 2013/14, but that doesn't mean they'll make it easy for Canberra to defend their Claxton Shield title.
Justin O'Conner broke a late 2-2 tie with a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth as the Bandits prevented Canberra from sweeping Saturday's doubleheader and moving alone into third place on the league ladder with a 3-2 home team win at Holloway Field.
Brisbane trailed 1-0 into the bottom of the sixth, led 2-1 after that dig, and saw the Cavalry pull even in the top of the seventh. Starting pitchers Clint Everts of the Cavalry and Brisbane's Ryan Searle both turned in quality outings. Everts went five innings, striking out eight and surrendering two runs on seven hits. Searle lasted through the sixth, but neither of the runs he allowed went charged as earned. Saturday's finale would go to the bullpens.
Eric Massingham (L, 4-2) allowed the decisive O'Conner blast in the eighth. O'Conner cranked the eventual game-winning jack on the fourth pitch of the dig, and the Bandits held on for the win. Matt Bates (W, 1-1) earned the victory with two innings of relief, despite allowing one inherited run. Rhys Niit (S, 1) closed out the victory by retiring the Cavalry in order in the top of the ninth.
The Bandits win prevented the Cavalry from seizing the inside track to the league's final playoff berth. Canberra now find themselves in a three-way tie with the Bite and Aces for third place. Canberra hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Melbourne but Adelaide hold the same over Canberra. The Bite would win a three-way tiebreaker among the teams
Canberra and Brisbane will duel in the final game of their regular seasons Sunday from 11 AM AEST.