SYDNEY - If the sequel is anywhere near as good as the original, Austrlaian Baseball League fans are in for a treat this week.
The Canberra Cavalry, driven by Rolfe Renault, will get their wish. An ABL Championship Series rematch with the Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat is on the horizon after Canberra rallied from a Friday night loss to claim their ABL Preliminary Final series with a 9-1 rout of the Sydney Blue Sox on Sunday evening at Blue Sox Stadium.
It all spun away from the Blue Sox quickly on Sunday. Sydney, a perennial power once more just one game away from the franchise's first Championship Series berth, saw starter Vaughan Harris match Canberra starter Steven Chambers stride for stride through five innings. Everything unraveled in the sixth as the Cavalry came alive.
Canberra have been counted out in many instances over the last year. The upstart team from the capital was presumed to be heavy underdogs in their eventual ABL Championship Series sweep of the Heat last season. They weren't expected to compete in November's Asia Series before stunning the baseball world by returning to Australia with that tournament's trophy. Seemingly left for dead just weeks ago in the ABL playoff race, the league's champions returned to the Postseason having lost 13 of their final 18 games in the regular season.
It didn't matter once more for the Cavs.
Everything changed in the top of the sixth inning. Ben Warner led off with a single up the middle, and when Casey Frawley rapped what appeared to be a surefire double-play ball to Zach Shepherd, the Sydney shortstop was unable to handle it, allowing Warner to advance and Frawley to reach. Jeremy Barnes followed with a single to score the game's first runs. Warner crossed on the hit, and Frawley came home on another error charged to Sydney's Mitch Dening, giving Canberra a 2-0 advantage. Jack Murphy singled home Barnes to extend the lead to 3-0 and end Harris's day.
As Canberra got into the Sydney bullpen, the onslaught continued. Mike Crouse greeted relief pitcher Wayne Lundgren with a single to put runners at the corners, and Mike Wells added a single behind him to make it a 4-0 lead. Finally, with two outs, Sydney committed their third error of the inning to allow Crouse to score and make it a 5-0 game. The shell-shocked Blue Sox never recovered.
Of the four runs Harris (L, 0-1) allowed over his five-plus innings, only three went charged as earned. Chambers (W, 1-0) pitched through the sixth, allowing Sydney's lone tally on a Trent Oeltjen RBI single in the bottom of his final dig. The Sox never challenged from there,
Canberra added a run in the seventh and three in the eighth to put the game firmly out of reach. Sydney committed their fourth error of the game in the eighth inning-their second straight game and loss with four errors-which aided the Cavalry's charge in that dig. Clint Everts (S, 1) did the rest of the work on the mound for the capital's side, striking out five over three perfect innings of relief.
The Cavalry, who took home the league's wooden spoon in their first two years of existence, will now get an opportunity to defend their Claxton Shield against the powerful Heat on WA soil. Perth, who went 7-4 against the Cavalry in the regular season, await their challengers at Barbagallo Ballpark. The best-of-three Be the Influence 204 ABL Championship Series presented by ConocoPhillips begins Friday from 7 PM AWST.