If Game 1 between the Brisbane Bandits, proudly presented by WellDog, and the Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces is any indication of the next three matchups in Melbourne, ABL fans are in for one exciting ride.
The Aces continue to prove they are the team to beat in the ABL, and tonight was no different.
With the game tied at three apiece, the Bandits' coaching staff called on long-time closer Ryan Searle to send Game 1 into extra innings. With one out, James Beresford drove a single up the middle to put the winning run on base. Beresford then advanced on a wild pitch to second base to put the Aces in scoring position. With Roman Collins at the dish, Searle chose to intentionally walk the right fielder to face Mike Walker. Walker was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts at the time.
On a 2-1 count, Walker delivered a line drive walk-off to right field scoring Beresford to win the game, 4-3. Searle's loss brings his overall record to 1-2, allowing two hits and a run in 0.1 innings pitched.
Despite the dramatic Game 1 loss, 2017 welcomed a lot of changes on the Brisbane Bandits roster. Trent Oeltjen and Ryan-Rowland Smith suited up with the Bandits for the first time in their respective careers, Jake Ezell threw his first career start with the Bandits and hometown favorite, Andrew "Soupy" Campbell, returned to the diamond for the first time since late November.
Brisbane picked up right where they left off on New Years Eve, recording another double-digit outing at the dish with 12 hits.
The Bandits struck early, slating two runs across the plate in the top-of-the-first.
Donald Lutz secured the first RBI of the night, driving in Aaron Whitefield on a single to right field.
Whitefield continues to dominate across the leaderboards. The center fielder was 3-for-5 with a run in Game 1, bringing his batting average to an impressive .344.
Kevin Padlo followed suit with a line drive single to left field, loading the bases.
Padlo was 2-for-5 with a run in Thursday's outing,
It was time to cue the former big leaguer as Oeltjen announced his presence in a Bandits uniform by driving a sacrifice fly to left field to score Logan Wade.
The Bandits recorded another run in the top-of-the-third, but that was all they would drive across the plate in Game 1, stranding ten runners over the course of the night much to the efforts of the Aces' Mark Hamburger.
Hamburger recorded 13 strikeouts, three runs and ten hits over eight complete innings.
Throughout the better portion of the game, Bandits' right-hander, Zac Treece, mirrored an impressive outing of his own.
Treece relieved Jake Ezell of his duties in the top-of-the-third, stretching over five complete innings. Treece dealt six strikeouts and allowed just four hits and two runs Thursday night.
The Bandits and Aces are back in action Friday, the 6th of January, at 6:00 p.m. AEST. Left-hander Rick Teasley has the Game 2 start. Fans can follow along with the coverage on ABLtv.