The Australian Baseball League Preliminary Final has been riding an offensive-powered script heading into the best-of-three series.
But Game 1 between the Brisbane Bandits, proudly presented by WellDog, and the SA Power Networks Adelaide Bite proved to be a different story, entering an old fashioned pitcher's dual en route to Brisbane's Game 1 win, 3-1.
Justin Erasmus and Max MacNabb were business right out of the gate, trading 1-2-3 innings early.
Erasmus was lights out for the Bandits, allowing just one run and one hit over 5.2 complete innings. The right-hander recorded five strikeouts in the Game 1 outing, lowering his ERA to an impressive 1.59.
With one runner on and two outs, Ryan Rowland-Smith relieved Erasmus of his duties for the left-handed matchup in Jordan Cowan. On Rowland-Smith's third pitch of the at-bat, Cowan blasted a deep triple to left field to score Jordan McArdle and plate the first run of the night.
Max MacNabb continued to deliver a solid outing on the Bite's side, throwing another scoreless inning through the seventh. The American dealt six strikeouts and allowed five hits over seven complete innings.
MacNabb's time was cut in the top-of-the-eighth, as Head Coach Steve Mintz called to his bullpen to replace MacNabb with Matt Williams, a change that quickly ignited the Bandits' offence.
In a complete change of pace, David Sutherland led off the eighth inning with a single to right field. Wade Dutton followed suit with a single off a bunt to advance Andrew Campbell (pinch runner) to second and give Aaron Whitefield a scoring opportunity with two runners on base and no outs.
Dutton continues to be a crucial element in this Bandits lineup, making the ninth spot in the order a serious threat. The second baseman was 2-for-3 with a run in Game 1.
In the ensuing at-bat, Whitefield dropped a picture-perfect sacrifice bunt, advancing both runners to second and third base. In the midst of play, Matt Williams overthrew the play at first base allowing Campbell to score and Whitefield to advance to second base, evening the game at one run apiece.
Cue the former big leaguer. With two runners on base and no outs, Trent Oeltjen delivered a double into short left field, plating Whitefield and Dutton to take the first lead of the game, 3-1.
Oeltjen was 2-for-4 with two RBI's Friday night, as the former Los Angeles Dodger is finding his groove at just the right time.
As expected, Head Coach Dave Nilsson called upon his veteran closer, Ryan Searle to seal Game 1 of the ABLPF. The right-hander recorded three strikeouts and two hits over two complete innings, sealing the Game 1 save. Zac Treece is credited with his first win of the season.
The Bandits and Bite meet in Brisbane for Game 2 of the ABLPF Saturday, the 4th of February at 6:00 p.m. AEST. Kramer Champlin has the Game 2 start for the Bandits as the Washington native faces 16-year old Jack O'Loughlin for a chance to secure a spot in the 2017 Australian Baseball League Championship Series.