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Crouse bat keeps Aces playoff dream alive
01/18/2018 7:27 PM ET

There are two ways for non-national players on an ABL roster to endear themselves to their new adopted home fans each season and on Thursday night, Michael Crouse did both.

With just a one game buffer between themselves and the fifth placed Sydney Blue Sox, this weekend's four game series against the last placed Adelaide Bite represents an opportunity for the Melbourne Aces to wrap up their spot in this season's ABL playoffs.

In the context of the 2017/18 season, the stakes could not be higher for the Aces.

A second half inclusion for the Aces, Crouse was hitting a respectable .289 in his 13 previous appearances which had included three long balls and eight RBIs. On paper, his production has been solid and perhaps more importantly, Crouse had twice come up big in situations when the Aces desperately needed him.

During Thursday night's game 1 match-up against the Bite, Crouse reminded us exactly of his ability to produce in clutch moments.

Finding themselves trailing 3-1 after the Bite half of the fifth, the Aces managed to single home a run to cut the margin to one and with two out and the bases juiced, Crouse would ignite the Atlona Crouse and simultaneously keep the Aces playoff hopes alive with monster grand slam.



(Special cameo from Aces member Stuart Capel in the front row who looked like he knew that one was out as soon as it left the bat)

The home run would be Crouse's fourth in just 14 games and his 12th RBI and continuing to put up big numbers is certainly one way to endear yourselves to fans. It would be the moment that made the headlines but I want to take you back to something that happened in the second inning…

Leading off for the Aces in the second and with the temperate still north of 38, Crouse got beat on a breaking pitch and hit a chopper to short. It would have been an easy one to give up on, but exploding out of the box, Crouse ran one of the hardest nineties he has in his entire career and beat the throw for an infield single to give the Aces their first base runner of the night. A couple of pitches later and after a fielder's choice from Craig Maddox, Crouse would find himself in scoring position at third.

With de San Miguel in the box, a wild pitch that just barely got away Adelaide catcher Bas Nooij was enough of a window for Crouse to try for home. His head went down, his arms started to pump and by the time he realised the ball probably hadn't gotten as far away from Nooij as he'd first thought, he was half way down the line and past the point of no return.

This was the moment that Crouse showed something else.

Keeping in mind that the Canadian national is only 13 games into his time with the Aces and the fact that the team had gone a combined 3-10 in that time, it would be easy to simply be going through the motions at this point and to be using his short stint in the ABL as a means to get ready for another season in the USA… But not Michael Crouse.

With the ball on Nooij's glove and the 6'4'' outfielder barrelling towards the plate, an ever so slight moment of hesitation between the Bite stopper and starting pitcher Mosel was all Crouse needed as he careened head-first into the plate to score the game's first run.

That absolute desire to win and given the smallest opportunity, do something positive for your team, is something you have to want. You can't teach that sort of hunger and you certainly cannot measure it and it's those unmeasurable things that make the good players, great.

I've no doubt that when Jon Deeble made the decision to bring Michael Crouse out he knew more about him than what he could find in box scores and stats lines across his career, but in that moment, Deeble surely knew he'd found something in Crouse that has perhaps been lacking for the Aces all season.

With three games still remaining against the Bite each one only grows in importance with every additional win daring Aces fans to dream a little bit… We couldn't… Could we?

Matt Larkins will take the ball in tonight's game 2 as the Aces look to move one step closer to clinching that fourth playoff spot. The first pitch is scheduled for 7.00pm with a cool change expected to hit Altona at 6.30pm.

Tickets available here.

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.