Amongst the 2021/22 Australian Baseball League season's cancellation, teams from across the country have organised their own exhibition games. This past weekend, the Melbourne Aces hosted the Adelaide Giants in the second Melbourne Challenge, while the Canberra Cavalry travelled to Queensland to face the Brisbane Bandits.
ADELAIDE GIANTS V MELBOURNE ACES
GAME 1 - ACES 0 GIANTS 3
In the opening game of this second Melbourne Challenge series, it began as a pitching duel between Melbourne's Jeremy Young and Adelaide's Luke Wilkins.
At the top of the fourth, and with two out, the Giants started to find some momentum with Liam Bull, Max Stagg and Brodie Arriola each finding outfield grass to get on base. Arriola's hit into centre-right field allowed Bull to score the game's first run, giving the Giants a one-run lead going into the bottom half of the inning.
The Giants kept finding baserunners in scoring position in the fifth inning, but it wouldn't be until the sixth inning where they would double their lead.
With the bases loaded after Mitch Edwards singled into right field, Stagg singling into centrefield and a walk to Arriola, with one out, Griffin Weber's hit a shot along the ground to Darryl George at third base. While George bobbled the ball, he still got the force out at third base, but it hampered his ability to get Weber out at first to end the inning with a double play, therefore scoring Edwards.
Adelaide would score an insurance run in the ninth inning when Arriola scored on a pass ball, otherwise, it was a commanding night for the organisation's pitchers on the mound to keep Melbourne scoreless, and to just four hits overall.
Wilkins and Jordy Grose - who entered in the sixth inning -, together on the mound for the Giants, allowed two hits each, struck out 11 opposition batters and walked two overall. Young exited the game for the Aces following the Edwards run, to be replaced by Jarrod Turner (1.1 innings, zero hits) and Hayden Peoples (two innings), who closed out the game for the home side.
Eight players across the Giants' lineup recorded at least one hit, with it being a particularly dominant night for Stagg, who went four from four. Aiden Willis and Nick Bertucci each recorded two hits for the Aces.
GAME 2 - ACES 5 GIANTS 2
In the second game of the series between Melbourne and Adelaide, the long ball was the determining factor of the game, with each side finding the other side of the home run fence within the contest.
In a similar showing to the first game of the series the night before, no runs were scored by either team, this time across the first six innings of the encounter.
However, the Aces blew the game wide open in the seventh inning where they plated all five of their runs, starting with Ryan Dale, who made it to first on an error, rounded to third on a miscued pick-off attempt, and then scored on contact by George Callil.
Although the Aces drew first blood, Trent D'Antonio would make it an even larger buffer with a two-out grand slam, over the fence in right field. It scored Callil, Marcus Graham and Aiden Willis in the process, and saw the lead balloon out to five runs.
In reply, at the top of the eighth inning, Max Stagg brought Adelaide back into the game as it looked set to be a grandstand finish when he blasted a two-run home run into an almost-similar position to D'Antonio's. Stagg's two-out home run also scored Mitch Edwards who earned a base on balls earlier in the dig.
GAME 3 - ACES 4 GIANTS 4
The final contest of The Melbourne Challenge saw the game reduced to seven innings due to Adelaide's need to get back home that evening, and as a result, after that time, the game ended as a draw.
Dan McGrath went through two scoreless innings to start proceedings for the Aces, however, once he was taken out of the game and replaced by Angus Stals, that's when the Giants hit, scoring a four-run lead after four innings.
The Giants first got on the scoreboard in the third inning via Brodie Arriola, who made it home on a wild pitch from Stals, before Darcy Barry scored on a Jack Partington single, and then Partington crossed for the third run after a Rixon Wingove single.
The Giants would add another run to their tally in the fourth inning when Barry hit an RBI single to shortstop, which saw Max Stagg run from third to home to count as a run to his side's total.
Although Adelaide held a commendable lead, the back-to-back Claxton Shield champions weren't looking to go down without a fight, and in the fifth inning, the home side levelled the scores.
It started with Bronson Neave coming home on a Trent D'Antonio single, and with Aiden Willis and D'Antonio on base, and Darryl George at the plate, the batter connected well on a Tom Fitzgerald pitch, seeing the ball sail over the right field fence for a three-run shot.
In the closing stages, Josh Tols kept the Adelaide hitters at bay, striking out a few and not allowing any further runs, but at the same time, Melbourne couldn't find a winning run either, as the game drew to an end.
The Adelaide Giants will travel back home and prepare to come up against Team Australia Futures in a two-game showcase series at Dicolor Australia Stadium.The Melbourne Aces are yet to announce any potential further plans for exhibition games, although this recent series was its last at home for the summer.
CANBERRA CAVALRY V BRISBANE BANDITS
GAME 1 - BANDITS 4 CAVALRY 0
The Brisbane Bandits had three pitchers combine for a shutout win over the Canberra Cavalry in the first game of the series at Viticon Stadium with Tim Atherton the standout through seven innings.
Atherton threw seven innings, allowing just four hits and zero runs, with seven strikeouts as he was assisted late by Jackson Grounds and Joel Hogan in relief.
Frank Gailey tossed six innings for Canberra, also collecting seven strikeouts as Todd McDonald provided relief for the final two defensive innings for the side.
The Bandits had seven hits, each recorded by different players, and were perfect in the field, committing no errors. Will Baker had two RBIs for the home team.
Meanwhile, the Cavalry had a similar amount of hits (six), although couldn't translate the hits to runs although Kevin Jordan Jr and Logan Kingham each had multiple hit games.
GAME 2 - BANDITS 2 CAVALRY 0
Brisbane provided another shutout win in Game 2 of the series against Canberra, although the visiting side's defence was a lot better, with the pitcher's duel going down to the wire.
Brisbane found a baserunner when Nick Hawkins made it to first on an error from shortstop Kevin Jordan Jr, and Dermot Fritsch singled into centrefield to be a baserunner too.
Rory Spletter's shot up the third base line got underneath the glove of Jordan Young as Hawkins scored, and an attempted pick-off at first by Robbie Perkins saw the unsuspecting David Sutherland lose track of the ball, allowing Fritsch to score from third.
Canberra's starting pitcher, Steven Kent went six innings for two runs on three hits, and nine strikeouts. In comparison, Brisbane's Connor Laverty (five innings, four hits, zero runs, three strikeouts) and two innings in relief for Sam Holland helped guide their side to the series-clinching victory.
GAME 3 - BANDITS 1 CAVALRY 4
The Canberra Cavalry ensured it wouldn't go home without a win in the sunshine state, overcoming an early first-inning deficit to record a series-ending victory against the Brisbane Bandits.
The Bandits struck in the bottom of the first inning, as Dermot Fritsch was again involved in the side's scoring, hitting a single that flew by Kevin Jordan Jr at third base, allowing Donald Lutz to score the first run of the game - although, it would be the Bandits' only run of the game.
From there, it all the Cavalry on offence, replying quickly with two runs at the top of the second inning, helped by a two-run home run into centre-right field from Todd McDonald, also scoring Jordan Young who had recorded an infield single the at-bat prior.
The Cavalry made sure of the result with a two-run sixth inning, as, with the bases loaded, a Logan Kingham base on balls allowed David Sutherland to cross home plate, and later, a hard-hit shot up the middle into centrefield from Jordan Jr saw McDonald score before the Bandits got the remaining outs.
Jeremy Atkinson opened the pitching for the home team, ending his night after five innings, giving up two runs, but recording five strikeouts. Byron Humble finished the game on the mound for Brisbane, pitching the remaining two innings in relief.
The two teams will take part in a reverse fixture this weekend when the Canberra Cavalry welcomes the Brisbane Bandits to MIT Ballpark for a three-game series.