In an attempt to secure Game 1 of the 2017 Australian Baseball League Championship, the Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces threw their most consistent arm in Mark Hamburger. The move proved to be a costly one, as the Brisbane Bandits, proudly presented by WellDog, maintained their postseason power, recording ten hits en route to the Game 1 win, 6-2.
Aaron Whitefield led off Game 1 with a single to right field, breaking his bat and giving Trent Oeltjen a base runner with no outs in the top-of-the-first. In big league fashion, Oeltjen ripped a two-run home run over the right field wall, allowing the Bandits to strike first with an early, 2-0 lead.
The reigning champs punched again in the top-of-the-second, scoring Kevin Padlo from third base off the glove of Aces' shortstop Brad Harman.
But the Aces had an answer.
In the bottom-of-the-second, Mike Walker gave the Aces a runner in scoring position with a leadoff double. Two at-bats later, Jared Cruz drove in Walker to plate the first Aces' run of the game. Cody Jones fed off the momentum in the second inning, scoring Cruz off a deep single to left field to put the Aces within one run, 3-2.
But to the Aces' dismay, the second inning was the beginning and the end for Melbourne's offensive attack, as Head Coach Dave Nilsson called upon six Bandits' hurlers to complete the job at Melbourne Ballpark; a tactic showcasing an impressive night of managing by the former Milwaukee Brewer.
Rick Teasley accounted for the most time on the mound Friday night, throwing 2.2 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and dealing one strikeout, earning the Game 1 win.
David Rodriguez padded the Bandits' lead in the top-of-the-third, blasting a solo home run over the right field wall. Rodriguez continues to dominate the opposition into the postseason. The Tampa Bay Rays prospect extended his hitting streak to a remarkable 23 games as the catcher was 1-for-4 with an RBI in Game 1 of the ABLCS.
Brisbane's pitching staff was dealt a bit of cushion in the top-of-the-eighth inning with back-to-back solo shots at the hands of Logan Wade and Kevin Padlo.
Wade was sensational in Game 1, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Padlo was much of the same Saturday night as the third baseman was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI.
With the Bandits' massive showing in Game 1, Hamburger dropped his first loss of the season, allowing six runs and ten hits over eight complete innings.
Nilsson couldn't be more pleased with his club's performance Friday night.
"Obviously a big win, the boys came out swinging the bats really well and our pitching did a great job. Everyone contributed and had some really big outs. It was a tough game, Hamburger is tough, but as we've been doing the last few weeks, we're just playing really well and swinging the bats well," Nilsson said.
The Bandits and Aces are back at Melbourne Ballpark for Game 2 of the ABLCS Saturday, the 11th, as the Aces are cornered into a must-win situation to keep the series afloat.
By using Justin Erasmus in just 2.1 innings in Game 1, the starter will be available for further use out of the bullpen this series.
"Everyone is going to be available in Game 3, but we aren't there yet. It's just one inning at a time tomorrow," Nilsson said.
Kramer Champlin has the 5:30 p.m. AEST start as the Bandits look to secure their second-straight Claxton Shield title.