Australian Baseball League – A couple of quick observations. First, the announcers remarked that the Perth Heat roster contains 4 members (3 active for the playoffs) of the the first family of baseball in Western Australia, the Kennelly family. You may remember that Tim Kennelly was in the Phillies system for 8 years (2005-12). The Phillies tried him at every position but shortstop. He’s currently playing right field and DH for the Heat.
And second, the venue for the championship series is Adelaide’s Norwood Oval. It has dirt cutouts like any artificial surface for the mound, catcher’s/batter’s boxes, and the bases. One of the announcers remarked about the condition of the “grass”. This piqued my interest and I had to google the Oval. It is also known as Coopers Stadium (Coopers Brewery sponsership) and is rented to the Norwood Football Club. It’s primary use is for Australian rules football, but is also use for a variety of other sporting events including soccer, rugby, American football, and baseball. it has a grass surface. An interesting twist for infielders – less certain bounces off grass but maybe a little less velocity on some ground balls.
Game 1: The Perth Heat took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the 7th inning. Thirteen pitches later, they trailed 3-2 after back-to-back-to-back home runs by the heart of the Adelaide Bite line up. That lead held up and the Bite took the first game in the three game series. Brian Pointer started in left field and went 1 for 3 with a walk and a strike out. He hit into a game ending double play with the tying run on third. The Australian announcers noted during the broadcast that Pointer led the Heat with 53 strike outs and stated that the number was twice as many as any other Heat player. This was a slight exaggeration. The next highest total on the team was 29 strike outs.
Game 2: The Heat evened the series with a 5-3, 10-inning victory. After Adelaide took an early lead on a first inning home run, Matt Kennelly and Brian Pointer hit back-to-back home runs to give Perth a 2-1 lead. The Heat added a run in the 7th inning to take 3-1 lead, but the Bite came back in the bottom of the 7th inning to tie the game. The frame started with their fifth solo home run of the series before they tied the game on back-to-back doubles. Pointer didn’t figure in any of the later scoring, but put together a respectable line – 1 for 1 with a run scored, run batted in, and 3 walks.
Game 3: “Pointer continues his torrid streak!”, said the Australian play-by-play announcer. This after describing Pointer as the “Hottest man, arguably, in the championship series”, then helping his color man down play his Saturday contribution of a HR and 3 walks, because “..walking the 9th hitter once is a cardinal sin, let alone 2-3 times…”. Pointer’s second inning double into the right field corner off a left-handed pitcher had just driven in Matt Kennelly with the game’s third run. One out later, he scored the game’s fourth run on a double by Tim Kennelly (they’re everywhere!). Perth went on to close out Adelaide 12-5 to win the ABL championship. Pointer didn’t figure into any of the later scoring but finished the game going 3 for 5 with a double, a run scored, RBI, and 2 strike outs.
Pointer’s combined stats for the championship series were 5 for 9, 2 R, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K. In 5 post-season games, Pointer went 8 for 16, 3 R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 5 BB, 4 K, and an OF assist.
The Caribbean Series – With Willians Astudillo left off the Venezuelan roster and Rene Garcia seeing no time in any of Puerto Rico’s 4 games, I only have Maikel Franco to report on, so I can do so in some depth.
- Dominican Republic 6, Cuba 2 – Franco played third base and batted third. He went 1 for 5 and stranded 4 runners.
- First inning, runners on first and second, no outs: called strike, ball in dirt, called strike, fly out to left fielder for first out.
- Third inning, leading off: foul ball, foul ball, fly out to left fielder for first out.
- Fifth inning, nobody on, two outs: ball, line drive single to right field.
- Sixth inning, runner on first, two outs, 4 runs in: foul, pop out to shortstop to end the inning.
- Eighth inning, runner on first, two outs: called strike, ball in dirt, ball, ground ball to third baseman, force out at second to end the inning.
- Dominican Republic 5, Venezuela 6 – All eleven runs were scored in the first two innings. Franco played third base and batted third. He went 0 for 5 with 3 strike outs and stranded 8 runners.
- First inning, runners on first and third, no outs: called strike, pick off attempt, ball, foul, pick off attempt, foul, strike out swinging on a pitch in the dirt for the first out.
- Second inning, runner on third, one out, 3 runs in, pitching change: Called strike, called strike, strike out on called third strike for the second out.
- Fourth inning, runners on second and third, two out, pitching change: swinging strike, ball in dirt, swinging strike, strike out on called third strike to end the inning.
- Sixth inning, runner on third, two out, pitching change: ball, hard ground out to shortstop to end the inning.
- Eighth inning, runners on first and second, two out: ball in dirt, foul, ground out pitcher to first to end the inning.
- Dominican Republic 3, Mexico 2 – Dominicana score a run in the 8th and two in the 9th to overcome Mexico’s early lead and walk-off with the win. Mexico commited 6 errors in the game. Franco played first and batted third. He went 0 for 5 with 2 strike outs and stranded 6 runners.
- First inning, runner on third, one out: ball, ball in dirt, swinging strike, ball, pop out to second baseman, two out.
- Third inning, nobody on, one out: ball, swinging strike, ball, fly out to center fielder, two out.
- Fifth inning, runners on second and third, two out: called strike, swinging strike, strike out swinging to end the inning. (Note: the previous two batters had also struck out after the runners advanced on an errant pickoff attempt at second.)
- Eighth inning, runner on first, nobody out: ball, ball, foul, pick off attempt, called strike, reaches base on a fielding error by the third baseman, two on nobody out. (This could have been scored a hit, Franco topped it down the line and the defender had to charge to make a play. As slow as Franco is reputed to be, I think his reputation cost him a hit here.)
- Ninth inning, runners on first and third, one out, tying run already scored: ball, foul, ball, foul, ball, strike out swinging as runner steals second on the 3-2 pitch.
- Dominican Republic 2, Puerto Rico 3 – Dominicana had clinched home team for the 2 vs. 3 game by virtue of their win over Mexico, and Puerto Rico had been eliminated because of their heads-up loss to Cuba. Puerto Rico was the winless host team against an opponent who had nothing to gain with a win. The result was not a surprise. Franco played third and batted sixth. He went 2 for 4 with a home run, RBI single, run scored, and 2 game-tying RBIs. He struck out once and stranded one base runner.
- Second inning, nobody on, one out: first-pitch pop up to first baseman in foul territory.
- Fifth inning, nobody on, one out: first pitch home run 6 rows deep into the left field bleachers on a 91 mph fastball that sunk late into his happy zone and he connected.
- Seventh inning, runner on second, two out, pitching change: ball, ball in dirt, called strike, called strike, strike out on called third strike to end the inning.
- Ninth inning, runner on second, two out: runner balked over to third before first pitch, first pitch game-tying, RBI, soft single to left field. He successfully stole second during the next at bat.
Final Standings after the round robin games –
- Venezuela 4 0
- Dom. Rep. 2 2
- Mexico 2 2
- Cuba 1 3
- Puerto Rico 1 3
- Dominican Republic 4, Mexico 5 – Franco played first and batted third. He went 2 for 4 with a single, double and stranded 2 runners. Dominicana fell behind 5-0 before mounting a comeback that fell a run short. Trailing by two runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Gigantes put the tying runs on second and third with nobody out. A ground out to the right side, closed the gap to one and put the tying run on third (with Franco only 3 batters away.) The game ended with Franco in the on deck circle.
- First inning, runner on first, one out: foul, ground ball to second baseman, double play (second to short to first) to end the inning.
- Fourth inning, leading off: hard hit, first-pitch double to center field. He was stranded at second. (I have read countless reports about Franco’s arm bar swing and how it will affect his ability to adjust to pitches during his swing. On this pitch, he was able to make a noticeable adjustment. As the ball moved in on him, he cleared his front shoulder, got the barrel of the bat on the ball, and was able to generate enough force to drive the ball where the center fielder couldn’t catch up to it. Not bad for ABS.)
- Sixth inning, runner on first, one out: after a pickoff attempt, first-pitch pop to shallow center that the second baseman caught over his shoulder with his back to the infield for the second out.
- Eighth inning, runner on first, one out, pitching change: called strike, ball, foul, sharply hit ground single through the hole on the left side for a single. (I noticed on more than one occasion that Franco is not above exhorting his less demonstrative teammates. It’s nice to see that type of leadership skill in a young player.)
Franco rebounded from a slow start (1 for 16, .063) to finish 5 for 23 (.217). He scored a run, had 2 RBIs (both game-tying), a home run and a double. He stranded 21 runners, had 0 walks, and struck out 6 times.
I have two obserations. First, It seems that when Franco experiences any sort of string of bad outcomes at the plate, he pulls himself out of the funk by attacking pitches early in the count. Second, it seemed there was a high frequency of pitching changes before Franco came to bat. In one game, it looked like it was the game plan to disrupt Franco at the plate whenever possible. Against Venezuela, he faced five different pitchers, three pitching changes occured prior to his at bats. On two other occasions pitching changes were made before his at bats. Small sample, I know, but both of the above statements were easy to notice.