Sunday, February 8, 2015

Perth claims second consecutive Claxton Shield


For the fourth time in five seasons, Perth reigned supreme atop the pedestal of the Australian Baseball League. The Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat beat the Adelaide Bite, proudly presented by SA Power Networks, 12-5 in the third and final game of the ABL Championship Series, presented by ConocoPhillips, to take home the Claxton Shield for the second consecutive season.

The series victory had historical implications beyond Perth taking home its fourth title in the five-year existence of the new ABL. With the win, Western Australia moved into a second-place tie with South Australia on the all-time Claxton Shield premiership list. The victory also came one night after Perth leveled the championship series with a tenth-inning win.

"We're a bunch of fighters," Tim Kennelly said. "We've done that for years, so it was good to bounce back with that win."

Perth scored early and often in the ballgame, beginning from inning one. After Joey Wong walked to lead off the ballgame, Tim Kennelly lashed a two-run home run to left field to put the Heat ahead 2-0 before the Bite could record an out. Kennelly drove in three runs over the nine innings, and went 2-for-6 at the plate. Perth pulled away further in the next frame, putting up a four-spot on RBI doubles from Brian Pointer and Tim Kennelly, and a two-run home run off the bat of Tim Smith.

Despite trailing early, the Bite still showed sharp teeth as the contest wore on, clawing back for three runs in the bottom of the fourth frame. Tom Brice laced a one-out double to right field, and advanced to third on Dening's subsequent two-bagger. Craig Maddox then smashed a three-run bomb over the centrefield fence that scored Brice and Dening.

But Perth kept pouncing ahead, preceding Adelaide's three-run fourth with a three-run half-inning of its own, led by a two-run single by Allan de San Miguel, and another trifecta of runs crossed the plate in the top of the seventh inning. De San Miguel went 1-for-4 on the night. The veteran catcher earned the series Most Valuable Player award for his consistent production both at the plate and behind it in the three games, including the game-winning hit in the top of the tenth inning in Game 2.

"It's a pretty special moment for my career out here in Australia," de San Miguel said. "It's been a hell of a year. We've had our ups and downs and adversity, and to come through with that clutch hit last night and win tonight, it's a special moment."

Adelaide added another run in the bottom of the eighth inning, on a solo shot off the bat of Dening, who finished the game 4-for-4 with a double, a pair of home runs and three RBIs. The Bite also put two runners on with two outs in the bottom of the ninth before Perth moundminder Scott Mitchinson got Tom Brice to fly out to centre field to end the game.

"Perth got the job done tonight," Adelaide manager Brooke Knight said. "It's a shame to end on that note but take no credit away from our guys. They've fought and fought this season and their character as a group is undeniable."

After going 10-13 prior to the 17 Dec. All-Star Game, the Heat went 19-7 the remainder of the season, including the postseason.

"These guys have battled back from so much," Perth manager Steve Fish said. "It's an incredible feeling."

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