Convincingly blanking Adelaide in the Friday night opener, the Aces backed up with a narrow win in the first of the Saturday double-header and an extra-innings thriller that delivered a third consecutive success before capping off the series with a resounding result in the Sunday finale – just the club’s second sweep in the history of the new league.
The four-game winning streak has propelled the Aces into third placing behind Canberra and Perth and it comes as a result of belligerent offence, quality pitching and consistently solid defence that has often bordered on the mercurial.
“We are really starting to gel as a team,” Melbourne Aces Hitting Coach Phil Allen told Baseball Victoria.
“Offensively we were terrific this weekend. The guys have showed real strength of character and have been playing unselfish baseball,” he said.
“Casteel, Harman and Schlehuber have been smashing the ball, although everyone has been contributing with situational hitting and moving the runners across.”
“Our pitching has been great,” Allen said. “We saw some outstanding starts this weekend and the series was really capped off by young Lewis Thorpe in the last game. He was a bit shaky last time, but was very impressive this week – touching 93 mph and still up around 89-90 in the seventh.”
“Eric Marzec has added another dimension to our pitching options. He is a real competitor.”
“There’s plenty of baseball still to come in the season, but we’re certainly happy with how this series worked out,” Allen said.
“Things are going along nicely.”
GAME ONE: MELBOURNE ACES 7 defeated ADELAIDE BITE 0
Well-performed Aces southpaw Joe Burns took the start against David Holman - who threw a pearler at the ballpark a fortnight ago – in what shaped as a pitching duel.
Starting aggressively, the Aces put up a five-spot in the bottom of three, with catcher Ryan Casteel doing the bulk of the damage with a three-run bomb after Justin Trapp tripled and Brad Harman doubled.
When Scott Wearne singled in the bottom of four it was curtains for Holman and he was relieved by veteran Darren Fidge, who applied the clamps until running out of steam in the seventh – when the Aces mounted a two-out challenge that gleaned another two runs for the home club.
Scattering three hits over six, Burns gave his side another superb start before first-gamer Eric Marzec, Andrew Russell and Yasuhiro Tanaka blew out the cobwebs with an innings of work each that was capped by an infield double to ice the game.
A comprehensive all-round win by a Melbourne Aces outfit that hit the ball hard in amassing twelve hits to four, led by Casteel’s outstanding three hits for four RBIs as his side continues to gather momentum.
GAME TWO: MELBOURNE ACES 3 defeated ADELAIDE BITE 0
It was an abbreviated first of the Saturday doubleheader, decided in seven innings in just over an hour and a half while producing another stunning display by the home club.
Starter John Hussey spun a mesmeric stint for the Aces to scatter five hits with one walk into the seventh, when a potentially threatening situation drew Brent Zawacki from the pen to snuff out the challenge with two strikeouts and a fly ball.
Hussey (below) threw just sixty-nine pitches in setting up the win, which kept the visiting Bite scoreless over two games played.
While Fu-Te Ni and Min-Sih Chen were solid for the visitors, Ryan Casteel again showed the way for the Aces by clubbing a solo home run in the fifth before an Adelaide throwing error was instrumental in enabling another two to cross the plate in the bottom of the sixth as the home club made the most of its scoring opportunities in a high-standard game.
The game was a milestone for Geelong baseball identity Michael Lyons, who was at the centre of the action in plating his first game at Australian Baseball League level. Well done, Michael. May there be many more.
GAME THREE: MELBOURNE ACES 5 defeated ADELAIDE BITE 4
Looking to take a series lead, Melbourne Aces traded scoring blows against Adelaide through the first two innings, with Freddy Flores matched on the hill beside Blake Holovach.
After Adelaide edged ahead in the top of four, the Aces took the lead when catcher Komei Fujisawa lined a two-out triple to score Scott Wearne and Ben Leslie.
Using Trevor Holder in short relief, the Aces went to Corey Kimes, who allowed a couple of runners on base in the seventh, drawing sidewinder Andrew Russell to the fray as the Bite played small ball to effectively force the tying run across the plate.
Giving his club great service towards the end, Justin Erasmus – who earned the win - held Adelaide at bay by picking off a runner at second base in the tenth, and neither side was able to break the deadlock until the bottom of eleven, when Tyler Massey stroked his third knock for the game to score Justin Trapp after the outfielder was walked and advanced on a Brad Harman sacrifice bunt.
Its win delivered Melbourne (8-9) a one-game break over the Bite on ABL standings as the Aces continued to surge.
GAME FOUR: MELBOURNE ACES 4 defeated ADELAIDE BITE 1
Melbourne completed the sweep with another stunning win over the visiting Bite, which was strangled to the tune of just five runs over four games – testament to the dominance of the Aces pitching staff.
Eighteen year-old Lewis Thorpe was untouchable over seven scoreless innings that saw him face just twenty-two hitters – for eight strike outs and the solitary hit – before handing the pill to Eric Marzec to close out the game.
Between them, Thorpe and Marzec conceded just four hits and no passes in striking out eleven, with the Bite plating its solitary run in the top of nine.
Enjoying a remarkable run with the stick, Jared Schlehuber smashed a three-run bomb in the third to set the Bite on their heels, although he had great offensive support from the likes of Brad Harman (two doubles) and Josh Davies (two hits) as the Aces played impeccable defence against a visiting club that was comprehensively outplayed over what may be a pivotal ABL series.
ABL STANDINGS: Canberra (12-7), Perth (12-7), Melbourne (9-9), Sydney (9-9), Adelaide (7-11), Brisbane (6-12)
Now well in touch with the leaders, Melbourne Aces will head north next week for a four-game set against Brisbane Bandits starting at Holloway Field on Friday night. The final round before the Christmas break will be a pivotal four-game set against Sydney Blue Sox starting at Melbourne Ballpark on Friday 20 December.