Phoenix, ARIZONA - Team Australia's 11-9 victory over Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners this evening at Peoria Sports Complex penned the perfect start to what is hoped to be a storybook script for the aussies' World Baseball Classic campaign.
Almost 4,000 Seattle fans attended the Mariner's Spring Training facility this evening to welcome the club's newest recruit, MLB legend Ken Griffey Junior, as he 'swung the bat' for the first time this season . A visibly excited Mariners crowd cheered for the Major League veteran in his two at-bats, and despite Griffey Jr's early departure from the game in the second dig, the raucous crowd were kept on the edge of their seats as the Australian's treated them to an intense 9-innings, 3 hours and 19 minutes of world class baseball.
The home side swung the bat early on in the game, placing three runs on the board in the first two innings, when Betancourt crossed the plate off an RBI from Adrian Beltre in the first, and a Mike Morse RBI double brought Clement home and a Ronny Cedeno RBI single batted Morse in for the home team.
The Aussie upset commenced in the top of the third dig, when they sent balls flying and chins wagging, displaying crafty batting skills that saw four players score; including Beresford, Hughes, Huber and Risinger.
Now in the lead 4-3, the aussies replaced starter Travis Blackley with Craig Anderson, an outing that commenced for the New South Welshman with a homerun over left field from Beltre on an 0-1 pitch. The Mariners scored a further three runs , when a homerun from Gutierrez over the left-field line batted in Clement and Morse. Cedeno added the fifth and final run to the Mariners inning score count when he homered to left-field on a 1-0 pitch.
Despite losing their lead and now trailing by four runs, Team Australia fought back in the top of the fourth, levelling the score at 8-8, with a déjà vu effort that saw Beresford, Hughes, Huber and Risinger cross the plate once again in consecutive innings.
Justin Huber got it going with an RBI single for the first run of the inning. Ben Risinger was at it again hitting his third double of the night which drove home the second run, and Brett Roneberg drove in two more giving him four RBIs.
In the bottom of the fifth with runners on the corners, Yuniesky Betancourt hit into a double-play, but a run scored, giving the Mariners back the lead, 9-8. The Aussies would take the lead for good in the top of the sixth when both Ben Risinger and Brett Roneberg each had their fourth hit of the night, it was also Brett's fifth RBI of the evening, and Australia was out in front once again at 10-9.
Brett Roneberg made it five for five and posted his sixth RBI of the night in the seventh inning, advancing their lead to 11-9. It was also the 30th hit of the game between the two squads.
Roneberg said 'We played well; it was good to get a win under our belt, especially against the Mariners".
Risinger was overjoyed with his team's performance. "Our team's hitting was awesome, to come out there and hit big league pitching like that, and for the boys to swing the bat like they did was a big effort".
Speaking of pitching, the Australian mound hosted seven pitchers this evening, including Blackley, Anderson, Welch, Wise, Bright and Crawford, with Queenslander Drew Naylor earning the win.
Manager Jon Deeble said Team Australia's offensive output was very good 'from top to bottom'.
Although most of this team has not played together before, Manager Jon Deeble says there has been a great connection amongst the players as they have practiced over the last few days.
"Australian's always play good as a team, the team chemistry is great and that is something we really work on. We work a lot off the field on that sort of stuff and I don't think you will ever have a problem with our team chemistry; that is always going to be fine."
Team Australia will play the Milwaukee Brewers tomorrow at Maryvale, and will face off against the Chicago Whitesox on Friday before departing for Mexico City that evening.