BELLISSIMO! Australia trumps Italy
Blackley’s Gem holds up
Travis Blackley’s first appearance for
The left hander allowed just one unearned run over five innings of work while striking out three on an afternoon that required just 67 pitches; the ideal tune-up considering he had not appeared in a game since September 29 in Los Angeles - a span of 33 days.
“I was really just tinkering with a few things,” Blackley said. “You know, I am just trying to get a feel for pitching again”.
“I was pretty happy with the way it went considering the only run they (
The unearned run came on the back of a fourth inning error and corresponding balk, called when Blackley tried to pick off to first base and allowing the runner to move into scoring position.
Despite the inopportune hiccup, the Aussies nearly escaped unharmed when 2nd baseman Luke Hughes made a spectacular diving stop on a sharply hit ball up the middle but narrowly missed the nailing the runner at first base.
On offence the Australians continued to shine with Justin Huber, Tom Brice, Trent Oeltjen and Hughes all contributing extra base hits in a rambunctious display that could have yielded a dozen more.
The scoring started in the top of the second when the Aussies capitalised perfectly on a leadoff double to Brice.
The next hitter, Brad Harman, battled in an eight-pitch effort resulting in a deep fly ball to right – allowing Brice to advance 90 feet in a play that would ultimately prove the difference between the two squads.
Brice scored from 3rd on a soft grounder off the bat of Michael Collins - a run that was vital in the final wrap-up.
The Aussies scored their second run in an equally timely if not somewhat unconventional fashion when Luke Hughes doubled, stole third and crossed the plate on a wild pitch to post a 2-0 advantage for the Green and Gold.
In the 5th inning the sluggers turned it up a notch when Glenn Williams started a one-out rally.
His one out single was followed by a Trent Oeltjen RBI triple before the seemingly omnipresent Justin Heber ripped a fastball into right centre extending the lead to 4-1.
From there the Aussies shifted down a couple of gears and allowed the Italians a glimmer of hope when they scored twice in the bottom of the seventh off reliever Dushan Ruzic.
But the towering right hander managed to settle into his role nicely, pitching three innings of effective relief before handing the ball over the Tristan Crawford to close out the 9th.
While the contest was never really in doubt, it certainly ended on a high as Brad Harman made a phenomenal play for the final out of the game.
With a runner on first, shortstop Harman made a full length dive to his left on a bouncing ball that looked destined to find its way into centerfield before making a freakish backhand flip to Luke Hughes at second base.
The highlight reel play was a fitting end to the third consecutive day of impressive action in the lead up to the big games next week.
The only sour note for the Aussies came early when Gavin Fingleson had to leave the game in the top of the 2nd inning after fouling a ball of his left leg.
Fingleson’s roommate, Glenn Williams, had to cut short his intended off day to replace the injured infielder and consequently had some light-hearted advice for his long-time when he too fouled a ball off his instep.
“Gav just needs to ‘suck it up’ a little,” Williams quipped upon his return to the dugout, “tell him he’s soft”.
While the off the cuff comment was meant only as friendly jibe, Williams and his Aussie team-mates will be looking to take that same hard-nosed approach into their next two games against Cuba.
Australian fans can watch that game live via the internet at 3pm AEST by logging on to the ABF website and following the links to the broadcast.