Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Finding a way to contribute

Although the Defensive Specialist has always been a starter and often struggles to relate to bench players or role guys, he does remember an old adage that a coach dropped once upon a time: “even if you’re not in the game, there’s still something you can do to contribute to this ball club winning!” Obviously that was directed to the scrubs on the bench who’d ordinarily whittle their time away eating sunflower seeds or scratching themselves. The Defensive Specialist found the statement to be particularly salient in the lead up to this weekend’s South Australia Vs. NSW semi final playoff series as he couldn’t be in attendance.

This admission will leave many loyal Deep in the Hole readers crestfallen as they have come to lean heavily on the Defensive Specialist’s insight and expertise to assist them through each series. The Defensive Specialist has decided to step up to the plate and deliver a comprehensive series breakdown that should basically be able to tell you who’ll win the contest. In fact, once SportsBet got wind the Defensive Specialist was putting his thoughts out into cyberspace, they immediately froze all betting.

What better way to evaluate the two teams than by running through every position, bench, bullpen and manager and comparing and contrasting to see who holds the edge.


Both teams are particularly strong behind the dish as you’d expect when you have a pair of former pro guys and Australian representatives donning the tools of ignorance. South Australia’s Michael Collins had a monster offensive season, leading his team in most offensive categories despite playing in only 19 of a possible 24 games and finishing second in the league in batting average (.417). Collins’ numbers were enhanced by the freakish 3 homerun, 8 RBI performance that he managed late in the season, which is one of the more explosive outputs the Defensive Specialist has heard of at this level. Remarkably, Collins punched out on 6 times in 60 at bats while walking 18 times, which is a testament to his bat control and plate discipline.

The Patriots Andy Graham started the season in white-hot form but tapered towards the conclusion. He posted solid offensive numbers, with a .333 BA, 3 homeruns and 11 RBI’s while spending the majority of his time hitting out of the 4 hole.

Neither guy sets the world on fire on the base paths and defensively Graham gets the nod from the Defensive Specialist who rates his arm and blocking skills as slightly better than Collins. Graham threw out 4 of 15 base stealers while Collins caught 4-17

Edge – South Australia. You don’t sit amongst the league leaders in most offensive categories and lose the positional battle.

First Base

The Defensive Specialist is going to talk about PAT MAT (NSW) and Ryan Murphy  (SA) in purely offensive terms in this evaluation since both have the range of statues and use the little known Rawlings Polished Concrete gloves in the field. In case you don’t follow that, in the simplest possible terms they suck on defense. PAT MAT had an impressive season with the stick, hitting .390 and leading his club in RBI’s and total bases. He provides a solid bat in the 5 hole and has proven to be a dangerous run producer with runners in scoring position. His .573 slugging and .446 on base percentage was amongst league leaders.

Canadian Ryan Murphy played in 21 of his teams 24 games posting a .247 batting average while stroking 3 homeruns and driving in 16.  Murphy’s on base % was .337, which is a tad low for a middle of the order slugger.

EDGE – NSW. PAT MAT’s fine season with the stick gives him a distinct advantage over Murphy.

Second Base

Somewhat of a mystery for both teams in this series. SA gave a number of chances to Josh Cakebread who in baseball circles would be politely referred to as ‘all field, no hit’. Later in the season, manager Tony Harris seems to have handed the position to Mathew Smith whose offensive output has been more acceptable. Smith hit at a .263 clip (second on the team) while scoring 15 runs and driving in 10. Smith has played all over the diamond but looked comfortable at second in the games that the Defensive Specialist eyeballed him in.

The Patriots started the season with Shannon Pender at second but had to scramble to find a replacement when Pender went down with a neck injury as a result of his afro getting too heavy. Jason Pospishil (who’s name continues to prove to be the most difficult to spell correctly when power typing and spell checks to popsicle) has ably stepped into the void and posted some reasonably tidy numbers while playing ok defense. Popsicle appeared in 17 games, scoring 11 runs and batting .316.

Edge – NSW (ever so slightly). Popsicle’s offense and familiarity at second edge Smith who filled more of a utility role.

Third Base

The Defensive Specialist really had to battle his affinity for pretty left handed strokes (cue porno music) here in order to provide an objective assessment of the two third basemen. Stefan Welch is a professional hitter with an extremely attractive swing from the left side………pardon the interruption, the Defensive Specialist had to hit the bathroom. Anchoring the 3 hole for SA, Welch hit .253, with 15 runs and 12 RBI’s – numbers that he’d likely be disappointed in. His defense was somewhat porous at third with 6 errors.

Speaking of porous, NSW’s Mark Holland finished second in the league in errors with 9. Holland appeared in all of the Patriot’s games, hitting .247 while driving in 14. Holland typically hit out of the 2 hole for NSW although his .317 on base % is low for the position.

Edge – SA. Welch’s lower than expected offensive output is still enough to put him ahead of Holland.


As Deep in the Hole HQ is located in NSW, the Defensive Specialist probably saw more at bats from Michael Lysaught than any other player in the competition. It also seemed that every time the Defensive Specialist watched him, he put on an offensive display including a couple of multi hit games and a game with 2 homeruns. Some guys just step up when they know a baseball luminary is in the house. Unfortunately, when the Defensive Specialist wasn’t around, Lysaught’s production didn’t always maintain such high standards. Hitting .260 with 14 RBI’s and leading his team and the league in runs scored with 21 is a pretty fair offensive performance nonetheless. Lysaught did show a particular aversion to taking a base on balls (6) and led the league in strikeouts with 29. His on base percentage was an extremely low .309 for a lead off hitter. Defensively his performance was very sound, showing good range and plenty of arm.

Jeremy Cresswell played in all 24 of his clubs games and proved to be a standout defender. Hitting out of the number 2 spot in the order, Cresswell posted a .238 average and led his team with 19 runs scored. He also managed 5 stolen bases in 7 attempts. Cresswell is someone who can handle the bat and play the small game, which is a good thing since he exhibits almost zero power.

Edge – NSW. Lysaught’s power and run scoring ability put him ahead of the light hitting Cresswell.


South Australia’s Ben Wigmore is a guy who has traditionally feasted on Claxton Shield pitching. Originally a catcher, he has taken that mentality to left field where he routinely tries to block fly balls instead of catching them and runs circle routes on balls in the air. In years past this would have been overlooked as he mashed. In 2010 however his bat has played at a level below his usual standard with a .205 batting average, 9 runs and 8 RBI’s. Perhaps noting that he was letting himself down offensively, he stepped up and put his body on the line with 7 hit by pitches.

The Defensive Specialist anticipates Mitch Denning returning to the fold for NSW in left. Denning gets the Defensive Specialist stirring in the loins with his left handed swing and he puts it to good use, leading his team in hitting- .391. Denning scored 17 runs while driving in 10 and hitting 2 homeruns. He was in the top 3 in both slugging (.594) and OBP (.466).

EDGE – NSW. Denning is a big offensive piece in the Patriots puzzle and has been a reliable middle order hitter in 2010.


Two of the Defensive Specialists favourite players in 2010. For South Australia you have David Washington or D Wash as he goes by on the street. If the Defensive Specialist was breaking down the best celebrations on a base hit, D Wash would be a world series champion. Noone can get more claps in while running down the base line after a single to centrefield! D Wash holds the Claxton Shield record at 13.

D Wash’s primary weapon is speed – he led the league in stolen bases with 12 (in 15 attempts). Leading off for SA, D Wash hit .240 with 16 runs, 18 walks and an OBP of .394. Loyal readers may recall the last series the Defensive Specialist watched featuring South Australia where D Wash had a little trouble with his routes to fly balls. For SA’s sake, the Defensive Specialist hopes that he has taken a few extra flys as his speed wasn’t able to make up for these errors in judgment.

Techno Tim Auty caught the Defensive Specialists attention early in the season when his walk up music (the music that plays as he comes up to bat) was some hard core dance music featuring approximately 15,000 beats per minute. As a child of the rave era, the Defensive Specialist had dance moves flooding back to him during each at bat and a genuine hankering to twirl glow sticks while sniffing vicks. When unable to play his dance track before at bats, Techno Tim stayed true to his roots with some fluoro batting gloves that wouldn’t be out of place some of the world’s biggest dance festivals.

Auty posted a .244 average over 23 games, scoring 11 runs and driving in 8. His on base percentage was about as awful as a comedown after a 3 day binge (.286). Techno Tim also had a tendency to use his time in the field as a chill out session, which led to some sloppy play on ground balls.

Edge – SA. D Wash takes it in centrefield and in the hand-clapping department.


David Kandilas appears to be the guy for the Patriots in right, playing in 21 games. His numbers weren’t overly fantastic with a .206 average, 8 runs, 7 RBI’s and a stinky OBP of .257. With Denning away late in the season, Tim Atherton saw time in the field for the Patriots and hit a respectable .313 with 7 runs and 8 RBI’s so the Defensive Specialist wouldn’t be surprised if NSW manager Glenn Williams parks Kandilas in favour of the hotter Atherton.

SA will send out Desperate Dan Wilson to rightfield. Wilson may be the skinniest man in the Claxton Shield in 2010 and did himself no favours early in the season by wearing his pants high and showing off his chicken legs. Wilson hit .247 with 14 runs and 11 RBI’s. He posted a .344 OBP and stole 6 bases.

Edge – SA. The equation changes slightly if Atherton goes out there for NSW but Wilson has done enough to beat out either.

Designated Hitter

Probably the biggest disparity in the entire breakdown. Trent D’Antonio had a very tidy season while seeing the vast majority of his playing time as DH. Hitting .345, D’Antonio scored 15 and drove in 17 with a slugging % of .506 and an OBP of .431. D’Antonio chipped in with 6 stolen bases and proved to be a handy back up catcher, nailing 6 of the 11 base runners who attempted to steal on him.

DH is a bit of a dogs breakfast for SA with no real standout at the position. The Defensive Specialist assumes that Angus Roeger will take the majority of swings based on past appearances. He hit .250 in only 24 at bats but did show some juice with 2 home runs. He also showed a propensity to punch out with 12. Other candidates include Scott Gladstone who got some AB’s late in the season.

EDGE – NSW. D’Antonio cannot be competed with in this series.

Starting Pitching

NSW will likely roll out a staff featuring Tim Cox, Wayne Lundgren and Craig Anderson. Cox is a clear ace, posting a 3-1 record and a 2.38 ERA in 41 innings. The Defensive Specialist watched Cox’s second to last outing against the Heat where he was throwing a change up that looked like a slider and baffled the Heat’s right handed hitters. Cox’s hit total was up this year with an opponent’s batting average of .290, but he did strike out 46 hitters to lead the league. If he manages to keep the Baseball gods on side, NSW can expect to win. Lundgren also had a win loss record of 3-1 while posting a 3.02 ERA. His strikeout totals (33) were low for a guy who throws reasonably firmly but he countered this by only issuing 4 BB in 41 innings. Craig Anderson seems to be the 3rd starter of choice late in the season although his outings appear to be governed by a pitch count. Anderson hasn’t yielded a run in his 2 starts despite tossing his soggy underwear up to the plate (73mph fastball). His ability to change speeds and locate even with low velocity keeps hitters off balance.

South Australia counters with a decent starting rotation themselves, led by Paul Mildren and his 5-1 record. Lefty Mildren put up an ERA of 2.96 in 45 innings with 42 strikeouts and only 13 walks and will be called upon to take the ball in game 1. Veteran Darren Fidge made 8 starts this season going 1-4 with a 4.14 ERA. Fidge still manages to hump it up there although hurt himself with 20 base on balls. The interesting decision will be on a game 3 starter. Richard Bartlett has made 4 starts for SA winning 4 and losing 1 with a 4.50 ERA although he only punched out 9 in 26 innings. On the upside, he did limit opposition hitters to a .230 batting average. Dushan Ruzic is the other option as a starter, going 2-1 in 35 innings. The big side armer is an asset out of the pen as he can eat innings in relief. He struck out almost a hitter per inning.

Edge – NSW. Cox+Lundgren+ Anderson > Mildren+Fidge+Bartlett/ Ruzic. It’s simple mathematics.


South Australia’s core group of relievers includes Chris Lawson, Steven O’Connor, and Hayden Beard. All 3 posted decent numbers with Beard being the standout with 1 earned run in 9 innings of work and 10 strikeouts. O’Connor limited opposing hitters to a .182 batting average and Lawson posted a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings with 11 K’s. If Ruzic goes to the pen he provides another power arm that can shut down a lineup.

The Patriots pen is a little Slim Shady in the Defensive Specialists opinion. Todd Gratton gets a lot of work (also as a starter) but was left off the roster the last 2 series (he did walk 22 hitters in 18 innings which may go towards explaining the exclusion). Lefty Matthew Rae pitched in 16 innings, winning 2 games and saving 3. He struck out 17 while putting up an ERA of 2.81. Canadian Lee Ingram has received more work late in the season and appears to have assumed the closers role. He has yet to yield an earned run while striking out 10 in 9 innings. Vaughn Harris and Jarret Commane round out the notable names. Harris has been fairly hittable in relief, with opposing hitters posting a  .295 average against him. Commane has made 3 starts and provides the Patriots with a durable arm that can churn through some innings in long relief although he is prone to the free pass (19 in 29 innings).

EDGE – South Australia. If Ruzic goes to the pen South Australia have a group of good arms that have put up solid numbers across the season.


Woof. Both benches are a bit of a dog. Depending on what NSW does in right, they could have a decent bat on the pine (Atherton or Kandilas) but not much at all after that. South Australia is finding it tough to even find a 10th hitter to DH so their bench is even thinner. In fact, things are so bad, the Defensive Specialist may skip this category.


An interesting contrast between the two skippers with South Australia’s Tony Harris having coached and managed for a number of years and the Patriots Glenn Williams making his first foray into the art. With the lineups pretty much written for the managers, the biggest challenge for both head men will be managing the pitching staffs and bullpen matchups. Both will want to ride their starters fairly hard and the manager who gets his timing right will have a big edge.

Edge – South Australia. The Defensive Specialist has to go with the experienced hand although Williams may just shock the world.

The series will be played in South Australia in front of a crowd that hasn’t tasted success in what seems like 85 years (closer to 30). Sentiment and support probably sits with the boys from South Australia as they have been a doormat in recent years and everyone loves an underdog. Having said that, very few would gave tasted playoff baseball at this level which may lead to some very tight sphincters which isn’t conducive to good baseball.

The Patriots have been in and around playoff baseball since Jesus was a lad and as such should be less fazed by the pressure. Having said that, they’ll be stepping into a cauldron in South Australia as the fans come out to cheer their boy’s home in 2010.

Edge – NSW. Been there, done that in playoff baseball.

So by the Defensive Specialist’s count (and seeing as we’re at about 3000 words) that’s 7 edges to 6 in favour of the Patriots. The Defensive Specialist is predicting a grand tussle at Norwood Oval with a parochial crowd doing everything they can to will their hometown boys on. As much as the Defensive Specialist would like to see SA rise up off the mat and advance to the big dance, the Patriots just have too much offense for South Australia’s pitching staff to handle. If the Patriots starters perform as expected, they’ll contain the SA lineup and propel the Patriots to a series win.

The Defensive Specialist has crunched all the numbers, tapped into his innate baseball instincts, conferred with the Deep in the Hole advanced scouting team and predicts a NSW victory - 2 games to 1.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Paint us a picture

The Defensive Specialist gets particular joy sitting outdoors taking in a ball game and detailing the intricacies of the battle. Once the Defensive Specialist has ruminated on the proceedings, he then crafts finely detailed game reviews filled with insight, knowledge and understanding in such a way that even the layman fan can get a true appreciation for what unfolded on the field. Many critics have labeled the Defensive Specialists work as a painting in blog form. The Defensive Specialist then dutifully posts these impressions and you, the loyal readers feed on this information like it was a life source.

As humbling as this all seems to the Defensive Specialist, it is the unrelenting emails and messages that hit the Deep in the Hole inbox in the days following a series; at first politely requesting more insight, then gently insisting and finally outright demanding, that stokes the Defensive Specialist’s fire and propels him to be the best.

As we head towards the last series of the regular season where every win has permutations on the final standings, so many people have questions that its only fair the Defensive Specialist takes the knowledge up to another level. Here at Deep in the Hole, we like to call the post:

“What has the Defensive Specialist learned?”

Key Learning 1

Do not mess with the Baseball Gods... again! The Defensive Specialist can just imagine the atheists rolling their eyes out there but the evidence of a supernatural higher baseball power is extraordinary. Infractions and retribution included:

  • The last time the Defensive Specialist saw the Patriots play, he commented on Tim Cox flaunting all baseball protocol by running out onto the base line for pregame introductions. In that game Cox battled to find his usually outstanding stuff and managed a no decision. In this game, the lead off hitter unloaded for a bomb on his second pitch and his first inning of work was extremely shaky. It wasn’t until he stepped off and prayed to the gods that his sins were absolved and he was able to settle back into his usual dominant self.

  • Heat manager, Don Kyle rolling out an infield outfield slow roller by hand rather than with his fungo which obviously resulted in a terrible catcher pop up and led to him losing his innie outtie battle with NSW coach Graeme Cassell.

Key Learning 2

Is NSW a viable baseball state? YEAH, The Defensive Specialist said it! Look, your old pal the Defensive Specialist knows that’s an absurd statement since NSW produces the greatest proportion of talented players and consistently fields a strong team. But after watching a number of series both at the Blacktown facility and now at Campbelltown, and seeing limited crowd numbers across a 3 game series, the Defensive Specialist has to put it out there at least as a discussion point.

By the Defensive Specialists count there were 1369 spectators in attendance over the weekend, with the vast majority seeming to come from the local area. Granted, the game was played at a venue other than the main baseball facility in NSW, but even when the action is at Blacktown, the crowd numbers don’t swell significantly more than that anyway.

The most important question however is can such low levels of spectator attendance support an ABL franchise expected to break even across a 50+ game season? The Defensive Specialist is keen to hear from the readers as to their theories on baseball attendance in NSW and how it can be improved. Is the game promoted enough? Would a facility located closer to the CBD attract greater numbers? Are the local clubs asked to support the team? If you have a theory, hit the Defensive Specialist at thedefensivespecialist@gmail.com

Key Learning 3

An injury or two can cause absolute havoc with only a 19-man roster at your disposal. With most teams carrying 9 pitchers, managers are left with 10 positional players for a 3 game series. As we saw with the Perth Heat on the weekend, when one or two of your guys decides to take a baseball off their eyeball, things can go pear shaped really quickly. Luke Hughes returning from wrist surgery on his throwing hand was forced onto the field with the pitcher Dean White having to bat for himself.  Teams that are able to carry a ‘two way’ guy (a player who can pitch and hit – a rarity since the vast majority of pitchers cannot hit no matter how much they tell you they can) are at an advantage due to the extra flexibility.

Obviously roster sizes are controlled in order to minimize cost but the Defensive Specialist would envision this number increasing next year as game frequency increases and the season is extended.

Key Learning 4

The Heat defensive work last week was best described as abysmal with each of the 3 games featuring multiple errors and lapses. It would be easy to blame the surface, which the Defensive Specialist described as resembling a sheep paddock. Word doing the rounds at the field was that a solid weeks work had been put in to get it up to speed. The Defensive Specialist could only wonder what it looked like before the work went in.

Anyway, despite the fact the surface was a tad rough, the Heat managed to butcher enough baseballs to suggest that a solid session of defensive fundamentals is in good order. The usually sure-handed Andy Kyle tripled his seasons error tally during this series and even the usually reliable Nick Kimpton in centrefield looked like he would have benefited from the use of a GPS device judging by some of the routes he took on fly balls. The icing on his ordinary defensive performance in game 3 was clanking a can of corn late in the game.

Third base and left field have been black holes for the Heat this season with injuries and players being unavailable resulting in less than stellar defenders taking the field in these positions. With Luke Hughes or Dallas Christenson handling third things seem to be fixed at the hot corner, but it will be interesting to see what Heat Manager Don Kyle does about left field.

Although the Heat offensive lineup has the horsepower to put up runs, you don’t want your pitchers working harder making up for additional outs that your defense has coughed up. For the Heat to make a legitimate run at the title, they’ll have to catch and throw the ball.

Key learning 5

The Patriots starting rotation looks to be in good order. Tim Cox is a legitimate staff ace (unless he continues to torment the Baseball Gods) who’d be expected to win every game he starts. Wayne Lundgrem looks fine and dandy from the wind up and a little shaky from the set. If he has his stuff going and can limit base runners then he’s fine. Craig Anderson baffled a solid line up topping out at 75mph and working consistently at 69-73 mph, which just goes to show that changing speeds and outstanding command can beat teams.

However the NSW bullpen didn’t set the Defensive Specialists world on fire. Lee Ingram looked solid but seems to be rarely used (the Defensive Specialist wishes he would incorporate his legs into his delivery). Jarrett Commane can eat up some innings as a long man and held the Perth lineup down. Lefty Matthew Rae gets the vast majority of relief innings for the Patriots and has averaged a strikeout per inning. After those 3 guys, it’s somewhat of a crapshoot, meaning that the starters are going to have to go deep to give the team a chance at winning.

Key Learning 6

So with one last weekend of games, how’s this thing going to play out?
The Defensive Specialist has already boldly stated that South Australia cannot win the Claxton Shield in 2010 and is going to stick with that.

The Patriots take on Queensland and will need to be put on suicide watch if they can’t sweep that series. They have the starting pitching and with Mitch Denning returning, the offensive to compete for a championship.

If the Heat sweep Victoria this weekend, they’ll win the championship again. Now, can they sweep the Aces this weekend? No, the Defensive Specialist doesn’t think so as their pitching staff is a little short. The Defensive Specialists advanced scouts have indicated that Scott Mitchinson will take the ball in game 1. Last weekend he was on a 40 pitch count so it’ll be interesting to see if he has the steam to go deeper into the game. After Mitchinson, the Heat role out TJ ‘Wolfmother” Wohlever who has been solid when he has taken the mound as a starter for the Heat. Game 3 is a coin toss between Dylan Peacock and Mark Kelly. On paper all of these guys can win you a ball game and a sweep is entirely possible.

However, their opposition is the Victorian Aces who have gone 9-2 down the stretch and have been a good offensive ballclub. The Aces will send out Adam Blackley and Matthew Blackmore in games 1 &2 and some combination of Dean Barker, Shane Lindsay or Donovan Hendriks in game 3. With Adam Bright and the unused game 3 starters available in relief, the Aces staff is in good order. As a team, the Aces have been the premier offensive club in the competition and seem to be stroking the ball pretty well at present. They are most definitely not the club that the Heat wanted to face really needing to win 3 at the end of the season.

So having swirled all of this information around in his head, what has the Defensive Specialist come up with?  Well, for the Defensive Specialist’s money, the Aces will win the Championship in 2010.

The Defensive Specialist needs to go and meet with the Deep in the Hole CFO in order to evaluate the Deep in the Hole travel budget and see if there’s one more road trip in it for a finals series. If you’d like to share your thoughts (or if you’d like to be a sugar daddy and pay for a finals trip) hit the email or the comments section below.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Deep in the Hole – The Directors Cut

The Defensive Specialist is furiously working to produce his “What the Defensive Specialist has learned” fan favourite post. At this stage it is scheduled to be live and exclusive at Deep in the Hole by Thursday morning.

In the meantime….

Being a man of many talents, the Defensive Specialist has made his first foray into the world of audiovisual entertainment (there is no footage from the Deep in the Hole private collection). With the assistance of his highly talented Deep in the Hole production crew, the Defensive Specialist presents a snap shot of the Heat / Patriots series:

Oscar nominations have yet to close!

Monday, January 18, 2010

In to the Grooves – Patriots Vs. Heat Game 3

The Defensive Specialist had just finished off his game 2 review and was back beside the camp fire roasting freshly slaughtered possum in order to maintain the levels of nourishment required to bring comprehensive game breakdowns to the masses. While deboning a paw, the Defensive Specialist looked up to see a semi trailer rolling onto the field. With the yard already playing like it had just hosted a tractor pulling competition the Defensive Specialist was a little surprised to see a heavy articulated vehicle out there between games of the doubleheader. The Defensive Specialist shrugged his shoulders, “What’s a few extra ruts and grooves?”

All fears were allayed however, when the canvas was pulled back on the trailer to reveal a good old-fashioned pub rock and roll band (complete with a base player sporting a legit silver handlebar moustache). The 4 piece then launched into a classic mix of 60’s and 70’s rock that had the Defensive Specialist tapping his toes as he stoked the fire. The Defensive Specialist has to admit that it was one of the cooler mid game entertainment stunts that he’d ever seen and can now go to the ‘Things Never Before Seen on a Baseball Field’ list and cross  “Seeing a semi trailer on a baseball field with a band on the back of it” off.

Game 2 finished a little later than anticipated and with the band whipping the crowd into a frenzy, the organizers decided to push the start of game 3 back. Just as the hard rocking quartet finished their set, the heavens opened and tarps were put on the field. The Defensive Specialist pulled out his Drizabone and hunkered down for the rain to pass.

Seeing the crowd start to dissipate, the organizers of the series decided to let off the fireworks they had planned for the end of the game. With a loud pop the first shell went up and what proceeded was quite the spectacular. Safe to say the entire entertainment budget may have been blown on the fireworks alone!

The rain finally passed and at 9.15pm, game 3 was ready to commence. Veteran southpaw Craig Anderson took the mound for the Patriots and the Defensive Specialist was keen to see how the soft tosser was going to handle the Heat lineup that exploded in game 2. Working in the 69 – 75mph range as Anderson does requires finesse and guile, which he demonstrated by striking out Mitch Graham to start the ball game. A walk to Kimpton was nullified by Trent D’Antonio who gunned him down on a steal attempt. Luke Hughes managed a single to left but Anderson ended the inning by having Tim Kennelly pop out to first base.

The Heat handed the ball to Scott Mitchinson making his first start in the Claxton shield this year. Mitchinson is on the comeback trail from injury and resorted to some radical treatment to cure his ails. The procedure involved teenage girls sucking blood from a pale skinned, emo looking, teenage outcast from their high school and injecting it into his elbow, hang on, that’s the plot to Twilight. Actually Mitchinson had his own blood plasma injected back into his elbow to aid the healing process. Mitchinson was quickly up to 88mph as he worked through the first, surrendering only a double to D’Antonio.

The Heat couldn’t muster anything against Anderson in the second but the Patriots had other plans. PAT MAT led off with a single to right and Techno Tim Auty singled to left. Mitchinson punched out Tim Atherton and then was squeezed badly by the home plate umpire, which led to a walk to David Kandilas. Jason Pospishil popped up to left bringing Michael Lysaught to the dish. Mitchinson was relying heavily on his slider (always a good recipe for a guy coming back from elbow problems) and had thrown 5 in a row by the time Lysaught drilled the 6th into left field for a double scoring two. Mark Holland then singled into left scoring Kandilas but the throw from leftfielder Dean White nailed Lysaught at the dish much to the dismay of Patriot first base coach Gary White who said something nasty and got dumped by the home plate umpire.

NSW 3-0

Anderson cruised through the 3rd inning on 5 pitches bringing Mitchinson back out to the mound. He walked D’Antonio but induced a 5-4-3 double play from Andy Graham. Mitchinson by now had reached his 40-pitch limit and was replaced by Mark Kelly. Kelly induced a fly out from PAT MAT to end the inning.

Jarrett Commane relieved Anderson to start the 4th and worked an uneventful inning. In the bottom of the 4th, Techno Tim Auty led off with a hot smash to right that Tim Kennelly took a ball tearing catch on, stretching high to snare the drive. Numerous readers have requested some evidence of Techno Tim’s day glo gloves and as per usual, the Defensive Specialist delivers. Check out the photo on the left. Atherton then drove a ball deep to centre that Kimpton appeared to get a bad read on, allowing it to drop for a double. Kandilas grounded to second and Mitch Graham kicked it allowing Atherton to move to third and Kandilas to first. Posposhil then grounded a ball to Andy Kyle at short who joined the party by booting it as well, pushing Atherton across for a run. Kelly K’d Lysaught and got Holland 5-3 to end the threat.

NSW 4-0

Commane ran into trouble in the top of the 5th by walking Chris House and Matt Kennelly. A Dean White pop up made it one out and an error by Holland on a ground ball by Andy Kyle loaded the bases. Mitch Graham hit a Chinese line drive to right that plated House and Kimpton popped a ball up down the left field line that Atherton completely screwed the pooch on allowing Matt Kennelly to score. Luke Hughes then grounded into what looked like a sure fire double play to second but Posposhil bobbled the ball and Kimpton hustled into second base like a runaway freight train preventing Lysaught from turning the pair (and in the process perhaps rupturing his testicle) and allowing Kyle to score. Tim Kennelly grounded out 5-3 to end the inning.

NSW 4-3

Both pitchers rolled through the 6th inning with little to no trouble. The bottom of the 7th is when it got eventful.

Kelly was still working for the Heat. He punched out Holland to start the inning but allowed a double down the leftfield line to D’Antonio. Graham then singled to deep shortstop, moving D’Antonio to third. Manager Don Kyle had seen enough and went to Ben Grice to face PAT MAT. Grice induced a groundball from PAT MAT as planned, unfortunately the plan did not include the ball going under Andy Kyle’s glove for an error, scoring D’Antonio. Techno Tim Auty then singled to leftfielder Dean White who bobbled the ball allowing Ben Graham to chug home and Techno Tim to move into second. Atherton then smoked a ball to left centre for a 2 run double. After an error from Lachlan Dale at third, manager Kyle couldn’t get to the mound fast enough to get Grice out. Brendan Wise relieved for the Heat and promptly gave up a ground rule double to Jason Posposhil that scored Atherton. Wise dosed Lysaught before mercifully ending the beat down by getting Holland on a fielder’s choice 5-2 and D’Antonio to ground out to second for the third out.

NSW 9-3

Wise got touched up again in the bottom of the eighth, giving up a rocket line drive to left by Andy Graham and with 2 out serving up a gigantic bomb to Tim Atherton that may have cleared the railway tracks in deep left field.

NSW 11-3

By the top of the 9th the Defensive Specialist had begun packing up the Deep in the Hole bus in readiness for the trek back to the big smoke. Jarryd Sullivan was brought on to pitch the top of the ninth for the Patriots and started in style by punching out Andy Kyle. Mitch Graham singled to centre and Nick Kimpton walked. With a little activity stirring, the Defensive Specialist stopped rolling the swag and focused in. Luke Hughes picked up a cheap single to centre loading the bases for Tim Kennelly. TK then turned a Sullivan fastball around quick sticks on the double for momentous grand slam to left that caught everyone’s attention. Things were now getting a little frisky! Dale singled down the right field line and showed that he could be a mobile big man by hustling into second on a Kandilas bobble in right. The Patriots had the bullpen scrambling as Sullivan managed to punch out House for the second out. Matt Kennelly walked and Patriots manager had seen enough, summoning Lee Ingram from the bullpen. Ingram took Dean White to a full count before striking him out to end the ball game.

NSW Win 11-7

The Deep in the Hole Player of the Game goes to Tim Atherton who went 4-5 (HR, 2 Doubles), 3 runs & 4 RBI’s. Jarret Commane did a serviceable job in relief surrendering 3 hits and 1 earned run over 5 innings.

For the Patriots this was a huge series win, allowing them to roll into next week’s contest against cellar dweller’s Queensland with a real shot at a sweep. For the Heat, the flame is well and truly on them now, going head to head with league leaders Victoria with a playoff berth at stake. Neither team will be overly happy about how game 3 played out with a combined 18 runs scored and 7 errors committed and will need to oil the hinges if they hope to compete for a championship in 2010.

The Defensive Specialist will be back later in the week with his super informative “What the Defensive Specialist has learned” post which is guaranteed to increase your intelligence by at least 23 IQ points.

Many thanks to the Macarthur Baseball Club for putting on the series, the entertainment, the brown snakes, the fireworks and of course a true to life pub band in the back of a semi trailer truck. Now if you’ll excuse the Defensive Specialist, it’s time to saddle up and mosey on out of this one horse town.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blowing the Doors off. – Patriots Vs Heat Game 2

For a ramblin’ man like the Defensive Specialist, there’s nothing better than a night spent out under the stars. With this series being played in regional NSW, the Defensive Specialist decided to get back to his roots and set up camp at the back of the ball park. To make trips like these truly sacrosanct, it is important to pack only the bare essentials – a swag, a banjo, the Deep in the Hole Super laptop and a .303 rifle for picking off rogue rabbits intent on burrowing on the diamond.   

After a wonderfully refreshing nights sleep, the Defensive Specialist woke from his slumber to the wafting aroma of sausages sizzling. Thinking that Mrs The Defensive Specialist had arisen early to provide a hearty breakfast, the Defensive Specialist was crestfallen when he realised that the smell was originating from the Bunnings Hardware store behind centrefield which flogs sausages in bread as a fundraiser for a variety of groups.

The Defensive Specialist shook off the disappointment and whipped up true bush meal – rabbit omelettes. After his daily 10km run, the Defensive Specialist dodged the brown snake in the shower block and began making preparations for game two of the Patriots / Heat series.

The Defensive Specialist’s advanced scouting network had informed the Defensive Specialist that the Heat coaching staff were so disappointed with their squad’s performance in game 1, that they really took to the boys and blew their doors off with an epic post game roasting. Seeking to clarify this, the Defensive Specialist sought out the coaches as they arrived in their rental vans. Believe it or not, the global financial crisis did have an impact at even tightly run organisations like Deep in the Hole. One of the first areas that faced cutbacks – scouting. This drain in talent was abundantly clear at this moment as the Defensive Specialist approached the Heat rental vans and noticed that one of the doors had in fact blown off. Yes that’s right, the sliding door had literally fallen off the vehicle whilst in transit and had to be retrieved and loaded back into the van.

*Donations will be accepted and immediately channelled into the Deep in the Hole scouting department.

With the crowd filling in for what promised to be an exciting day, the Defensive Specialist settled in with the dulcet tones of The Lonely Islands ‘Jizz in My Pants’ playing in the background. Perhaps sensing that it wasn’t the most family friendly song, it was quickly yanked from the rotation.

NSW took the field for innie outtie and after a tidy round, coach Graham Cassell attempted to match his pop up from the day before which was arguably the best one of the 2010 Claxton Shield. Cassell stroked it ok, achieved good height and pushed to the left and behind the plate for a 7.5 / 10. Good fungo control. Sensing that he could not match the performance, Heat Manager Don Kyle chose not to fire a shot.

NSW 2-0

The acting mayor of Cambelltown received a quick tutorial on how to throw, scaled the mound, took a run up and remarkably fired a strike on the ceremonial first pitch. The dyslexic announcer then called the South Australian manager out to present the line up before realising that it was Western Australia playing NSW today….just like yesterday.

The Patriots rolled out Wayne Lundgrem to the mound and he looked sharp punching out Mitch Graham to lead off the game. Nick Kimpton laced a 1-2 fastball into centre for a single and then designated hitter Luke Hughes singled to left with Kimpton in motion to put runners on first and third with one out. Tim Kennelly stroked a double to left centre, allowing Kimpton to score with Hughes chugging around second towards third. Third base coach, Don Kyle perhaps suffering the yips after having a runner hosed last night and still fighting the effects of fungo performance anxiety had the windmill going to send Hughes hope. At the last second he threw up the stop sign but Hughes had rounded too far and was now stranded. Shortstop Michael Lysaught relayed behind Hughes to third but the ball got away from Mark Holland and Hughes was able to scamper in safely to home. Lungrem settled down and retired Allan De San Miguel and Chris House on pop ups.

Lefty Daniel Schmidt took the ball for the Heat and retired leadoff hitter Lysaught immediately. He then walked Holland to bring Trent D’Antonio to the plate. D’Antonio grounded to Matt Kennelly at first who looked for the force at second, couldn’t get it out of his glove and then made an errant toss to first base as D’Antonio was safe. Andy Graham then drove a ball to deep right that Tim Kennelly could not corral. Holland scored, but Kennelly’s throw was cut and relayed by shortstop Andy Kyle who then wheeled and gunned down D’Antonio at third base in a bang bang play. PAT MAT then smoked a line drive off the right field wall for a single that scored Graham from second base. Techno Tim Auty and his day glo gloves singled to centre before Schmidt retired Atherton with a punch out.

From the Defensive Specialist’s perspective, Schmidt, whose velocity was strangely down (in the 80—81mph) range was working dangerously up in the strike zone. Dick-high, luke warm fastballs tend to get deposited at this level.

Score 2-2

The Patriots were at it again offensively in the bottom of the second. David Kandilas singled to centre to leadoff. Jason Pospishil popped out to short. Lysaught continued his good form with a laser beam to centre. Holland singled to left and was wound home. The ball kicked away at the dish allowing Lysaught and Holland to move up to second and third with one out. D’Antonio then laid down a sac bunt / safety squeeze to plate Lysaught. Schmidt closed the inning by striking out Graham.

NSW 4-2

Lundgrem and Schmidt both got through the 3rd with limited action.

The 4th inning saw offensive action for both teams.  As an aside, on Friday the Defensive Specialist was busy doing his pre-game preparations when Lachlan Dale strolled over and casually asked / begged to have something written about him on the Deep in the Hole blog. The Defensive Specialist doesn’t engage in ‘pay for play’ but said that he’d do whatever he could. So, here we go – Lachlan Dale led off for the Heat and promptly walked the dog on a slider for strike 3. Matt Kennelly then hit a rocket to right centre for a ground rule double. Andy Kyle singled to centre moving Kennelly to third. Mitch Graham hit into a 4-6 fielders choice that plated Kennelly. Kimpton doubled to deep left that appeared to be handled by leftfielder Tim Atherton as it bounced over the fence. The umpires didn’t see it that way and ruled it a ground rule double. With Luke Hughes at the dish, Andy Graham back picked Mitch Graham at third base to end the inning.

Of course, the lead off hitter for NSW Posposhil hit a ground ball straight at Graham who was clearly rattled and the ball ate him up for an error. Lysaught flew out to left and Holland smashed a single just past Schmidt’s left ear hole for a single. D’Antonio then doubled to centre on a ball that Kimpton appeared to get a poor read on to score Posposhil. Andy Graham was intentionally walked to get to PAT MAT who then fortuitously for Perth Heat grounded into a 6-3 double play to end the inning.

NSW 5-3

Luke Hughes led off the 5th with a titanic blast to straight away centrefield for his second home run of the series. Tim Kennelly was retired on a pop up to second and the catcher Allan De San Miguel stepped in. Lundgrem delivered an 87mph fastball that rode up and in, giving De San Miguel no time to react. The ball clipped the bill of his helmet and then caromed into his face. De San Miguel went down immediately and blood could be seen running from his face. The Defensive Specialist’s medical training instantly came back to him, however as he got up to go and administer emergency first aid, Mrs The Defensive Specialist gently grabbed his elbow and reminded him that his public indemnity insurance was no longer current. The Defensive Specialist wasn’t about to let the possibility of a multi-million dollar liability suit get in the way of saving someone’s life, but fortunately all that worry was for nought as the local vet / doctor was on hand to administer assistance. De San Miguel was led away with a sizeable gash over his left eye and his day surely over.

Vaughn Harris was immediately brought on for the Patriots to relive Graham and retired House and Dale (another punch out on a slider) to end the inning.

Dean White entered for the Heat in the bottom of the 5th with Chris House moving behind the plate and Luke Hughes going out to left field. White worked a 1,2,3 inning.

NSW 5-4
In the 6th, Matt Kennelly started the inning with a monster shot to straight away centrefield . Andy Kyle popped out to first and Patriots manager Glenn Williams went to his bullpen to summon local boy Matthew Williams. Williams came in throwing 90mph and was a little more overpowering than any other arm we had seen thus far. Mitch Graham singled to right field and Kimpton walked. A passed ball moved the runners up and opened first base. The Patriots took this opportunity to intentionally walk the dangerous Hughes. Williams then walked Tim Kennelly forcing in the tying run and issued another free pass to Dean White (now hitting for himself in De San Miguel’s position) for the go ahead run.

Lefty Mathew Rae was quickly brought in from the NSW bullpen to face lefthanded Chris House. After getting ahead in the count, Rae served up a down and in fastball that House dropped head on and crushed for a grand slam down the right field line. The epic blast was only bettered by House’s bat toss that may have actually spun 720 degrees – quite remarkable. Dale punched out (hat trick), Matthew Kennelly walked again and Kyle flew out to make the first and third out in the inning.

WA 11-5

The patriots weren’t about to lie down, as Posposhil singled up the middle and Lysaught kept his power surge going with a 2 run bomb to centre.  White settled to retire the next 3 hitters.

WA 11-7

The runs kept coming in the 7th and final inning. Rae recorded two quick outs before surrendering a single to left by Hughes. Hughes advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a Tim Kennelly single to centrefield.

WA 12-7

For NSW, PAT MAT countered with a double down the leftfield line and techno Tim Auty followed with a double of his own off the right centre wall. White punched out Atherton and then surrendered a sac fly by Kandilas to right that scored PAT MAT. A fly out to left field off the bat of Posposhil ended the contest.

Final Score WA  12-8

As far as the Deep in the Hole Player of the game goes, Chris House provided a thrill with the monster grand slam and prime time bat toss, but for pure value for money, the Defensive Specialist has to go with Luke Hughes who went 3-4, homerun, 4 runs and a walk.

For the Heat, it was a gritty away from home win. Schmidt was not at his sharpest and defensively they didn’t help their cause with 3 errors. Fortunately their bats stepped up and punished the Patriots bullpen like a red headed stepchild. The Patriots would be disappointed seeing their bullpen implode like that after getting out to an early lead but will take solace in the fact that their offense cranked out 13 hits and put up 8 runs in a losing effort.

This of course sets the scene for game 3, which is crucial for both squad’s playoff aspirations. A Perth win could effectively end the Patriots season while a Patriot’s  victory keeps their dream alive and makes the Heat / Aces series next weekend huge. The Defensive Specialist needs to rustle up some tucker to reenergise for game 3 – review coming Monday.