The curtain came down on Canberra Cavalry’s inaugural ABL season on Saturday with 5-4 and 4-2 twin bill losses against the Sydney Blue Sox. Canberra finished the season in 6th place with a 12-24 record.
Although these results were not to the liking of the home fans, the day was not without its highlights. During the year local business Jim Taylor Plumbing had been sponsoring a home run charity appeal and on the day presented a cheque for $2,000 while Canberra utilities company ActewAGL also handed over $1,350.
The many volunteers who had been so important in ensuring a successful year were warmly thanked by the Cavalry management and crowd. The ceremonial first pitch for the evening game was thrown out by Brumbies and Wallabies prop Ben Alexander and the presence of a big number of Blue Sox fans helped generate a heady atmosphere at Narrabundah Ball Park.
There were also two notable ABL firsts on the day; a lightning delay and a bench clearing incident.
The afternoon game began in humid conditions and under a dark and threatening sky that would later on provide a spectacular light show.
Sydney were immediately on the board in the 1st after centre fielder Nick Kimpton was unable to make a play on Alex Johnson’s fly ball which scored Trent Schmutter. The Cavalry tied it up in the 2nd when a Sung-Woo Jang grounder brought home Michael Wells from 3rd.
An incident in the 3rd inning was a prelude to what would unfold in the 4th. With runners on 1st and 2nd and one out Johnson executed a clever bunt compelling Canberra third baseman Michael Wells to try for the force out at 2nd.
To the dismay of Cavalry fans Joshua Dean was ruled safe despite injuring Canberra second baseman Kyu-Hyun Moon’s left foot with his slide as it appeared the infielder had blocked the bag. Moon had to come out of the game which only served to inflame the exasperated crowd.
The large contingent of Sydney supporters had made their presence felt with some rowdy barracking and not so subtle banter directed towards Cavalry fans and players.
But now in the 4th inning it was on the diamond where some simmering tensions came to the boil. With one out and Sox shortstop Michael Lysaught the only runner on 3rd David Kandilas’ sharply hit grounder found Didi Gregorius. Instead of the play at 1st Gregorius threw to home where catcher Jang was required to tag the advancing Lysaught for the out.
Lysaught barrelled into Jang, as the rules allow, in an unsuccessful attempt to dislodge the ball but did manage to send the catcher crashing to the ground. This was all too much for Canberra starter and fellow Korean Myung-Ho Jin who had witnessed compatriot Moon’s forced withdrawal the previous inning.
Jin exchanged words with Lysaught who then advanced in the direction of the pitcher. Canberra players immediately moved to restrain Lysaught at which point the conflict quickly escalated as both dugouts and bullpens emptied. Fortunately hostilities were limited to some pushing and shoving and order was quickly restored with the umpires issuing formal warnings to both teams.
Fans from both sides were not slow in loudly voicing their assessment as to who was at fault and why.
Sydney retook the lead in the 5th via Brendan Kingman’s 3 run homer but the Cavalry responded with 2 of their own courtesy of Kimpton’s two out single.
A game that hadn’t been short on drama saw Canberra draw level in controversial circumstances in the 6th. An Andrew Schmidt (Moon’s replacement) grounder might have resulted in an inning ending double play but the Sox’s second baseman Shannon Pender was checked by the base running of Jang allowing Tom Vincent to score. Sydney manager Glen Williams came out to argue interference by the runner but an umpires’ conference confirmed that the run would stand.
The scheduled seven inning game went into the 8th where Sydney scored what would ultimately be the game winning run through a two out single by Trent D’Antonio.
The second game began like the first with the Sox scoring in the 1st and Canberra levelling in the 2nd. The Cavalry took a one run lead in the 3rd after a Kimpton double scored Gregorius. However the victory hopes of the local fans were dashed in the 4th when a Brendan Kingman homer tied the scores.
It was about this time when Mother Nature decided to join in the action. Rain which had fallen intermittently throughout the afternoon and evening now became heavier and more persistent.
Even more dramatic were the numerous flashes of lightning and clashes of thunder over the night sky and it was more for safety concerns than rain that the umpires called a halt in the middle of the 6th inning. As the rain continued even after the lightning and thunder had passed and the chances of more play looked remote many in the large crowd made their way home.
However, eventually the rain stopped and after some repair work by the grounds crew and a delay of an hour and forty five minutes the match resumed.
Desperate to get back on and secure home ground advantage for the play offs Sydney took full advantage of the break in the weather scoring one run in both the 8th and 9th inning to lock up the win and claim top position on the ladder.
The small crowd who remained to the end gave the Canberra team an appreciative farewell.
Manager Steve Schrenk thanked the fans for their support and expressed the determination to return next year bigger and better. Bring on the 2011/12 season.