Canberra secures spot in ABL championship series
Cavalry to defend title after dispatching Blue Sox in three-game set
The Canberra Cavalry have advanced to the Australian Baseball League championship series following a two games to one series victory over the Sydney Blue Sox. The defending-champion Cavalry won the series the hard way, dropping the opening game at home before winning back-to-back contests on the road.
It was an offensive explosion in Australia's Capitol Territory, as the Blue Sox and Cavalry combined to score 29 runs on 40 hits in the series opener, won 18-11 by Sydney.
The Blue Sox racked up 23 hits in the game, led by Jacob May's 5-for-7 performance at the top of the lineup. The White Sox No. 15 prospect, May scored a game-high four runs and drove in two.
D-backs prospect Keon Broxton finished the opening contest 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs, and former Major Leaguer Trent Oeltjen went 3-for-5 with a home run and six RBIs.
Batting ninth in the order, 18-year-old Tigers prospect Zach Shepherd finished the ballgame 2-for-5 with a double and three runs scored for Sydney.
Canberra did its best to erase an early 6-0 deficit, pulling to within three runs on two separate occasions, as every member of the starting lineup finished with at least one hit.
Team MVP and Blue Jays prospect Jon Berti finished the game 4-for-5. Fellow Blue Jays prospects Jack Murphy and Mike Crouse collected one hit each.
Though pitching wasn't the story in Game 1, Angels prospect Aaron Sookee came up big out of the Sydney bullpen, tossing three scoreless innings to earn the victory. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed just one hit in his first relief outing in the ABL, following a regular season that saw him go 4-7 with a 4.95 ERA in 12 starts.
Canberra staved off a late Sydney comeback and benefited from a close call on the game's final play to even the series with a 4-3 victory at Blue Sox Stadium.
The Cavalry won despite managing just four hits, thanks in large part to four Sydney errors. Jeremy Barnes and Jason Sloan both went yard for Canberra in the victory, each homering off Blue Sox starter Connor Whalen.
Ethan Cole earned the victory for Canberra, allowing just one unearned run on seven hits in six strong innings. A former Cardinals farmhand, Cole went 5-5 with a 3.80 ERA in 12 regular-season starts.
For Sydney, four players registered at least two hits in defeat, with Broxton adding his fifth RBI of the series. Broxton, who also stole a base in the contest, attempted to leg out an infield single on the game's final play, but was ruled out at first base as the would-be game-tying run crossed the plate.
Oeltjen went 2-for-5 in the ballgame, and former Marlins prospect Trent D'Antonio went 3-for-5.
Having committed seven errors in the first two games of the series, the Blue Sox suffered another defensive meltdown in Game 3, committing four more errors in a season-ending 9-1 defeat. The game remained scoreless through five innings, but the Cavalry broke through with five runs on six hits and two Sydney errors in the sixth.
Canberra native Ben Warner and Crouse led the Cavalry offense with three hits each. Murphy, meanwhile, collected three RBIs to lead all players in the deciding game. Murphy finished the series batting .250 with four RBIs.
Berti finished the game with a hit and his second RBI of the series and heads into the championship series hitting .333 in the postseason.
Steven Chambers made the start for Canberra and earned the victory by holding the Blue Sox to one run on three hits in six strong innings. Blue Jays Minor Leaguer Clint Everts earned the save by tossing three scoreless, hitless innings with five strikeouts.
Sydney finished the game with just three hits, with two belonging to Oeltjen. The onetime D-back and Dodger also collected the lone Sydney RBI and finished the three-game set 7-for-14 with a home run and seven RBIs.
Broxton also turned in a solid series, going 5-for-10 with five RBIs and two stolen bases.
Canberra will now travel to Perth, where it will have a chance to defend its ABL title. The three-game championship series between the Heat and Cavalry begins Friday night.
Craig Durham is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.