The Perth Heat have won the Australian Baseball League’s Claxton Shield for the second time, taking the best-of-three series with the Melbourne Aces.
The Heat beat the Aces in Game 1, by a 4-1 score, and the hero of that game was former Pirate Virgil Vasquez. Vasquez was a late addition to the Heat, appearing in only two regular-season games for them in January. He began the championship series by throwing a complete game for the Heat, allowing one run on 5 hits and no walks. He struck out 8 Melbourne batters along the way. That lone run came on a solo homer in the top of the 2nd. The Aces’ biggest threat after that was in the 6th inning, when Vasquez gave up two singles, but left both runners on base. After those singles, Vasquez finished the game by retiring all 11 of the remaining batters in order, including four of his strikeouts. Meanwhile, the Heat scored a run on three singles and a ground out in the 1st inning, then took the lead with a solo homer in the 4th. They added insurance runs in the 6th and 7th.
The Aces came back to win Game 2 in 13 innings, 3-2. Each team scored 2 runs earlier in the game. The Heat were first onto the scoreboard with two doubles and a single in the bottom of the 5th. The Aces answered with a runner reaching on an error, then two singles in the top of the 6th. Six and a half scoreless innings followed. The two teams were able to put runners on base, usually one at a time, but could not bring any of them around to score. Finally, in the top of the 13th, a single and a sacrifice bunt but a Melbourne runner on second base, and a single into center field drove him in to score the go-ahead run. Perth threatened with two singles in the bottom of the frame, but the Aces held them off to take the win and tie the series.
Game 3, held on Sunday afternoon, was another 13-inning affair. Both teams scored 3 runs in the 1st inning — Melbourne with a bases-loaded triple, and Perth with a double, an RBI single, and a 2-run homer. Two singles and a double gave the Aces 2 more runs in the 2nd, and they added a run in the 3rd for a 6-3 lead. The Heat got one run back in the 4th, then tied the score in the 5th with 2 runs on 3 singles and a sacrifice fly. Like the day before, a long run of scoreless innings (7.5) followed. A few batters reached base, but after the 6th inning, neither team had more than one runner on base at a time. The bottom of the 13th began with a Perth batter being hit by a pitch. He advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt, and moved on to third on a ground out. Then a wild pitch gave that runner an opportunity, and he scored the championship-winning run for the Heat.