Birmingham Bandits (3-1) visited Western Park on Sunday to face off against the league-leading Leicester Blue Sox (5-1), who came into the game on the back of four consecutive wins that had propelled them to the top of the BBF Central Division.
Joel Upton started on the hill for Leicester and ran into some trouble early, loading the bases with one out in the first. With Birmingham first baseman Elliott Bebb at bat, Upton got a groundball to the left side which shortstop Scott McMillan was able to snare and start the inning-ending double-play to escape the jam.
Leicester took the lead in the bottom of the inning with catcher Rikson Martina coming around to score, but Upton encountered more difficulty in the second. Temporarily losing control and receiving little help from his defence, the Bandits were able to score five runs to take the lead with a big two-run double off the bat of centre fielder Han Seo. The Blue Sox put up five unanswered runs of their own to re-take the lead, 6-5 after three innings with two RBIs from right fielder Laura Ross.
Again Upton and the Leicester defence were unable to blank the Bandits bats having been given the lead, as Birmingham scored three runs on a hit and a couple of errors. This only gave the Leicester lineup another reason to show why they top the division, pounding out four straight 2-out hits, including a big two-run pinch-hit double from Armando Da Silva, to put up three runs of their own to re-take the lead 9-8 going into the final inning. Leicester looked to Martina to lock down the save, who got a strikeout and a pop out before Da Silva caught Kyle Bell trying to steal second to end the topsy-turvy contest.
Game two saw Ron Mason take the bump for Leicester, trading zeroes with opposing starter Seo in the first inning. Birmingham took the lead in the second, putting up two runs in the top half on a walk, a hit and two more errors from a shaky Blue Sox defence, but Leicester pulled a run back on a rare and amazing triple steal, with debutant Alex Montes de Oca coming in to score.
Birmingham got the run back on a pair of hits, but the Blue Sox had rattled their opponents, picking up a pair of hits and continuing to run wild to score four in the third, and three more in the fourth to take a decisive lead. Mason came through a tough final inning to secure the complete game victory, inducing a groundball to third base from opposing player-manager Bell, as he was again retired to end the game.
Leicester Blue Sox manager Dave Burke said after the game: “We experimented with a large squad across the two games today and I think it is a great testament to the depth we have built at the club to see us take two victories against a tough team, and a pitcher that was playing in the NBL just last season.”
Next up Leicester Blue Sox welcome Cambridge Lancers to Western Park on May 26th. First pitch will be at 12 noon.