Australia claimed the MLB scalp they were after in a 5-0 rout of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night, as Perth sluggers Tim Kennelly and Luke Hughes brought the heat to the SCG.
Disappointed not to cause a stunning boil over against the might of the Los Angeles Dodgers the night before, Australia came out swinging to ensure they finished their two exhibition matches with at least one memorable win.
One of the reasons the MLB decided to bring their season-opening series to Sydney was because of the growing nursery of baseball talent here.
That potential was showcased in emphatic style on Friday, even though support for the home team was again poor – with fans mainly interested in the proper MLB matches on the weekend.
But the week can’t hurt Australian coach Jon Deeble’s hopes of securing more international competition for his side leading into the 2017 World Baseball Classic – after beating an MLB side for the first time since 2009, when they defeated the Seattle Mariners.
Kennelly smoked a home run over the left field wall that he’ll never forget in the bottom of the fourth and added an RBI the very next innings.
His Perth Heat ABL teammate and successful former MLB export, Hughes had two RBI’s and Stefan Welch another, as the Southern Thunder hitters played all over their more fancied American opponents.
Having lost No.1 pitching ace Patrick Corbin for Saturday night’s MLB opening day clash with the Dodgers, the bad news continued for the Arizona pitching staff at the hands of the 13th ranked nation in baseball.
When the stadium fills for the official start of the American season at the SCG on Saturday, the Diamondbacks will hope their starter Wade Miley – who almost didn’t make it to Sydney due to his crippling fear of flying – can deliver against the might of Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.
Against LA, Australia had led 2-0 only to capitulate in the eighth innings.
Deeble demanded his pitchers improve under pressure – and when the Southern Thunder found themselves in front on Friday, they only went from strength to strength.
Starting pitcher Tim Atherton and relievers Craig Anderson, Wayne Lundgren, Todd Van Steensel and Brad Thomas never looked like giving up a run.