By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network
The Adelaide Giants beat the Perth Heat 3-1 on February 4 to win the Australian Baseball League’s Claxton Shield at Dicolor Australia Stadium in West Beach, South Australia.
The Adelaide Giants were down 1-0 in the best-of-three series, losing the first game 4-3 in 13 innings, and defeated the Perth Heat 6-3 in game two.
Giants right-handed relief pitcher Todd Van Steensel was named the ABLCS MVP.
Van Steensel, the closer for the Adelaide Giants, pitched a scoreless ninth with a strikeout for the save against Perth Heat in the final game, and also pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts in game one. In game two, Van Steensel recorded the save with a scoreless inning and two strikeouts.
Van Steensel, 33, pitched 5.1 innings in five playoff games. He didn’t allow a run, struck out nine batters, and had four saves, and helped the Adelaide Giants win their first championship last season. The Adelaide Giants also defeated the Perth Heat 2-1 in the series last year.
During the regular season, Van Steensel appeared in 16 games and pitched 15.2 innings with 17 strikeouts and 10 saves. He made his ABL debut in 2010 with the Sydney Blue Sox and his played first season with the Adelaide Giants was in 2020. His career numbers in 13 seasons are 192 innings pitched, 237 strikeouts, 4.45 ERA, and 41 saves. Van Steensel spoke to the media after the final victory.
“I’ve been playing for so long to be able to win it back to back is surreal, the feeling still can’t get any better,” Van Steensel said in a postgame interview on the Baseball+ telecast.
The current ABL was established in 2010 and consists of six teams. The Perth Heat and Brisbane Bandits are tied for the most championships with four. The original ABL was established in 1989 and shut down after the summer of 2000 due to financial difficulties.
Game One – The Perth Heat scored the first two runs of the game in the second off Adelaide Giants starting pitcher Lachlan Wells. Ochoa Jr. and third baseman Carlos Sanchez both had RBI doubles.
Wells pitched five innings, gave up three runs, and struck out two batters.
Perth Heat center fielder Tim Kennelly had an RBI single in the fifth to bring in Ochoa Jr. and give them a 3-0 lead.
Perth Heat starting pitcher Tyler Beardsley pitched five scoreless innings but gave up three runs in the sixth to tie the game. Spence had an RBI double for the first run to score Nava. Latimore had a two-run RBI double to score Ocha Jr. and Fergus. Beardsley left the game after 5.2 innings with five hits allowed and six strikeouts.
The game would remain tied at three until the 13th inning. Perth Heat’s bullpen pitched 7.1 scoreless innings. Their offense broke through with a walk-off RBI double from Sanchez off Adelaide Giants reliever Ky Hampton that brought in Marinez for a 4-3 win.
Perth Heat reliever Tom Bailey pitched three scoreless innings with three strikeouts and picked up the win.
Game Two – The Perth Heat scored the first run of the game in the second when Martinez hit a sacrifice fly off Adelaide Giants starting pitcher Luke Willkins to center field to bring in Bojarski. Wilkins pitched four innings, gave up two runs, and struck out four.
The Adelaide Giants tied the game in the second against Perth Heat starting pitcher Kobe Foster. Foster pitched 4.2 innings, gave up four runs, and had four strikeouts. The Adelaide Giants took a 2-1 lead in the third with an RBI single from right fielder Jordan McArdle to bring in Spence.
The Perth Heat scored two runs in the fourth to take a 3-2 lead. One of the runs came from an error by Wilkins and the other one was an RBI groundout from left fielder Nehomar Ochoa Jr. The Perth Heat wouldn’t score for the rest of the game.
Adelaide Giants left fielder Quincy Latimore hit a two-run home run against Foster that brought in Spence in the fifth to give them a 4-3 lead. Spence scored two runs, had three hits, and an RBI single in the sixth to score center fielder Cade Fergus.
The Adelaide Giants got an insurance run in the eighth off a wild pitch. Foster took the loss and Adelaide Giants reliever Braeden Fausnaught got the win. Fausnaught pitched two scoreless innings and struck out two batters.
Game Three – Perth Heat starting pitcher Jake Bowdy pitched three innings with two hits allowed and one strikeout Bowdy stayed in the game as the designated hitter after he pitched.
The Adelaide Giants struck first with a run in the fourth to take a 1-0 lead, when first baseman Rixon Wingrove hit an RBI double to drive in second baseman Liam Spence.
Adelaide GIants starting pitcher Daniel McGrath pitched three scoreless innings allowing one hit and striking out one batter. Both bullpens pitched three scoreless innings and the game remained 1-0 until the seventh.
Bowdy hit a fly ball to center field off Adelaide Giants reliever Oscar Nakaoshi to bring in catcher Alex Hall to tie the game at one. A throwing error by shortstop Odalys Peguero allowed Hall to score and right fielder Ulrich Bojarski to advance to third base.
Adelaide Giants right fielder Briely Knight made a diving catch to rob first baseman Raudelis Martinez of a hit and kept Bojarski on third base. Nakaoshi got the next batter, second baseman Byron Armstrong, out to keep the game tied at one.
Knight stepped up in the eight and broke the tie against Perth Heat reliever Tucker Smith with a two-run RBI double to bring in shortstop Josh Altmann and catcher Andrick Nava. Smith took the loss and Austin Ross got the win. Ross pitched a scoreless eight and struck out two batters.
The Adelaide Giants pitching staff gave up zero earned runs and one unearned run.
Outside of their pitching staff, Briley Knight, 24, was the biggest contributor in the Adelaide Giants win. Knight made his ABL debut this season and played all three outfield positions. He played 27 games in the regular season and had one home run, 11 RBI, two stolen bases, and an OPS of .898 in 69 at-bats. Game three was his only start of the playoffs.
“I was fired up and ready to go. They gave me the opportunity today. I didn’t want to waste that opportunity. I wanted to take advantage of it and it happened,” Knight said in a postgame interview on the Baseball+ telecast.