BURLINGTON – Troy Anstett earned the save Monday night in a 5-4 Ancaster Cardinals victory over the Burlington Bandits to avoid elimination in the first round of the Golden Horseshoe Baseball League playoffs.
The young right-hander shut down two rallies by the Bandits in the sixth and seventh innings to seal the victory, built on a strong effort by starter Ryan Hands at Millcroft Park.
The lefty had only given up one earned run through four strong innings of work, but lost effectiveness quickly after a confrontation with an umpire in the top of the fifth inning, something that Coach Jim Barta has seen happen in the past.
“That’s one of Ryan’s problems – he sometimes gets a little distracted. If he stays focused he’s a really great pitcher,” the coach said. “He struggled a bit at the end there but he got us through and that’s what we needed.”
Composure issues aside, Hands earned the win and surrendered only three runs over five and a third sharp innings, a solid start for Anstett to close out. Hands also hit a leadoff single in the third inning that sparked a three-run outburst, giving the Cardinals a lead that they would not lose.
Rob Hill was on the mound for the Bandits, and while he looked sharp, he was the victim of bad defence – only one of his five runs was earned.
A botched double-play ball early in the third inning would have avoided that three-run rally, and have left the Bandits with a chance to work their way back into the game earlier than they eventually did in the sixth.
The Bandits’ defensive struggles may have ended up being the difference, but the Cardinals were made to win games like this, according to Coach Barta.
“[Offence] has been our struggling all year long. We’re not a strong hitting team. We’ve been solid – usually solid – defensively, and we have strong pitching,” he said. “It makes every game close, and we’ve been lucky this year.
“We had a good record, but a lot of games were like this one, so we don’t do anything easy but we get it done.”
Hill came up with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and final inning with the tying run on third and the winning run on second. He hit .395 in the regular season, but the Cardinals managed to keep him off balance and he eventually grounded out to second base.
“We said throw the curveball because [Anstett] was throwing it for a strike and struggling with his fastball. We said throw the curveball and that’s gonna win us the game or lose us the game, and it won it,” said the Cardinals’ Coach with a smile. “He basically threw one fastball to the last two batters – all the rest were curveballs.
Cole Jerome also had a strong game for the Cardinals, scoring two runs on a pair of singles.
The Cardinals will host the Bandits in the third and final game of the series at Ancaster’s Mathew Krol Diamond on Tuesday night. First pitch is at 7:30.