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Auckland Tuatara pull off unbelievable comeback to keep ABL playoff hopes alive

Keyber Rodriguez hits a single for the Auckland Tuatara in their second game against the Brisbane Bandits on January 21.

David Long/Stuff

Keyber Rodriguez hits a single for the Auckland Tuatara in their second game against the Brisbane Bandits on January 21.

The Auckland Tuatara pulled off the most remarkable comeback in the club’s history on Saturday as they split wins with the Brisbane Bandits at North Harbor Stadium.

They won the first game of the double header 9-8 after four extra innings of baseball, but lost the nightcap 4-2, again in extra innings.

The results keep alive the club’s hopes of making it into the playoffs, but it will come down to whether they can beat Brisbane in the final game of the season on Sunday.

If they win, they’re in the playoffs, but if they lose and Canberra defeat Sydney, they miss out.

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But regardless of what happens, the first game of this double header will long be remembered for one of the most incredible comebacks ever seen in the Australian Baseball League.

After the seven regulation innings the scores were locked up at 2-2. The first two extra innings were quiet, but the game exploded in the 10th with Brisbane’s TJ Bennett hitting a grand slam off Kiwi pitcher Elliot Johnstone

That’s usually enough to win a game in extra innings, but the Bandits were able to add an insurance run with Dai-Kang Yang also sending the ball over the fence.

So the Tuatara needed to score five runs in the bottom of the 10th to keep the game alive and their cause wasn’t helped by Jason Matthews lining out to short stop Logan Wade from the first pitch he faced.

After a single to Jack Barrie, Robert Emery popped up a ball for the second out, meaning the Bandits were one out from the win, with the Tuatara still needing five runs.

Then the magic happened. Jax Biggers hit a grand slam to right field and then on the next pitch from Sam Holland, Keyber Rodriguez did likewise.

In the top of the 11th inning, Brisbane scored another run, but this time the Tuatara went one better, with Matthews’s sacrifice fly allowing Wyatt Hoffman to score the winning run from third base.

That was the cue for incredible scenes emanating from the Tuatara dugout.

The second game followed a similar pattern to the first, with the teams tied at 2-2 after seven innings.

However, this time the Tuatara couldn’t respond when the Bandits scored a couple of runs in the top of the eighth.

“There ain’t nobody ever seen what happened in the first game probably,” Tuatara manager Steve Mintz said of the 9-8 win.

“Back to back homers to take the lead and then back to back homers to get back.

“But what a day of baseball. We lost the second game, but they hit the one ball in extra innings.

“We had a couple of other chances we didn’t get.

Mintz says with their entire season on the line on Sunday, they’re going to treat it like it’s game seven of the World Series.

“We threw everything we had at that first game and we’ll throw whatever we’ve got left,” he said.

“Hopefully we can get some runs and we’ll see what happens.

“We’ve got to decide who’s starting [pitcher]. We’ve got four or five guys still down there (in the bullpen), who we’ve got confidence in. We feel good about what we’ve got left.”

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