When an international journey-man like Alex Maestri pitches, you look forward to Ks. When SoftBank Hawks reliever Yohei Yanagawa, boasting a 1.88 ERA in Japan's NBP, decides to stretch himself out down under - you brace yourself for some fireworks. But when a Gold Coast born twenty-one year old takes the mound in the last game of the series - well, you don't expect anything.
Last year for the Bandits Chambers pitched four innings across three games for the Bandits - allowing 9 hits, 8 walks, and 6 runs. Not exactly heart-warming stuff.
In the forth and final game of this years opening series against Canberra, the Bandits - up 8-6 in the middle of the sixth - threw the ball to Chambers. He responded by sending back nine batters straight - 3 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 Ks. Three innings of work in 38 pitches, choking the Calvary offence in what up to that point had been a high scoring contest.
Presumably, he was rewarded for this impressive relief appearance by being given the start in the final game of the next series, this time against the formidable Sydney Blue Sox. His response? 6.1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 5 Ks. For those of you not familiar with baseball statistics - at this point in the season he has pitched nine and a third innings and allowed only two batters on base (one hit, one walk) and struck out seven - impressive results on any scale.
So where did this come from? Even Maestri allowed 5 hits and 2 walks in his much praised 10 K performance. It got me wondering - who the hell is Steven Chambers?
After some poking around the Australian Baseball Federation website, I found that although he made the 2011 Queensland U23 team - he only pitched one inning of relief in the tournament. Searching a little deeper, Chambers signed up with Czech Republican team Technika Brno in April of this year. While it's difficult to locate year-wide stat summaries, his performances with Brno in the 2011 European Cup Qualifiers seem very strong. For example, in June he lasted the full nine innings against Bern Cardinals - allowing 4 hits, 5 walks, 0 runs, and notching up 11 Ks - in a mammoth 139 pitch performance. Then in September he went 7 innings, allowing 1 hit and 4 walks - contrasted against 10 Ks.
While there are definitely some gaps to fill in his backstory, it appears Chambers has been spending the ABL off season practicing his craft - and this has so far paid off, with drastic reductions in the number hits and walks allowed. While I greatly enjoy watching our classy imports, providing opportunities for young local players like Chambers to show their stuff is one of the primary purposes of the ABL. It's the young Aussies that will form the backbone of the team in years to come - so let's home Chambers can keep up the heat.