Baseball: Auckland Tuatara record first-ever win with 5-4 triumph over Brisbane Bandits

Eric Jenkins impressed again for the Tuatara.
Eric Jenkins impressed again for the Tuatara. Photo credit: Photosport

It's official - baseball has arrived in New Zealand.

Under a blazing Waitakere sun, the Auckland Tuatara fought their way to a 5-4 win over the Brisbane Bandits in dramatic fashion to record its first win in franchise history in professional baseball's debut in Aotearoa.

After the Tuatara had led from the opening inning, the Bandits fought back to tie the game at the bottom of the eighth to have the 1000-odd fans at McLeod Park teetering on the edges of their seats.

Stand-out catcher Te Wera Bishop then stepped to the fore with a lead-off single, setting the stage for 16-year-old pinch-runner Ayrton Laird to clinch the winning run on a walk-off throwing error in the final inning to spark jubilant scenes in the Tuatara dugout.

The victory over the Australian Baseball League's reigning three-time champions is the ideal antidote for the Tuatara, with the Kiwi side coming off four-straight losses in their opening series in Perth last weekend.

Starting pitcher Jimmy Boyce was one of the Tuatara's best, producing three strikeouts with just four hits through a dominant opening five innings for the home team.

First-baseman Guiyuan Xu continued his red-hot form from Perth with two runs, as did centrefielder Eric Jenkins, who added one of his own. 

The Tuatara take in the national anthem.
The Tuatara take in the national anthem. Photo credit: Photosport

Manager Steve Mintz believes they couldn't have scripted the win any better, with the pressure valve now released in an occasion that was memorable for all the right reasons.

"To win in that fashion, walk them off and have them be able to run out there and express everything that we've been trying to get for all these months and to have that celebration was awesome," Mintz told Newshub.

"The way it looked out here, the people that came out, the weather, it's just been an unbelievable day and we're super excited and ready to get back out here tomorrow and try again."

The teams will square off again on Saturday in two back-to-back games, before rounding out their debut home series with a final contest on Sunday.

It's a matter of nailing the basics - particularly on the defensive side of the ball where they often struggled in Perth - to ensure the wins keep coming through the rest of the weekend, said Mintz.

"We've just got to do what we did today – we caught the ball and we threw it. That's been one our biggest problems. If we can play defense, get our runs in that we're supposed to, that's how we're going to win.

"We expect this Bandits club to come out again tomorrow and come out punching. We can't let our guard down with them because that's a great ball team over there.

"We know and we understand that, but as we move through this whole home stand we've got to continue to try to pick up as many wins as we can before we get back on the road."

The game got off to a perfect start for the Tuatara, as Boyce reeled off three-straight outs in the opening inning.

Auckland worked their way to a 4-1 lead in the seventh, when the Bandits struck in quick succession to cut the deficit to one.

The game-tying run at the top of the ninth then forced the Tuatara back into bat, to set the stage for teenage development player Laird's unikely heroics.