Crunch time for post-season aspirants
With a range of scenarios still in play, attention will be well and truly focused on all three Australian Baseball League series as we enter Round Eight starting on Thursday evening.
A mouth-watering clash at Narrabundah provides second-placed Canberra Cavalry (16-12) the chance to make ground on highballing league leader Melbourne Aces (21-7), while third-placed Adelaide Bite (13-15) will be at home to a resurgent Perth Heat (11-17) that will be looking for at least a series win – and preferably a sweep – to keep its season alive.
Keeping an eye on happenings in Adelaide but largely in control of its own destiny, a beefed-up Brisbane Bandits (12-16) plays host to Sydney Blue Sox (11-17), which will be desperate to reverse its poor record on the road if it is to remain in contention for the playoffs.
With clubs scheduled for just a dozen more games each, the ABL season could not have been more evenly poised as we head into a Round Eight weekend that is likely to bring greater clarity to who will be contesting the Claxton Shield in early February.
Five games clear on top of the table, Melbourne Aces appear odds-on to host the championship series, although they will need another five or six wins to lock the schedule in. With a three-game break between it and third, Canberra probably requires just half a dozen wins to secure second, although third placing – even in that event – remains very much up for grabs.
Hosting Perth and Sydney respectively, Adelaide and Brisbane both have the motivation – and the playing capacity, one should add – to strengthen their winning ratios and make a charge at third spot. Hope springs eternal, however, and ABL aficionados should not yet be discounting the Heat and the Blue Sox – both of whom can yet make the post-season should either be able to muster at least seven, and ideally eight or nine wins from their last twelve outings.
It is a beautifully poised situation that should produce far greater clarity by Sunday.
WEEK EIGHT AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE PREVIEW
12 January 2017
A top of the table clash highlights a tantalising round of Australian Baseball League action. Every team is still a chance to make the playoffs, while if results go their way the Aces could clinch the right to host the ABLCS for the first time ever.
CANBERRA CAVALRY versus MELBOURNE ACES (Narrabundah)
Thursday 12 January, 7.00 AEDST
Friday 13 January, 7.00 AEDST
Saturday 14 January, 7.00 AEDST WATCH LIVE
Sunday 15 January, 1.00 AEDST
The Aces head to Canberra this weekend in search of a small piece of history. Prior to this season the Aces had been the worst road team in the history of the league, but their 8-2 record on the road this season sees them sitting as the only team with a winning road record. The Aces will look to use their deep pitching rotation to shut down the Cavalry bats, who are the best hitting team in the league. This series goes a long way to determining action in February.
The Aces to increase their lead over the rest of the league, 3-1.
ADELAIDE BITE versus PERTH HEAT (West Beach)
Friday 13 January, 7.00 ACT
Saturday 14 January, 7.00 ACT LISTEN
Sunday 15 January, 12.30 ACT LISTEN
Adelaide and Perth are both desperate for a series victory this weekend. For the Heat it would be their first back-to-back series wins of the season, while the Bite need a series win to re-establish their buffer over the Brisbane Bandits. Adelaide have looked less than comfortable at their new home this season but will use Perth’s poor away record as a starting point for what should be a big weekend.
Greene Jr., Dening and Clark to keep Adelaide’s season on track, 3-1.
BRISBANE BANDITS versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (Holloway Field)
Thursday 12 January, 6.30 AEST WATCH LIVE
Friday 13 January, 6.30 AEST WATCH LIVE
Saturday 14 January, 6.30 AEST WATCH LIVE
Sunday 15 January, 2.00 AEST
The Sydney Blue Sox and Brisbane Bandits are two games and a game outside the playoffs respectively, but must feel that postseason baseball is a world away. The defending champions have shown glimpses of their title-winning form but had more struggles than success this season. In their other dugout, the Blue Sox have been unable to reach the lofty expectations set by their fans and have limped to an 11-17 record, with their 9-7 record at home the only thing standing between them and disaster.
Brisbane to pile the misery on their rivals, 4-0.