ABL Week Seven: new faces, new results
4 January 2018
It’s time to shake off the New Year’s festivities and get back to business as Week Seven of the ABL throws up some intriguing matchups.
Last weekend was one of milestones – Perth produced a baseball unicorn, knocking in a casual 32 runs from just 24 hits on Sunday against Canberra. The 32-10 result now stands as the ABL’s highest score and the largest winning margin.
It was clear the Heat weren’t in the mood for niceties – they even teed off on Cavs outfielder David Kandilas when he came to the mound, the baseball equivalent of taking your opponent’s white flag of surrender, burning it, pouring petrol on the ashes and setting fire to them again.
The other milestone to salute is Melbourne and Team Australia Catcher Allan De San Miguel’s 300th game. It’s the first time anyone has reached the milestone in the ABL and ‘De San’ is having a season fitting the milestone, hitting an ABL career best .309 and leading the team in RBIs.
A possible wildcard for this weekend and the next is that a stack of young Aussie talent will miss the next two weekends as they participate in the Australian Youth Championships. Home teams will lose most if not all of their development players and some first team talent will also be absent.
It’s a great week ahead. Three fantastic series await us, with ramifications up and down the standings and some quality baseball nostalgia in Adelaide. This is what we’ve been waiting for!
We’re keen to get your thoughts on what will happen in week seven. Let us know on the Australian Baseball Alumni’s FACEBOOK page. To ridicule these previews, visit @AJMithen on twitter.
MELBOURNE ACES versus CANBERRA CAVALRY (Melbourne Ballpark)
Game 1: Thursday 7.00 pm AEST
Game 2: Friday 7.00 pm AEST
Game 3: Saturday 6.30 pm AEST
Game 4: Sunday 1.00 pm AEST WATCH LIVE
Canberra fly south for a series now critical for the shape of the post-season.
This is the first of only two Melbourne homestands in the second half of the season, with away trips to Brisbane and Perth either side of a tricky series against Adelaide.
When the teams met in Canberra all the talk was about Canberra’s hitting potency in the first two games, but lost among that was the fact that the Aces were one out away from a probable series split.
A few folks (myself included) have started rumbling about the Aces’ chances this season but as I settled in to watch the Sydney series I was reminded of the quality on their roster – there’s no doubt that the talent is there to make an impact.
The Cavs bring some great arms to Melbourne. Frank Gailey, Lake Bachar, Michael Click and a luckless Steve Kent are formidable but this is a great match against the Aces lineup.
For Melbourne, Matt Marksberry has very much been eased into his comeback season, throwing four innings across five games and one clean inning in the all-star game. Marksberry struck out Sydney’s last two batters with loaded bases on Saturday to get a save and as his body becomes acclimatised to the work, he could play a significant role from the bullpen.
The Aces ‘new’ import Michael Crouse may still wear a Cavs cap on his ABL web profile but he made a big impact in his first series in Australia since 2013-14, going 6-16. Add Crouse to Delmon Young, Tyler Neslony and Brett Cumberland and the Aces have undeniable hitting strength from their imports.
Prediction: Aces 3-1
Melbourne’s own preview has the Cavalry ahead in every aspect of the game but I’m feeling more positive about things than that. Even setting aside the amount of times the Aces have blown up predictions in 2017/18, for me this shapes as the mild upset of the weekend.
SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus BRISBANE BANDITS (Blacktown Sportspark)
Game 1: Thursday 7.30 pm AEST WATCH LIVE
Game 2: Friday 7.30 pm AEST WATCH LIVE
Game 3: Saturday 7.30 pm AEST WATCH LIVE
Game 4: Sunday 1.00 pm AEST WATCH LIVE
The Blue Sox host Brisbane in their most important series this season, needing at least a split to stay in touch with the top four.
Unfortunately for them, Brisbane won’t be in the giving mood after unexpectedly splitting their home series with the last-placed Adelaide.
The 2-2 weekend leaves the Bandits only half a game ahead on top but still 4.5 games clear of fourth place.
Brisbane are hitting consistently, first for homeruns and second for runs scored, walks and RBIs. Until last weekend they were able to find the hit they needed at key times and I’m not going to be the person who writes them off after one ‘shock result’.
Detroit Tigers signee Zach Shepherd returns to the Blue Sox for the second half of the year and Tony Harris will be hoping he can add another injection to the hitting.
Sydney had a golden opportunity to take a series lead over Melbourne in game three but came up empty handed after loading the bases with one out in the ninth. It was a symbol for how Sydney’s year has gone to this point – so close to breaking through, but not able to convert.
Having said all that, the Blue Sox have Chih-Hsien Chiang, Jacob Younis and Trent D’Antonio swinging the bat beautifully and they won’t fear facing the champs. They were swept in Brisbane a few weeks ago but as mentioned previously, it was a much closer contest than 0-4 suggests and Harris’ men will feel they match up well with their opponent.
Prediction: Brisbane 3-1
This is a genuine toss of the coin but I have to commit one way or another and it’s Brisbane’s starting rotation and defence that sways me. If the Blue Sox can top Atherton, Bollinger, Blackley and Chen Hung-Wen then their season deserves to be well and truly alive.
ADELAIDE BITE versus PERTH HEAT (West Beach)
Game 1: Thursday 7.30 pm ACT WATCH LIVE
Game 2: Friday 7.30 pm ACT
Game 3: Saturday 7.00 pm ACT WATCH LIVE
Game 4: Sunday 12.00 am ACT
The run-laden Perth Heat head to Adelaide for a series that pre-Christmas would have been a walk in the park.
But Adelaide showed in Brisbane that they are more than capable of matching it with anyone, securing a split weekend after winning 5-2 on Sunday in a highly enjoyable game to watch.
A series win would put the Heat well on track for a first place finish and more help has arrived, with Perth welcoming major leaguer Warwick Saupold to the bullpen as he starts his pre-season work.
Perth’s stats have ballooned after the madness against Canberra, but don’t overlook the grit they showed before Sunday’s circus – they worked hard to stay in touch when Canberra pulled away, then executed under pressure to give themselves the opportunity to win a crucial series.
Adelaide are celebrating heritage weekend, with throwback Giants uniforms an ‘old timers’ game and recognition of the 1967 Claxton Shield winning team’s 50th anniversary.
The Bite will be very, very pleased with their efforts in Brisbane, in particular the immediate impact from Ryo Koura (12 strikeouts) and outfielder Kuan-Jen Chen (3-8 with a walk for the series).
But Adelaide are arguably the team hit hardest by the Youth Championships, with Jack O’Loughlin, Curtis Mead and Mason Clavell representing South Australia.
Friday and Saturday are predicted to be pretty rank weatherwise, with tops of 37 then 41 so bullpens (and the Perth broadcast team) better pack a few pop-up marquees. Hopefully the weather doesn’t mess about with the Bite’s off-field weekend plan.
Prediction: Perth 3-1
Perth should take the weekend, but it won’t be without a fight from the home team. Chris Adamson’s men are starting to piece things together at the plate but it’s when opponents get past their starting pitchers where problems manifest.