Finals race wide open as ABL resumes
28 December 2017
We are back! It’s only been seven days since we last saw baseball, but I’ll be taking to Round Six like a man stranded on a desert island does with fresh water and a volleyball.
A highly unexpected result in Melbourne has thrown the race for fourth place wide open. Sydney can move into the four with a series win over the Aces this weekend. Whoever wins the Melbourne versus Sydney battle might even cast a sneaky eye on third place, depending on what happens in Perth when the Cavs head west.
The Aces have a brutal run home, with only two home series against Canberra and Adelaide and a possible makeup game in Brisbane. If Jon Deeble’s men can lock away a postseason spot, watch out in post-season Week One because they’ll be well and truly battle hardened.
Don’t forget - only one team in the ‘new’ ABL has finished fourth with a record over .500 and only one fourth placed team has finished at .500.
There’s also the usual post-Christmas roster changes happening - players are in, out and back after injury or being shut down by their minor league sides.
It’s going to be a flurry of new names and faces over the next few weeks.
We’re keen to get your thoughts on what will happen in week five. Let us know on the Australian Baseball Alumni’s FACEBOOK page. To ridicule these previews, visit @AJMithen on twitter.
BRISBANE BANDITS versus ADELAIDE BITE (Holloway Field)
Game 1: Friday 6.30 AET WATCH LIVE
Game 4: Sunday 5.00 pm AET WATCH LIVE
Championship teams know to pace themselves throughout a campaign and Brisbane will be very pleased-but-not-satisfied that they’ve turned in the lead at the midpoint.
They’ll now be focused on securing their postseason spot. With a lead of 5.5 games on fourth place, this weekend against Adelaide may well take care of business.
Their cause is helped (and Adelaide’s not so much) with the return of gun pitcher Tim Atherton. The Bite have 50% of the ABL’s top ten strikeout leaders and it’s tough to see how they can turn that round against Brisbane’s arms.
Brisbane also roll out another Asian import in Kenshi Sugiya from the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
I’d love to see the viewing figures for this series - the Bandits took the broadcast truck down to Adelaide for Round Five because they know what the regional neighbours want to see.
Prediction: Bandits sweep
Adelaide fought hard at home against the Bandits but class won out - they’ll fight on again for sure, but Brisbane are focused on bigger and better things right now.
There’s more watching for fans of up and coming Aussie talent here too, with Adelaide taking 17 year olds Mason Clavell and Curtis Mead north for another taste of what it’s like against the best.
SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus MELBOURNE ACES (Blacktown Sportspark)
Game 1: Thursday 7.30 pm AEST WATCH LIVE
Game 2: Friday 7.30 pm AEST
Game 3: Saturday 6.30 pm AEST
Game 4: Sunday 4.00 pm AEST
If there was one key result from Round Five that set up some playoff intrigue, it was Sydney’s 3-1 series upset in Melbourne which well and truly put them back into post-season contention.
That does sound strange when you say it out loud considering the Sox had a 1-10 trot after round one but such is the beauty of baseball - there’s always a chance of getting on a run and making something of yourself.
But they finally took their chances against Melbourne and gave their campaign a massive shot in the arm. Also helping from here on in is the return of a quality arm in the pen, with Todd Van Steensel ready to go, after a championship winning season in AA ball at Chattanooga.
The Aces on the other hand have lost two of their Japanese import pitchers Shunta Nakatsuka and Kona Takahashi and flew a young pitching crew to Sydney. There’s a lot riding on the starts from Hamburger, Tols (assuming he starts) and Jon Kennedy.
With movement comes opportunity - and if you’re in the business of monitoring up and coming Aussie talent, watch for Melbourne’s teenage relievers Matt Beattie (18) and Blake Townsend (16). These two could have some very, very good times ahead of them.
Prediction: Blue Sox 3-1
Two weeks ago there’s no way I would have predicted this, but Sydney seem to be combining results with effort. Their pitching is among the league's best and they’ll be working hard to pin Melbourne down.
PERTH HEAT versus CANBERRA CAVALRY (Barbagallo)
Game 1: Friday 7.00 pm AWST WATCH LIVE
Game 2: Saturday 4.00 pm AWST
Game 3: Saturday 7.00 pm AWST
Game 4: Sunday 1.00 am AWST
Canberra and Perth may have shared the season’s first split result in Round Five, but it could have easily been a Perth sweep. They ran down hefty Cavalry leads in game three and four but fell both times to walkoffs, one being a spectacular three-run bomb from Boss Moanaroa. There’s footage of the hit taken by a fan in the crowd somewhere on the internet and it’s pretty awesome to see.
Perth and Canberra are both in a great position to secure a finals berth but as usual, post-Christmas roster changes that could help or hinder.
Conor Panas is gone from Canberra, taking with him an on base percentage pushing .400 and some serious homerun power, while Perth said goodbye to Zac Law before the break as he heads home to the USA and his wedding.
Perth are bringing in local shortstop and Pittsburgh Pirates draftee Robbie Glendinning, who comes with high expectations from us impractical fans, but also a proven track record in college ball.
Prediction: Perth 3-1
These sides will have designs on a possible ABLCS berth and whoever wins this series outs some critical space between themselves and the chasers. This week, the home team will make sure they don’t stumble late.