ABL Round Six: learning the post-season shuffle
21 December 2018
We round the halfway point of the 2018/19 Australian Baseball League season and what do we see? A logjam at the top, a Wild Card logjam and a fairly hefty space to the rest.
Week Six action will most probably turn the chances of Auckland and Geelong-Korea into ‘mathematical at best’ as the big boppers fight for the top spots in the Northeast and Southwest divisions.
Of the contenders, Perth flexed their muscle, scoring 42 runs over the weekend as they dispatched the reigning champs at their own ballpark, Sydney scored a character-building win against Melbourne and Adelaide would have been cursing their inability to lay a knockout blow on Canberra in a series of one-run games where they really should have done better.
It’s still too early to write teams off, that comes around Week Eight. Right now you could genuinely argue a Championship case for four clubs: Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. But all that might change after the weekend - that’s the best thing about this league.
Now, lets get to the predicting!
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CANBERRA CAVALRY versus GEELONG-KOREA (Narrabundah)
Game 1: Thursday 7.00 pm local time (Forecast weather: 33, possible storm)
Game 2: Friday 7.00 pm local time (23, shower or two)
Game 3: Saturday 7.00 pm local time (21, shower or two)
Game 4: Sunday 1.00 pm local time (25, sunny)
After a grinding, battling series win in Adelaide the Cavs almost have themselves back on track. There’s echoes of last year’s campaign for Canberra as they grew into the season and after a rusty start, a visiting Geelong-Korea present a chance for the hosts to take another series.
But there’s a serious question mark over Canberra’s hitting. In the preseason there was talk this was the highest quality squad the club had assembled, but the Cavs are dead last for runs scored with 62. The pitching is brilliant but Shota Imanaga will be gone soon and there’s huge pressure on Steve Kent and Frank Gailey to get the job done every outing because there’s next to zero run support.
The Cavalry have a lot of convincing to do and not a lot of time to be doing it.
Geelong-Korea had a day to remember when they swept the double header against Auckland but they remain bedevilled by periods where they let the game sprint away from them.
The Surfing Baseballs have three away series in the next four and there’s a danger for some quite damaging outcomes if they can’t address these lapses.
Prediction: Canberra win
It’s a huge opportunity for the Cavs to get up over .500 for all their issues. Geelong’s pitching improved a little against Auckland so the Cavs won’t have it all their own way. Canberra aren’t playing well enough to be complacent about attacking this series.
PERTH HEAT versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (Barbagallo)
Game 1: Friday 7.05 pm local time (36, sunny)
Game 2: Saturday 4.05 pm local time (39, very hot/afternoon storm)
Game 3: Saturday 7.05 pm local time (39, very hot/afternoon storm)
Game 4: Sunday 4.05 pm local time (34, sunny)
Perth and in particular Tim Kennelly keep crushing all before them, coming away from Brisbane with an emphatic 3-1 series win. If there were doubts on the Heat’s performance because of the strength of their schedule, for me these doubts were deposited far, far over the Holloway Field fences.
Major Leaguer Pete Kozma is having some fun, the aforementioned Kennelly is on fire and Jake Bowey is having an ABL career year. Throw in a tuned up Robbie Glendinning and eventually Ulrich Bojarski with another year’s development and that lineup just gets scarier and scarier.
Sydney had a great series win at home against Melbourne to take control of the North East division. The Blue Sox are 7-3 in their last ten games which includes series against Brisbane, Melbourne and an overseas trip to New Zealand.
Under Tony Harris the Blue Sox have a real steel to them this season. Their late season stumbles are well known but this crew looks different and there’s a real chance they'll use the next few weeks to assure a playoff spot and drive for that elusive Claxton shield. Does that sound like I’m finally on board the Sydney bandwagon? I guess it does.
Prediction: Perth win, just
Sydney’s pitching can tie Perth down, but for how long is the question. This could be the best series of the regular season.
AUCKLAND TUATARA versus ADELAIDE BITE (Blue Lake Sports Park, Mount Gambier)
Game 1: Friday 7.00 pm local time (17, shower or two)
Game 2: Saturday 4.00 pm local time (19, partly cloudy)
Game 3: Saturday 7.00 pm local time (19, partly cloudy)
Game 4: Sunday 1.00 pm local time (24, sunny)
Auckland take to the home surrounds of Blue Lake Sports Park for their first home-away-from-home game.
The Tuatara have been competitive in their first ABL season but still sit 3.5 games behind a wild card spot and five games back from a playoff spot. If they go down this week, that’s pretty much their season done and dusted.
Adelaide will be burning after they blew chance after chance after chance to take the home series against Canberra. They’re still well and truly in the running for the postseason, but they’ve got to capitalise on crowded bases when they can. The Bite regularly outhit opponents and have solid pitching, but their challenge is twofold; getting the runs on the board and protecting them late.
Prediction: Adelaide win, just
Adelaide won’t be happy about last weekend - neither will Auckland. They’ll go after each other in what should be a pretty entertaining series.
MELBOURNE ACES versus BRISBANE BANDITS (Melbourne Ballpark)
Game 1: Friday 7.05 pm local time (19, showers increasing)
Game 2: Saturday 5.00 pm local time (19, possible morning shower)
Game 3: Saturday 7.30 pm local time (19, possible morning shower)
Game 4: Sunday 1.00 pm local time (24, sunny)
Although they went down in Sydney the Aces are a solid crew in 18/19. Brisbane are still trying to find themselves, but they’re living proof that championships aren’t won in Round Six.
Thanks to some recent history there’s likely to be a good whack of aggression in this series. The Bandits took the 16/17 series on Melbourne’s home ground and they also eliminated the Aces last year in that sensational one-and-done playoff game in February.
Both clubs play hard and with the congestion around the standings, no quarter will be asked or given in what should be a great matchup.
It’s an important series for Brisbane if they want to avoid falling into the wildcard dogfight, but David Nilsson would hardly be quaking about his team’s current position. The Bandits time their seasons for the moments that matter and this will be no different.
The Aces will roll out their Japanese pitching contingent for the last time before they head home and Jon Deeble gets a whole new set of headaches in the later innings.
Prediction: Melbourne win, just
Last year the Aces won this series in a rain-affected upset – this year it’s raining again, but the result won’t be such a shock.