Opportunities abound as ABL enters exciting new era
Although at least twenty games remain for each Australian Baseball League club, Round Ten - starting on Boxing Day – may go a fair way to determining ladder standings for the post-season Claxton Shield Championship.
Playing host to league-leading Canberra (21-15), Adelaide (18-17) has the chance to improve upon its already solid home record and make a real charge at a top-three finish, while Perth Heat (16-20) has battled at Barbagallo and will need to produce something special against Melbourne Aces (13-23), who are effectively out of post-season contention but could provide nuisance value.
Serious attention will be focused on hostilities at Holloway Field, where second-placed Brisbane (20-16) will be primed to build on its outstanding home record against Sydney (19-16), which has played super baseball after an inconsistent start to its season.
Aside from the playing scenarios still possible, the Christmas round may yet be a seminal moment in ABL history, with a selected game - each Sunday from this week - to be broadcast globally by major international networks.
Round Ten will commence on Saturday 26 December and will be completed on Tuesday 29 December, when clubs can look forward to a brief respite before the action resumes on New Year’s Eve in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.
The Game of the Day broadcast on commercial television will start on Sunday 27 December, when Perth Heat plays host to Melbourne Aces. This will be the first time in the league’s five-year history that an Australian Baseball League regular season game has been beamed worldwide.
It is an auspicious occasion, and the outcome of a long spoken-about strategy to help popularise baseball within Australia and to help develop ABL profile throughout Asia, the Pacific and United States.
The televised games will not be streamed simultaneously through Australian Baseball League internet coverage, but will be archived for later access.
The five games to be televised are as follow:
Sunday 27 December Perth versus Melbourne (Perth) 5.00 PM AEDT (ESPN, Fox Sports Asia)
Sunday 3 January Melbourne versus Brisbane (Melbourne) 4.00 AEDT (ESPN, Fox Sports Asia)
Sunday 10 January Perth versus Canberra (Perth) 4.00 AEDT (ESPN, Fox Sports Asia, MLB Network)
Sunday 17 January Perth versus Adelaide 4.00 PM AEDT (ESPN, Fox Sports Asia, MLB Network)
Sunday 24 January Sydney versus Melbourne 4.00 AEDT (ESPN, Fox Sports Asia, MLB Network)
AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE ROUND TEN PREVIEW
26 December 2015
BRISBANE BANDITS versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (Holloway Field)
Saturday 26 December, 6.30 AEST
Sunday 27 December, 6.30 AEST
Monday 28 December, 6.30 AEST
Tuesday 29 December, 2.00 AEST
Last series – Sydney hosted Melbourne and made in 35 straight away series without a victory for the Aces, winning the series 3-1. Brisbane travelled to Canberra and kept the Cavalry within sight, taking two out of four.
What’s coming – Two teams who have fallen at crucial points are looking to prove their credentials as winners. The Blue Sox must continue to win so they can put themselves in a position to break their preliminary final hoodoo. For the Bandits, late season collapses have been all too common and they need to keep winning to secure their first ever playoff berth.
Pay attention to – Bandits base hits .The Bandits have the second most hits in the league this season (330), while the Sydney pitching staff have allowed the equal fewest hits (285) through the first nine weeks of the season. If Brisbane can find a way to hit early and often against the Blue Sox the series will be in their control.
Prediction – Depending on results between Adelaide and Canberra it is feasible the winner of this series sits atop of the standings. The Bandits, who have only lost four games at home all year are going to stay the course and take three games to win the series.
ADELAIDE BITE versus CANBERRA CAVALRY (Norwood Oval)
Saturday 26 December, 7.00 ACT
Sunday 27 December, 7.00 ACT
Monday 28 December, 7.00 ACT
Tuesday 29 December, 12.00 ACT
Last series – The Cavalry faced off against the high flying Bandits and were able to earn a split to maintain their spot on top of the standings. The Bite hosted the Heat and continued their resurgence, taking three out of four to move within 2.5 games of Canberra.
What’s coming – Two teams who look good enough to win the championship will lock horns with more than ladder position on the line. Canberra have shown throughout the year that they are near impossible to beat, while the Bite have found the form that secured them home field advantage in the ABLCS last season.
Pay attention to – Adelaide’s defence when Canberra have men on with less than two outs. The Bite warded off several Heat attacks with men on and no outs last weekend and if they can find a way to do that again they are going to be tough to beat.
Prediction – Adelaide are the second best team at home this season while Canberra are the second best team on the road. It’s going to be compelling viewing at Norwood Oval with a split the result when all is said and done.
PERTH HEAT versus MELBOURNE ACES (Barbagallo)
Sunday 27 December, 2.05 AWST
Sunday 27 December, 5.05 AWST
Monday 28 December, 7.05 AWST
Tuesday 29 December, 4.05 AWST
Last series – Melbourne plummeted further into despair, dropping the series against Sydney to fall 6.5 games behind the final playoff spot. Perth travelled to Adelaide looking to regain their place in the top three but were left stranded by their pitching, losing the series 3-1.
What’s coming – Out of the three series this weekend, this would have been the outsider to be the bottom of the table clash when the fixture was released. Both sides are desperate for a series win to keep alive their dream of playing in February.
Pay attention to – Speed on the basepaths. The Aces have stolen 20 more bases than the Heat this season and their best chance to take their first ever road series is to steal often. The Aces only have five less hits than Canberra (who lead the league), so getting runners into scoring positions with steals is going to be a crucial factor in their success this weekend.
Prediction – The Aces are going to start fast but fall short of a much needed series victory. A split will leave both sides in limbo entering the final month of the season.