ABL Week Ten:  form an orderly queue

AJ Mithen

18 January 2019

 

We hit round ten of the 2018/19 Australian Baseball League season with our postseason teams determined but their finishing order up in the air.

 

There’s a million variables, but basically how this weekend shakes out is up to Sydney and how they go against Adelaide. In the event of tied win/loss records, here’s some of the key head to head tie-breaker records you need to know:

 

Brisbane owns Canberra 5-3

Brisbane owns Sydney* (tied 4-4, but Brisbane have the beter divisional record)

Melbourne owns Perth (tied 4-4, but Melbourne have the better divisional record)

Canberra owns Sydney 7-1

 

*edited from previous version. Apologies!

 

There’s a few interesting points in Round Ten - one being this is the first and only time these teams will play each other in regular season play. As well, Melbourne are the away team at their own ballpark which is a most convenient occurrence with first place in the Southwest ripe for the picking.  

 

For what it’s worth, here’s my playoff seedings:

 

1:   Sydney

2:   Melbourne

3:   Brisbane

4:   Perth

5:   Canberra

 

That would see the Cavalry playing the wildcard game in Perth next Wednesday, with the winner going to Sydney for Semi-Final 1. Brisbane would play in Melbourne in the other Semi-Final. Will that occur? Who knows. But I probably should back up my big talk and say with great confidence that it will almost certainly happen. You heard it here first!

 

Time to look at the weekend’s series. How do you see the postseason shaping up? Share your thoughts over on the Alumni Facebook page.

 

We’re keen to get your thoughts on ABL week ten. Let us know on the Australian Baseball Alumni FACEBOOK page. To debate these previews, make suggestions or to offer information, visit @AJMithen on Twitter. All efforts are made to show correct broadcast times, but for definitive broadcast information check the official ABL website.

 

CANBERRA CAVALRY versus PERTH HEAT (Narrabundah)

 

Game 1:   Thursday 7.00 pm local time (Forecast weather: 41, hot & mostly sunny)

Game 2:   Friday 7.00 pm local time (40, hot, possible shower)                                  

Game 3:   Saturday 7.00 pm local time (31, shower or two)                                                   

Game 4:   Sunday 11.00 am local time (31, partly cloudy)     

 

Both of these clubs blew it last week when a chance to finish higher was in their hands. Canberra had Brisbane on their knees at 2-0 but couldn’t jag one more win, while Perth’s implosion in game four against Geelong-Korea will have a lasting effect.

 

The Heat led 7-1 heading into the eighth inning and got run down 13-10 in extras. That result sees them second in the division. Who would have thought the team from Geelong could have the biggest impact on the ABL postseason?

 

Angst aside, this series sees a good matchup in pitching and hitting. Perth dominate the ABL for hits, runs scored and runs batted in, but both pitching crews match up pretty well statistically. It’s up to Canberra to harness Perth’s bats, a job they halfway did against Brisbane last week.

 

Prediction: Split

 

A split doesn’t really suit anyone after last week’s results, but that’s what’s going to happen. Canberra and Perth are relying on teams above making unlikely mistakes to avoid being the rebooted ABL’s first wildcard game participants.

  

AUCKLAND TUATARA versus MELBOURNE ACES (Melbourne Ballpark)

 

Game 1:   Friday 5.00 pm local time (28, showers)

Game 2:   Friday 7.30 pm local time (28, showers)                 

Game 3:   Saturday 5.00 pm local time (22, partly cloudy)                 

Game 4:   Saturday 7.30 pm local time (22, partly cloudy)                 

 

Two double headers will decide the Southwest. It’s simple for Melbourne – win one more game than Perth and host a Semi-Final series.

 

The Aces find themselves in the box seat after sweeping Adelaide side who were playing for their postseason lives while Auckland went down 3-1 in Sydney.

 

They’re sneaking up on the competition, Melbourne. Their hitting can’t be underestimated with DJ Burt, Darryl George and Luke Hughes in particular coming up with the decisive hit when it has been needed.

 

But there’s still some holes in the lineup. Garrison Schwartz started out well but has dropped away, hitting .153 since round four. If Schwartz, the returning Jarryd Dale (.186 for the season) and Rudy Martin (.098 for the season) can discover some hitting form, it may be the spark to drive the Aces even deeper into the postseason.

 

Prediction: Melbourne win

 

At the end of a long and tough five weeks in country, Auckland will still play to type – they’re a difficult match-up and may grab one game. But there’s too much on the line for Melbourne. It’s a series against an eliminated team and they get to play it at their home ballpark. There’s no excuses this weekend for Jon Deeble’s crew if they don’t take the series and the division.

 

GEELONG-KOREA versus BRISBANE BANDITS (Geelong Baseball Centre)

 

Game 1:   Thursday 6.30 pm local time (32, shower or two)               

Game 2:   Friday 6.30 pm local time (29, showers)                 

Game 3:   Saturday 7.00 pm local time (23, partly cloudy)                 

Game 4:   Sunday 1.00 pm local time (24, partly cloudy)                  

 

Brisbane’s efforts to fight back from 0-2 against Canberra and take a split were admirable but that slow start took their postseason fate out of their own control.

 

The Bandits need to win all four games and hope for stumbles from Canberra and Sydney. That’s a possibility, sure. But not a probability.

 

Tim Atherton continued his quietly stellar season with a complete seven-innings shutout in the critical game three, dragging the Bandits back from the brink. It was Atherton’s sixth win and while all the focus has been on the strikeout exploits of Solbach, Kent, Maestri, Imanaga and co., Atherton’s contribution remains right up there among the best - he’s an ABL Championship Series MVP for a reason.

 

Welcome back and good luck too to Brisbane closer Loek van Mil. It’s fantastic to see him back in a jersey after a bad off-field injury in round four.   

 

Geelong’s miracle comeback against Perth is the type of win a club can build on. It’s easy to turn it up and just play things out when you’re down 0-3 in the series, been outscored 8-36 and it’s 7-1 in the eighth inning of game four. But the turnaround and eventual win was one of the performances of the season.

 

Geelong’s comeback won’t be forgotten in Perth for a while, you can guarantee that.

 

Prediction: Brisbane win

 

It’s hardly an earth-shattering call to predict the triple Claxton Shield winners will win this series. The real question is whether Geelong-Korea can win a game, which would make things very interesting. Geelong have taken games from Perth and Melbourne… Why not Brisbane?

 

ADELAIDE BITE versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (West Beach)

 

Game 1:   Thursday 7.20 pm local time (37, cloudy)                                                   

Game 2:   Friday 7.20 pm local time (29, shower or two)

Game 3:   Saturday 4.00 pm local time (26, partly cloudy)

Game 4:   Saturday 7.20 pm local time (26, partly cloudy)

 

Sydney have been tough to get a read on since Christmas and their trip to Adelaide has a huge banana peel potential for their postseason plans.

 

Last week’s 3-1 series at home against Auckland looked solid on paper, but Sydney had a tricky time of it against the Tuatara and had to come from behind twice..

 

On another good note, Sydney’s crowds are well up on the year and the fans are really getting involved in the team’s fortunes. That can only be a good thing as the ABL continues to dig its feet in around the country. A semi-finals series at Blacktown would be a good bit of fun, no doubt.

 

Adelaide will be kicking themselves for not being able to get a win in Melbourne. They played hard and had plenty of chances across the weekend for things to work out differently, but they came up short.

 

It’s two years without playoffs now for the Bite but it’s not fair to say 2018/19 has been a disappointment. Chris Adamson has rebuilt the lineup with a focus on young local talent and the progression from last year to this year has been pronounced. While the Bite finish their season this weekend, it’s a good long term outcome for Australian baseball.

 

Prediction: Sydney win

 

Surely this is the moment for the Blue Sox. Two wins should be enough to see them through as number 1 seed but they’ve got a tricky assignment against a young Bite side that won’t give up the fight.

 

NOTE:  If you’re thinking of getting to a game at West Beach this weekend, aim for Friday and the ‘Strikeout Cancer’ game. It’s a fundraising effort for the National Cancer Foundation and is a most worthy cause.