Crunch time for three clubs
The penultimate regular season round of Australian Baseball League looms as an absolute ripper that should go a long way to deciding post-season contenders.
Though well ensconced in top placing, Brisbane Bandits (30-18) can expect a fight as they head south to meet a beefed-up Melbourne Aces (18-30), while second-placed Canberra Cavalry (27-21) will play host to Sydney Blue Sox (23-25), which is one of three contenders vying for third.
At home to third-placed Adelaide Bite (24-24), Perth Heat (22-26) must win at least three of the four-game set to be any chance of finals action.
NOTE: the Perth versus Adelaide Sunday clash is the Game of the Week to be televised by ESPN, Fox Sports Asia and MLB Network. To meet media timing commitments, it has been rescheduled to 4.05 PM AEDT.
WEEK THIRTEEN AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE PREVIEW
13 January 2016
CANBERRA CAVALRY versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (Narrabundah)
Thursday 14 January, 7.00 AET
Friday 15 January, 7.00 AET
Saturday 16 January, 7.00 AET
Sunday 17 January, 5.00 AET
Last series – The Blue Sox were unable to overcome a hot Bandits outfit, dropping the series 3-1. The Cavalry made the most of a lagging Perth attack, winning the series finale in extra innings to split the series.
What’s coming – A rivalry taken to the next level. It’s not a secret that the Blue Sox and Cavalry have a dislike for each other. This weekend there is a playoff berth on the line and both sides will believe they’re deserving of the opportunity to lift the Claxton Shield.
Pay attention to – Extra base hits. The Cavalry have outfit the Blue Sox 154-92 for extras bases this season. That’s an average of 3.2 XBH to 1.91 XBH per game. If the disparity continues it’s going to be a productive weekend for the men in orange.
Playoff implications – Sydney are one of two sides never to have missed the postseason. As the standings currently look, the Blue Sox are a game out of third. With a visit from the Melbourne Aces to finish the season, there is a tiny amount of wiggle room if they should struggle against the Cavalry this weekend. Canberra will need a sweep if they are going to remain a chance of stealing home field advantage from the Bandits.
Prediction- Apart from the Blue Sox sweep at home, little has separated these teams when they have played this season. Another tight series looms with a split on the horizon.
MELBOURNE ACES versus BRISBANE BANDITS (Melbourne Ballpark)
Thursday 14 January, 7.05 AEDST
Friday 15 January, 7.05 AEDST
Saturday 16 January, 6.05 AEDST
Sunday 17 January, 1.05 AEDST
Last series – The Bandits tightened their grip on first place with a commanding victory of the Blue Sox. The Aces fought hard for a split in Adelaide.
What’s coming – This is probably the series with the least on the line in terms of playoff implications. The Aces do have an opportunity to play spoilers, however. If the Aces can take the series it will open the door for Canberra to finish first. The Bandits will come into the series with the sole focus of emphatic victory in an attempt to wrap up home field advantage for the ABLCS.
Pay attention to – Unearned runs. The Aces have allowed 46 unearned runs this season, while the Bandits have allowed 39. One of the struggles for the Aces bullpen this year has been allowing runners to score from passed balls and errors. They’ll need to be on their game to avoid a repeat of their last clash with Brisbane.
Playoff implications – Thanks to the tiebreaker rules in place, it is impossible for the Bandits to fall lower than third, thus they have clinched their first ever playoff berth. The Aces, while not mathematically eliminated will need a miracle to see playoff action for the first time in four years.
Prediction – The Bandits know that a strong showing this weekend can bring them home field advantage for the ABLCS or make the task a lot easier going into the last week of the season. Three wins for the Bandits this weekend.
PERTH HEAT versus ADELAIDE BITE (Barbagallo Ballpark)
Thursday 14 January, 7.05 AWST
Friday 15 January, 7.05 AWST
Saturday 16 January, 7.05 AWST
Sunday 17 January, 4.05 AWST
Last series – The Bite were left to rue what might have been after their split against the Aces. Perth had opportunities to close out a series win against Canberra, but were unable to come through in the clutch, also settling for a series split.
What’s coming – One of the worst away teams this season against one of the worst home teams this season. Something’s got to give for one of these two sides and it could well come down to who can bend and not break at this crucial time of the season.
Pay attention to – Working the count. The Bite have worked 31 more walks than the Heat across the course of the season. With both teams having had struggles with the bat this year, it will be crucial to get men on in any way possible. Winning this battle will go a long way towards dictating the remainder of the season.
Playoff implications – There would have been few people who would have tipped that both participants from the 2014-15 ABLCS would be fighting for their lives with a fortnight left in the regular season. The Heat, like the Blue Sox have never missed the postseason. For that to continue the Heat need to take the series, hope Canberra beat Sydney and then find success against the Bandits next weekend. Adelaide on the other hand need to keep winning and would also benefit from Canberra beating Sydney as it would widen the gap between the Bite and the chasing pack.
Prediction – The Heat have struggled at home this year. Of course struggled is a relative term when you’ve won four of five ABL Championships. The Bite have struggled on the road and it is tough to see where the improvement will come from for either team at this time of the year. A frustrating split ensured.
Image: Australian Baseball League