Australian Baseball League Round Three Preview
With the shortened Australian Baseball League season according even greater importance to each win – and to each loss – the six clubs will be aiming to maximise their returns and stay within striking distance of league leadership.
While Brisbane Bandits (5-3) sit atop the standings by the narrowest of margins, four clubs are at equal pegging (4-4) and sixth-placed Perth Heat (3-5) appears on the move after a disappointing first-up showing at Melbourne Ballpark.
Beginning on Thursday evening – when Canberra Cavalry plays host to Adelaide Bite – Round Three may be pivotal for the prospects of all clubs as the season gathers real momentum.
WEEK THREE AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE PREVIEW
1 December 2016
CANBERRA CAVALRY versus ADELAIDE BITE (Narrabundah)
Thursday 1 December, 7.00 AEDST LISTEN
Friday 2 December, 7.00 AEDST LISTEN
Saturday 3 December, 7.00 AEDST LISTEN
Sunday 4 December, 12.30 AEDST WATCH LIVE
Scoring 48 runs over eight games to date, the Cavalry heads the league in offensive statistics, including thirteen dingers among its 82 hits. While a fair portion of that output was delivered via the slugfest in Wollongong last Sunday, no-one will be doubting the form and the capacity of Kyle Perkins (three home runs for ten RBIs and an average of 0.458), Robbie Perkins, Josh Almonte and David Kandilas (three home runs, 10 RBIs), Mike Reeves and Boss Moanaroa when matched against an Adelaide outfit that has mustered just 29 runs over the distance for a team batting average of a modest 0.235 – notwithstanding some solid offence already produced by the likes of Josh Altmann, Jordan Cowan, Stefan Welch and fellow evergreens Mitch Dening and Angus Roeger. With Welch and Roeger missing this weekend - along with hurler Max McNabb - the assignment is going to be even tougher for the Bite than may have been the case.
On the debit side, Canberra has conceded 43 runs in its eight starts – third highest in the league – while Adelaide has given up just 28 as testament to some outstanding relief (notably by Matt Williams) and the quality starts generated by Steven Chambers (0.93 ERA), Taylor Hawkins (1-0, 3.48 ERA) and teenager Jack O’Loughlin (1-0, 3.52 ERA) – who is again slated for the starting gig in Game Four of this series. Starters Lee Sosa, Josh DeGraaf and Sean Guinard have all been impressive on the hill for the Cavalry - who have thus far used class act Steven Kent sparingly - while Scott Cone will be keen to reduce a whopping 13.50 ERA when he heads to the mound for Game Two.
These clubs appear evenly matched, with both coming off a series win at home. However, Adelaide supporters may be concerned about their club’s modest offensive output – especially against a club that has proven long-ball capacity and without a couple of their own offensive weapons. While Canberra will rightly enter as a marginal favourite at Narrabundah, a 2-2 split is on the cards.
BRISBANE BANDITS versus MELBOURNE ACES (Holloway Field)
Friday 2 December, 6.30 AEST WATCH LIVE
Saturday 3 December, 3.30 AEST WATCH LIVE
Saturday 3 December, 6.30 AEST WATCH LIVE
Sunday 4 December, 2.00 AEST LISTEN
This is perhaps the most highly-anticipated and arguably most important series of the season to date, with the reigning champion playing host to a beefed-up Melbourne outfit that was terrific against Perth but imploded in Adelaide after a Game One win.
Melbourne’s offensive output has been sporadic, with only seven runs scored in four games last week and a total of just 29 for the season to date. While Roman Collins, Ronald Acuna and Allan de San Miguel have been strong contributors, a team batting average of 0.227 and an OBP of 0.300 suggests that more is required from the likes of Brad Harman, Mike Walker and a lower order that too often has been unable to convert. Although Andrew Campbell is out with an injury, the Bandits can boast damaging in-form offence headed by Aaron Whitefield, Mitch Nilsson, Kevin Padlo, David Sutherland and Logan Wade – a quintet that accounts for thirty of their side’s RBIs thus far.
To state the bleeding obvious, Melbourne will rely heavily on its starting pitching, which has been quite superb in restricting opposition clubs to a league low of 27 runs over eight games – with ten of those in the finale against Adelaide last week. Mark Hamburger, Keisuke Honda and Dushan Ruzic have all been outstanding, while likely Game Four starter Jon Kennedy was great before one costly innings last time. Without the reliable Ryan Searle, the Bandits bullpen might be tested – especially later in the series – although starters Rick Teasley, Kramer Champlin, Justin Erasmus and Daniel Nilsson all carry solid form into this game.
This series will be a real test of how far Melbourne has come in developing a winning list. Always a tough assignment at Holloway Field, the Bandits to win 3-1.
SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus PERTH HEAT (Blacktown Sportspark)
Friday 2 December, 7.30 AEDST LISTEN
Saturday 3 December, 4.00 AEDST LISTEN
Saturday 3 December, 7.00 AEDST WATCH LIVE
Sunday 4 December, 12.00 AEDST LISTEN
A free-scoring offensive side, Sydney is well-ensconsed among league standings after a barnstorming start against Adelaide and a disappointing end to its series against Canberra.
In generating 47 runs in eight games to date, the Blue Sox have been consistent in conversion throughout the order – especially by the likes of Alex Howe (nine hits and five RBIs), Tucker Neuhaus (nine and five), Stone Garrett (nine and four), Josh Dean, Michael Campbell, Malik Collymore (eleven RBIs), Jacob Younis and development player Shane Kelleher, who was a revelation last week. Sluggish in its season opener against the Aces, Perth Heat put up a much improved effort against the Bandits at home, where Luke Hughes, Ulrich Bojarski (nine hits and nine RBIs thus far), Nick Ruppert, Matt Kennelly, Derek Peterson and Tim Kennelly all stepped up.
While Luke Wilkins (1-1, with an ERA of 0.71) and wily southpaw Craig Anderson (2-0, ERA of 1.80) have been superb for the Blue Sox, projected fellow starters in Trevor Foss (ERA 7.59) and Aaron Sookee (15.00) have been expensive and have relied on the worthy back-up of Vaughan Harris, Todd Grattan and Josh Guyer. Similarly with the Heat, Mike Lee (7.71 ERA) and Nick Veale (16.50) have been roughed up on occasions, as their club has conceded 48 runs overall – the most in the league. However, they are capable of much better, while Tom Bailey and Adam Millson have been terrific on the hill for Perth – who will again be looking to stalwarts in Daniel Schmidt and Scott Mitchinson, along with youngster Conor Lourey to contain the Sydney offence.
Distinctly on the improve and buoyed by its split against Brisbane, Perth will head to Blacktown on a mission. A series win would re-energise the Heat even further under new Manager Matt Kennelly, although it is a tough road trip and a challenge against an in-form Blue Sox outfit that boasts a refreshing blend of youth and experience. Sydney Blue Sox 3-1.