ABL Round Three Preview: clear as mud
30 November 2017
Week Three of the Australian Baseball League is upon us and the overall picture is decidedly murky.
Setting the defending champs aside, the first two weeks have been a roller coaster ride.
Four of the six teams had complete reversals from weeks one to two. The Aces got belted at home by Perth, then went and ground out their first ever ABL series win in Adelaide. The highly fancied Heat were decimated at home by Brisbane, an outcome that to most looked as unlikely as the Cavalry towelling up the Blue Sox 3-1.
If the fans are getting confused about what to expect, imagine how the six Managers feel. Worldbeaters one week, doormats the next. There hasn’t been a split series this year and there’s been a lot of big scores set up by early runs.
The homerun trend also stumbled a bit, with ‘only’ 21 bombs across the weekend. Who do we blame for this? Probably the Blue Sox, who couldn’t make the most of the intimate surrounds of Thomas Dalton Park at Sunday’s Wollongong Classic
Is the only consistency this year going to be inconsistency? Can someone step up and pull away with Brisbane? Read on…..
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ADELAIDE BITE versus CANBERRA CAVALRY (West Beach)
Game 1: Thursday 7.00pm local time ABL TV
Game 2: Friday 4.00pm local time ABL TV
Game 3: Friday 7.00 pm local time
Game 4: Saturday 12.00 pm local time ABL TV
Canberra head to Adelaide looking to build on a posititve home series against the Blue Sox. Their hosts, however, are in a bit of a rut after starting the season 1-7 and going down to the Aces in a hard fought series last week.
Adelaide Manager Chris Adamson is desperate for some starch in the lineup so he’s reached back to move forward, calling up the extensive ABL experience of Josh Cakebread and Jeremy Cresswell.
Imports Stephen Lohr and Rodrigo Ayarza are hitting well. Boom import Tai-San Chang started to show against the Aces that he’s getting into the swing of things and while Angus Roeger is doing what he can, the Bite are not doing what they’d like to at the plate.
Throw into that 1 (yes, ONE) stolen base this season and the Bite will launch into this week with plenty to prove.
Canberra’s starting pitching is proving a tough challenge for hitters and if they can keep the Bite lineup in their current doldrums, the Cavs will come out on top.
The Cavs hit two grand slams in a inning on Sunday in Wollongong, a first for the ABL. The Cavs are going to miss one of their grand slammers this week, though, with Boss Moanaroa out for work reasons.
Prediction: Cavalry 3-1
This will be a close series. Adelaide have drawn a line in the sand, challenging themselves to turn their season around and Canberra want to keep good form rolling. You can bank on a much more aggressive Adelaide side, too. I don’t condone it, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see benches clear at some point before the series is done.
There’s also a chance this series will be affected by rain, but not to the biblical proportions tipped for Melbourne.
SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus PERTH HEAT (Blacktown Sportspark)
Game 1: Friday 7.30 pm local time
Game 2: Saturday 3.30 pm local time
Game 3: Saturday 6.30 pm local time
Game 4: Sunday 12.00 pm local time ABL TV
Sydney’s ‘hittin’ plus grittin’’ became ‘pitchin’ plus watchin’ as the Cavalry smacked them for eight homeruns (including three grand slams) last weekend.
The Blue Sox couldn’t capitalise on their Week One sweep of Adelaide, but still have a 5-3 record which is good for second place in the standings.
Tony Harris’ intent for this season was to tighten up the Blue Sox pitching and defence and it’s so far so good, with the Blue Sox allowing the fewest runs (36) and walks (17) in the first two weeks.
The men from the west learned some big lessons against the champs. Tom Bailey aside, their starting pitching got chased early and their hitters were for the most part overwhelmed.
The welcome return of Tim Kennelly has given the club a boost. Mike Brosseau and Jake Fraley are hitting well and Zac Law keeps providing value in front and behind home plate. When he leaves at Christmas it will be a big loss for Perth.
Andy Kyle wanted aggression on the basepaths and his team is delivering. Perth’s 14 stolen bases is twice as many as the next best. Sydney’s infield will need to stick close once Perth hitters reach base.
There’s plenty to like about both of these teams - this should be a fun series to watch.
Prediction: Split 2-2
Perth’s hitting is better than Sydney’s and Sydney’s pitching is better than Perth’s. There’s every chance this series will come down to who gets the better start on Sunday when Tom Bailey and Luke Wilkins go head to head.
MELBOURNE ACES versus BRISBANE BANDITS (Melbourne Ballpark)
Game 1: Friday 7.00pm local time ABL TV
Game 2: Saturday 5.00 pm local time
Game 3: Saturday 7.30 pm local time
Game 4: Sunday 1.00 pm local time
Melbourne have been advertising this week’s series by publishing old style ‘wanted’ posters whch feature key members of the Brisbane lineup.
It’s an innovative approach, using your opponent’s better players instead of your own to promote a homestand.
But you can see why they would - Brisbane roll into town having won 19 of their last 23, a record that stretches out to six straight series wins, including the preliminary final and ABLCS.
Mitch Nilsson is at Hansel levels of hot right now. He took Perth for 9-17 across the four games with 12 (yes, 12) RBIs. To put that in context, Nilsson’s weekend RBIs matched the output of the Adelaide Bite.
Brisbane’s hitting went up a gear against Perth, taking the games away fast and forcing the Heat to chase runs against the Bandits’ quality pitching staff.
On the mound, the Aces are slowly coming together with Jon Kennedy (below) expected back into the rotation this weekend and former major leaguer Matt Marksberry also fit and ready to go.
Of some concern though to the home side would have to be the starts from their ace Mark Hamburger. He’s throwing an awful lot of pitches, with a colossal 140 on Friday, then another 17 to close out the series in the ninth on Sunday.
There’s enough time off between starts, but that’s a lot of work in anyone’s books. Bats are starting to get to him a bit too - he’s given up 23 hits and walked seven in 12 starting innings, most uncharacteristic numbers.
Melbourne were good in Adelaide, fighting for the series win and showing the defensive cleanliness we’ve been accustomed to. The Aces are still scrambling for runs but there were signs in Adelaide that the hitting is coming.
The biggest factor this weekend however is the rain and storm armageddon predicted to hit Victoria.
Farmers are racing to get as much of their crops in as they can, to my disgust the polo has been cancelled, open air cinemas are also being shut down and three month’s worth of rain is expected from Friday to Sunday.
Take all that with a grain of salt though. Last weekend a huge thunderstorm was predicted for Sunday in Melbourne but there I was, baking to a crisp at first base in beautiful sunshine for the whole of an 18-7 beating…..
Prediction: Mother Nature sweep OR Brisbane 3-1
Melbourne haven’t quite hit their scoring stride and Brisbane are knocking pitchers around for fun. Things may look different later in the season once Melbourne’s rotation is settled, but Brisbane are on such a tear that it’s hard to see anyone stopping them.
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