The Week in ABL 2

While responsibility for coverage of the Australian Baseball League quite properly will be taken up by the league itself, by Baseball Australia and its state associations, Australian Baseball Alumni will strive to offer another layer of reporting to help deliver the baseball message to the widest possible audience and in a variety of formats. For full schedule, rosters, box scores and news, visit the ABL website.

Stuart Capel

12 November 2014

 

This week in the Australian Baseball League offers us a full book of games starting on Thursday evening, with Adelaide at home to Perth, Sydney playing host to Canberra and Melbourne making the trek to Brisbane.

 

Both on five and three, the Bandits and Blue Sox head the ABL table while the Bite (two and two), Heat (two and two), Cavalry and Aces (one win apiece) have played just four games and will be keen to build some momentum.

 

ROUND TWO:   Canberra Cavalry vs Sydney Blue Sox

 

Game One:   Sydney defeated Canberra 9-0 (Box Scores)

Game Two:   Canberra defeated Sydney 4-2 (Box Scores)

Game Three:   Sydney defeated Canberra 3-1 (Box Scores)

Game Four:   Sydney defeated Canberra 7-5 (Box Scores)

 

Sydney wins the series 3-1.

 

It was a Blue Sox outfit, having been somewhat battle-hardened through pre-season matches and a tough series in Perth, that took three games from the Canberra Cavalry, who throughout the series looked a team short of a quality pre-season and having had a bye in week one of the new ABL season.

 

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Cavalry’s best players through their opening series were those who had enjoyed previous ABL experience. With the bat, Jack Murphy hit .400 (and had an OBP of .500) and Jason Sloan chimed in with a .286 series, although the import hitters, aside from L.B. Dantzler (.357 four doubles, three RBI, three runs) all struggled. The quintet Alford, Hudak, Lemon, Lopes and Walding could only combine for a .141 average with two RBIs and four runs scored. 

 

On the hill, Tim Atherton picked up the Cavalry’s only win, while converted closer Tristan Crawford was excellent for five innings before struggling in the sixth.  Veteran reliever Wayne Ough also enjoyed a solid first series with a 2.70 ERA. 

 

The performance of the new arms was mixed, with Jake Brown excellent in relief and Dustin Crenshaw proving a capable replacement for Sean Toler, however Brian Grening - coming off a poor season in the Atlantic League – struggled along with Gaby Hernandez and A.J. Holland.

 

Sydney, however, had no passengers on their pitching staff. The starting quartet of Solbach, Anderson, Wilkins and Cox all produced quality outings, while the bullpen had a series ERA of 2.07 with a 1.03 WHIP.  Only 45 year-old Dea-Sung Koo, who was pitching on consecutive days, gave up a run from the bullpen.

 

Tyler Bortnick enjoyed three multi-hit games and Will Swanner hit the only home run of the series to lead the Sydney offence, which also stretched the Canberra catchers by stealing seven bases. Only Trent D’Antonio had a totally forgettable series, going 0-12, grounding into a double play and making four errors in one game.

 

ROUND TWO:    Melbourne Aces vs Brisbane Bandits

 

Game One:   Brisbane defeated Melbourne 10-3 (Box Scores)

Game Two:    Melbourne defeated Brisbane 2-1 (11 innings) (Box Scores)

Game Three:   Brisbane defeated Melbourne 5-4 (11 innings) (Box Scores)

Game Four:   Brisbane defeated Melbourne 2-1 (Box Scores)

 

Brisbane wins the series 3-1.

 

It was Hall of Fame Manager Casey Stengel who used to teach his outstanding New York Yankees teams that “Most ball games are lost, not won”, and it came to pass that the seven-time World Series winning manager’s words came true at Melbourne BallPark over the most recent weekend.

 

Following an opening game in which the ball jumped off the bat, leading to eight home runs - six by six different Brisbane Bandits players, a club record in a 10-3 victory in which the Bandits homered off more Aces pitchers (four) than the Aces scored runs (three) - the rest of the series featured three one-run games, two of which went to extra innings.

 

After the Aces squared the ledger on Saturday night when Brad Harman capitalised on a 2-0 mistake pitch by Justin Erasmus to sneak a ball just inside the foul pole and over the left field fence for a home run, the Bandits came from behind to win the Sunday game 5-4. After jumping to a 3-0 lead early, the Aces managed precious little after that with the bats, stranding eleven runners on base from the fifth innings onwards, and they failed to score having bases loaded with one out in the eleventh innings despite having left-handed hitting imports Kellin Deglan and Dylan Cozens at the plate against right hander Jason Kilby.

 

Brisbane, on the other hand, tied the game in the eighth on the back of two walks, a double steal, an infield single and a passed ball. In extra innings, the eventual winning run scored on a walk, two wild pitches and a single.

 

Monday’s series finale saw the Aces well undermanned. However, a solid outing from Matt Wilson only ended when the young southpaw was taken off with what appeared to be a side strain. Leading 1-0 in to the eighth innings, the Aces threw the game away when - with runners on first and second - Tom Dicker covered the trailing runner on a double steal, with Andrew Campbell’s weak RBI groundball rolling through where Dicker had been fielding. Then, with two out, a routine fly ball to Komei Fujisawa in left field was inexplicably dropped, allowing the winning run to score. Earlier, the Aces had a chance to add to their 1-0 lead with runners on second and third with one out before the pairing of Deglan and Cozens again came up empty.

 

The 3-1 series victory marked the first Bandits series win in Melbourne, with the Aces (13-3 at home against Brisbane before the series) dropping as many games to the Bandits at home in one series as they had in the previous four seasons. Melbourne’s series tally of ten runs was their second lowest in a home series of four or more games, with only the Vasquez and Claggett-led Heat keeping Melbourne to a total of eight runs on a four-game set back in 2012-13.   

 

 

Image:  Australian Baseball Alumni

AROUND THE ABL THIS WEEK

 

The Minor League Free Agent list for 2014 has been released, with thirteen current or former ABL players having been named on the list, including:

 

James Beresford – Melbourne (Minnesota Twins)

Alex Burg – Perth (Miami Marlins)

Brian Burgamy – Canberra (New York Mets)

Michael Crouse – Canberra (Toronto Blue Jays)

Chris Jacobs – Adelaide (Los Angeles Dodgers)

Mike Jacobs – Canberra (Arizona Diamondbacks) – has re-signed

David Kandilas – Sydney (Colorado Rockies)

Quincy Latimore – Adelaide (Washington Nationals)

Marcus Lemon – Canberra (Detroit Tigers)

Adam Melker – Perth (Los Angeles Angels)

Virgil Vasquez – Perth (Minnesota Twins) – new pitching coach for the GCL Twins

Stefan Welch – Adelaide (Boston Red Sox)

Kenny Wilson – Canberra (Oakland Athletics)

 

Former Melbourne Aces corner infielder Jared Schlehuber has been released by the Kansas City Royals.

 

Ty Morrison (Canberra) has re-signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.

 

Connor Whalen (Sydney) has had his 2015 option picked-up by the Lake Erie Crushers in the Frontier League.

 

Lucas Irvine (Perth) is currently receiving a trial with the Rakuten Eagles in Japan.

 

Melbourne Aces Chairman Ron Gauci is reportedly looking at being involved at board level in the AFL with the Essendon Football Club.

 

Kenta Imamaya (Brisbane) has won his second Gold Glove in the Japanese NPB, while elsewhere in Japan, Masumi Hoshino (Melbourne) has been released by the Yomuri Giants while Yoshiyuki Kamei (Melbourne) has turned down a multi-year deal to stay with the Giants and is looking to sign a one-year deal, preferring the shorter contract in order to stay motivated.

 

WEEK THREE PREVIEW

 

ADELAIDE BITE vs PERTH HEAT (Coopers Stadium)

 

Starting Pitchers:

 

Game One: Matthew Williams vs. Brian Baker

Game Two: Craig Stem vs. TBD

Game Three: Morgan Coombs vs. Shawn Sanford

Game Four: Darren Fidge vs TBD

 

Following a disappointing end to their road series in Brisbane, the Bite will open their home schedule this weekend. Following two exhibition matches during their bye week, the Bite do appear battle-hardened and ready to atone for their poor ending to the series in Brisbane, which angered manager Brooke Knight, who accused his team of taking their foot off the pedal after winning game two of that series 23-3.

 

With Wilson Lee away, veteran Darren Fidge - who turned forty during the week - will step into the starting rotation, while Knight has called upon a trio of former University of Hawaii baseballers in Connor Little and Austin Wobrock, on loan from the Southern Districts Baseball Club and Michael Miller from the Port Adelaide Baseball Club in the local Adelaide competition.

 

It’s rare to say that the Perth Heat head into a series slightly underprepared, especially after a bye week, as their starting rotation is yet to be finalised (though may be known internally). However the hitting line-up, which exploded for the final fifteen runs of Game Four to square the series with Sydney a fortnight ago, still looks strong and after four successful seasons must be confident of overcoming any odds in any situation.

 

With few surprises in their announced roster, the pitching still looks a touch weak, something that has not been said about Perth in seasons gone by, but the Heat - who are 4-0-1 in five series at Coopers Stadium - will certainly be hopeful of continuing their unbeaten run in the South Australian capital.

 

Still the Champions and having fought their first challenger to their title of the season - Sydney Blue Sox - to a series draw, the Heat must now go on the road against a big improver, who under Knight will certainly fancy their chances of toppling their manager’s former club for the first time at home.  The Bite do look slightly deeper and more set at this point, but the Heat are the Heat, and it’s near impossible to ever back against them. 

 

Prediction: Series Split 2-2

 

Adelaide Roster.

 

Pitchers: Tyler Brunnemann, Morgan Coombs, Colin Feldtman, Darren Fidge, Kyle Hooper, Connor Little, Will Mathis, Craig Stem, Josh Tols, Tony Vocca, Matthew Williams.

 

Catchers: Chris Adamson, Rocky Gale.

 

Infielders: Brandon Dixon, Corey Lyon, Craig Maddox, Chan Moon, Mason Pickard, Austin Wobrock.

 

Outfielders: Tom Brice, Mitch Dening, Aaron Miller, Michael Miller, Angus Roeger.

 

Perth Roster.

 

Pitchers: Tom Bailey, Brian Baker, Liam Baron, Alex Burkard, Cameron Lamb, Jorge Marban, Chad Robinson, Shawn Sanford, Daniel Schmidt.

 

Catchers: Allan De San Miguel, Matt Kennelly, Steel Russell.

 

Infielders: Matt Dixon, Luke Hughes, Tim Kennelly, Jordan McDonald, Taishi Nakagawa, Joey Wong.

 

Outfielders: Brian Pointer, Nick, Rulli, Tim Smith.

 

 

Image:  Joe Vella

BRISBANE BANDITS vs MELBOURNE ACES (AFA Stadium)

 

Starting pitchers:

 

Game One:  Steve Chambers vs. Cody Buckel

Game Two:  Chen-Hua Lin vs. Nick Blount

Game Three:  Ryan Searle vs. Makoto Aiuchi

Game Four:  Jaspreet Shergill vs. Tim Brown

 

In the return leg from last week, the Bandits - who are 5-1 after their record defeat at the hands of the Adelaide Bite - will look to win their first home series for the season against the Aces, who will be hoping to win their first series on the road…ever.

 

The Bandits have arguably managed to get even stronger for their second home series of the season, bringing in import RHPs Dustin Cooper and Jason Jarvis, while David Sutherland also returns having been unavailable to travel last weekend. Veteran right-hander Matt Timms has also been added to the roster, while for the Aces, Josh Hendricks, who last played in 2012-13 has been added at the expense of Tom Dicker.

 

Melbourne have made a change to their starting rotation, with Cody Buckel slated to start the opening game of the series, though coach Tommy Thompson has noted he will go five innings at most, meaning the Aces bullpen will be working hard early in the series. Nick Blount and Makoto Aiuchi will start Games Two and Three, and while Tim Brown is scheduled to start game four, don’t be surprised if Matt Wilson -  who was impressive before leaving through a minor injury on Monday - does start Game Four.

 

The Aces do face an uphill battle to improve on their 1-3 record from their four game set against the Bandits last weekend. They will be without talisman Brad Harman for Game One, and with a line-up that was largely ineffective throughout their opening series, that does start the Melbourne club at a disadvantage. That, coupled with the fact Ryan Searle is desperately hard to beat on a Saturday night at home should start the Aces with a substantial handicap. Given the club started the season 1-7 last year, maybe 2-6 after two series will be seen as an improvement.

 

Series Prediction: Brisbane 3-1

 

Brisbane Roster.

 

Pitchers: Steve Chambers, Daniel Cooper, Justin Erasmus, Masato Goto, , Szu-Hau Huang, Jason Jarvis, Chen-Hua Lin, Ryan Searle, Jaspreet Shergill, Matt Timms.

 

Catchers: Ryan Battaglia, Maxx Tissenbaum, Kuan-Wei Yang.

 

Infielders: CJ Beatty, Thomas Coyle, David Sutherland, Logan Wade.

 

Outfielders: Andrew Campbell, John Field, Granden Goetzman, Karl Hoschke, Joshua Roberts, Matthew Roxburgh.

 

Melbourne Roster.

 

Pitchers: Makoto Aiuchi, Nick Blount, Tim Brown, Cody Buckel, James Darcy, Hayden Godbold, Kyle Heckathorn, Ben Henry, Kazuki Miyata, Matthew Wilson.

 

Catchers: Kellin Deglan, Komei Fujisawa, Chase Numata.

 

Infielders: Mitch Ayres, Mitch Glasser, Brad Harman, Josh Hendricks, Sam Moon.

 

Outfielders: Dylan Cozens, Adam Engel, Scott Wearne.

 

 

SYDNEY BLUE SOX vs CANBERRA CAVALRY (Blue Sox Stadium)

 

Starting pitchers:

 

Game One: Craig Anderson vs. Brian Grening

Game Two: Markus Solbach vs. Tristan Crawford

Game Three: Luke Wilkins vs. Tim Atherton

Game Four: Tim Cox vs. Gabriel Hernandez

 

Another meeting of two teams who went head-to-head last weekend and it is hard to tip Sydney, back at home after two weeks on the road, dropping to a series split after winning three games down at Narrabundah BallPark.

 

There’s little doubt that the Cavalry will be better for the run, as it appeared both the Blue Sox and Bandits - who had played in Week One - looked more match hardened and more cohesive units than the Cavalry and Aces, who had to wait until Week Two to get their respective seasons started, with manager Michael Collins and pitcher Brian Grening both questioning the ABL’s logic in the media this week.

 

With several players having had poor starts to the season, Canberra’s line-up perhaps won’t relish visiting Blue Sox Stadium - a pitchers’ park - against a team whose four starters last week all recorded quality outings and promise to be even tougher in a park more conducive for low scoring affairs. In all, only two games at Blue Sox Stadium tallied more than ten runs in a game.

 

While reinforcements to the Cavalry are coming, with players returning from the 21U World Cup and pitchers Ian Marshall and Sean Toler soon to land, they aren’t available this week, and against a strong pitching team which boasts a dangerous top to their hitting order in Tyler Bortnick (hitting.290 and .405 OBP), David Kandilas (.382, 14 RBIs, 4 stolen bases), Trent Oletjen (.400) and Josh Dean (.323) with a dangerous duo in Alex Glenn and Will Swanner finding their feet in the ABL, it’s near impossible to see Sydney winning anything less than three matches this series.

 

Series Prediction: Sydney 3-1

 

Sydney Roster.

 

Pitchers: Craig Anderson, Tim Cox, Todd Grattan, Vaughan Harris, Dae-Sung Koo, Steve Landell, Wayne Lundgren, Matthew Rae, Markus Solbach, Luke Wilkins.

 

Catchers: Alex Howe, Will Swanner.

 

Infielders: Tyler Bortnick, Trent D’Antonio, Joshua Dean, Ray Frias, Michael Lysaught, Wes Patterson.

 

Outfielders: Alex Glenn, David Kandilas, Trent Oeltjen, Joshua Strong.

 

Canberra Roster.

 

Pitchers: Tim Atherton, Jake Brown, Tristan Crawford, Dustin Crenshaw, Brian Grening, Gabriel Hernandez, AJ Holland, Wayne Ough, Sam Thornton.

 

Catchers: Kieran Bradford, Jack Murphy.

 

Infielders: LB Dantzler, Marcus Lemon, Christian Lopes, Aaron Sloan, Jason Sloan, Mitch Walding.

 

Outfielders: Anthony Alford, Scott Hiller, Alex Hudak.

 

 

Image:  Australian Baseball League