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.

The week in ABL 3

Stuart Capel

19 November 2014

 

Just four weeks into the ABL season and we appear poised for a telling insight into the emerging prospects of the six clubs.

 

A surprise to some, Brisbane (8-4) has the chance to consolidate as league leader when it travels to Adelaide (4-4), while Sydney (7-5) heads to Altona intent on inflicting further grief on Melbourne (2-6) and reigning titleholder Perth (4-4) will play host to Canberra (3-5) in what shapes as a fascinating series.

 

ROUND THREE REVIEW

 

SYDNEY vs CANBERRA

 

Game One:   Sydney defeated Canberra 2-0 (Box Scores)

Game Two:   Sydney defeated Canberra 7-6  (Box Scores)

Game Three:   Canberra defeated Sydney 8-1  (Box Scores)

Game Four:   Canberra defeated Sydney 11-6  (Box Scores)

 

Series split 2-2

 

The return bout from the previous weekend in Canberra started on Thursday night when Craig Anderson - conceding just four hits over nine innings - threw a complete game shut-out last night as Sydney continued its strong start to the season by defeating the Cavalry two runs to nil.

 

Anderson’s dominance ensured the Cavalry line-up never got going, with the four, five, six and seven hole hitters going a combined 0-11, with only one runner past second base for the night.

 

The Blue Sox made it back-to-back wins the following night, despite giving up a two-run inside-the-park homer to Alex Alford, and seeming set for a comfortable win. However a pitching change to Steve Landell proved disastrous for the Blue Sox, with Jack Murphy tying the game with a three-run homer in the eighth, before nearly putting the Cavalry ahead with a long ball that just twisted foul before the pole.

 

In the bottom of the ninth, Blue Sox infielder Ray Frias reached on a bunt single and got around to third, before Alex Glenn hit a long sacrifice fly to score Frias for the game.

 

The run made a winner of Wayne Lundgren, while reliever Dustin Crenshaw took the loss.

 

Canberra bounced back on Saturday night, and recorded their second victory of the season, with a late offensive explosion against a Sydney bullpen that had a poor night for the second successive game.

 

The Cavalry already led 1-0 after seven innings when Luke Wilkins was relieved by Matthew Rae. However Rae was ineffective, as was Wayne Lundgren, with Steve Landell, who had been poor the previous night, eventually called upon to get the Blue Sox out of the eighth innings. In all, Canberra scored six runs in the innings, taking their tally of runs in the eighth innings this season to an even dozen, exactly 50% of all runs scored by the Cavalry in their opening seven games of the season.

 

Tim Atherton threw six scoreless innings to continue his solid start to the season, while Jake Brown once again proved an excellent long option from the bullpen, throwing the final three innings and giving up just one run, a home run to Michael Lysaught.

 

Luke Wilkins was an unlucky loser for the Blue Sox, giving up just one run in seven innings, and despite his strong start to the season, he has received just three runs of support (all three coming in the one innings) in the 21.1 innings he has thrown.

 

Leading 5-0 into the sixth innings of Sunday’s series finale, Sydney looked set to record back-to-back series victories over the Cavalry. However, Sydney starting pitcher Tim Cox cracked, and Vaughan Harris was ineffective in relief as the Cavalry banged out seven runs in the sixth and another four in the seventh en route to a 11-6 victory that ensured a series split.

 

Neither Cox nor Canberra starter Gabriel Hernandez was overly effective, however the Cavalry bullpen trio of Wayne Ough, AJ Holland and Dustin Crenshaw outdueled Harris, the returning Dae-Sung Koo and Steve Landell to ensure a share of the spoils. All nine Canberra starters recorded at least one hit, with Alex Dudek leading the way with three - while for Sydney, Josh Dean and David Kandilas had three-hit games, and Trent Oeltjen went deep twice, but could not overcome Canberra's two-innings rampage.

 

Stat of the Week:  Canberra has scored thirty-five runs so far this season. Seventeen in their sixty innings at the plate, while eighteen runs have come in their last eleven innings.

 

BRISBANE BANDITS vs MELBOURNE ACES

 

Game One:   Melbourne defeated Brisbane 7-6 (Box Score)

Game Two:   Brisbane defeated Melbourne 6-5  (Box Score)

Game Three:   Brisbane defeated Melbourne 4-3  (Box Score)

Game Four:   Brisbane defeated Melbourne 12-6  (Box Score)

 

Brisbane won the series 3-1

 

The Aces received eight excellent innings out of Cody Buckel and Kazuki Miyata, while Kellin Deglan went 3-5 with a double and two homers, plating four runs as the visiting Aces picked up a rare win without Brad Harman. With the role of closer still somewhat uncertain after an opening series where the team had the opportunity to reveal their ninth-innings man, Tommy Thompson entrusted Ben Henry with the task of closing the game out, and once again the right-hander struggled, giving up two runs and having the tying-run on third base, but managed to get CJ Beatty to pop-up to the infield to close out the 7-6 victory.

 

Friday night’s affair was almost a mirror image of the previous night. The Bandits took a three-run lead into the ninth innings, however allowed the Aces to score twice and have the tying run on third base, and they only escaped after getting a pop-up to the infield. Matt Timms got Brad Harman to pop-up to Ryan Battaglia with runners on second and third in the ninth to secure a 6-5 victory, tying the series at one win apiece.

 

Melbourne got home runs from Mitch Ayres and Kellin Deglan, but were 2-9 with runners in scoring position and made several basic errors that hamstrung them throughout the game. Tommy Coyle continued his hot hitting for Brisbane with two hits, two runs and two RBIs, while Chen-Hua Lin kept his team in front all game and picked up the W.

 

It was former SuperBowl winning coach Tony Dungy who once noted, “You don’t win on emotion. You win on execution.” Perhaps then that explains the Melbourne Aces 4-3 loss in Brisbane to the Bandits on Saturday night.

 

After Makoto Aiuchi had given the Aces their longest outing of the season (seven innings, two runs), the Aces looked set to add to their 3-2 lead in the eighth when the first two hitters reached base. However, with left-handed hitting Scott Wearne at the plate, manager Tommy Thompson put on a double steal, and Maxx Tissenbaum took advantage of the free path to third with no hitter in the right-handed batters box by throwing out Dylan Cozens. Wearne then lined into a double play, as the Aces lost all three outs within one hitter, ending their threat.

 

In the bottom half of the innings, Kyle Heckathorn relieved the impressive Aiuchi, and and after a single to Andrew Campbell, Logan Wade drilled a long home run to right field to put the Bandits ahead. Matt Timms allowed pinch-hitter Chace Numata to reach third with two-outs, however - for the third straight game - the tying run was stranded on third base as Timms struck-out Adam Engel to secure the Bandits the victory.

 

Like the third-game of their series in Melbourne, Brisbane’s winning pitcher was Szu-Hau Huang while Heckathorn took the loss for the Aces.

 

Brisbane secured the series victory on Sunday as they were never headed, eventually pulling away from Melbourne to win 12-6 and secure back-to-back series victories against the Aces while recording back-to-back series wins for the first time since the 2012-13 season when they bested Canberra and Perth in successive home stands.

 

While the Aces kept it close for much of the game, the Bandits rocked Aces pitchers Kazuki Miyata and Ben Henry to the tune of five runs in the seventh innings to put the game away for the home side.

 

Josh Hendricks and Dylan Cozens went deep for the Aces while it was the bottom of the order who did the damage for the Bandits - the top four hitters in the line-up going 3-14 while the bottom five combined for 11-20 with all five recording multi-hit games.

 

ADELAIDE BITE vs PERTH HEAT

 

Game One:   Perth defeated Adelaide 6-0 (Box Score)

Game Two:   Adelaide defeated Perth 5-4 (Box Score)

Game Three:   Adelaide defeated Perth 3-2 (Box Score)

Game Four:   Perth defeated Adelaide 4-2 (Box Score)

 

Series split 2-2

 

Leading up to their home opening series at Coopers Stadium, manager Brooke Knight was confident of a series victory, however he and his team were shut-out in their first match in front of their home fans for the season.

 

Mitch Dening was the only Bite player to get on the bases via a walk or hit, but was thrown out trying to advance on two occasions. Brian Baker was dominant for the Heat, throwing seven strong innings and needing just seventy-three pitches to do so, as the Heat bats pounded out fourteen hits, three of them home runs, as they eased to a comfortable 6-0 victory.

 

There was not a single pitch thrown in the Friday night’s game where the home side led before the pitch was thrown. However, despite the Heat leading for a majority of the night, the home side kept it close throughout, and after a walk and throwing error tied the game in the ninth, a wild pitch by reliever Chad Robinson scored Michael Miller from third to give the Bite an unlikely victory.

 

Robinson took the loss for Perth, while Josh Tols was the winning pitcher for Adelaide in the first ABL game in which both teams had a wild pitch, a balk, a hit by pitch, an error and a caught stealing.

 

In a slightly controversial finish to the game, Adelaide defeated Perth 3-2 in a rain and curfew shortened seven innings affair. Starting late because of rain, the game was in the seventh-innings at 10.15pm, the latest time a new innings can start at Coopers Stadium due to its positioning in a residential area, and with the Bite ahead after the top-half of the innings, the umpires called an end to the game, seemingly surprising the Perth dugout.

 

During the seven-innings that were played, the Heat once again squandered several scoring opportunities, going 1-10 with RISP for the second successive game, while the Bite, who went hitless with RISP, stole five bases on the battery of Shawn Sanford and Steel Russell, scored a run on a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly and a long home run by veteran Tom Brice, who had a record five buttons done up on his jersey such were the conditions at Coopers Stadium on the night.

 

Morgan Coombs gave up two runs, one earned, in 5.2 innings while Kyle Hooper recorded his first save of the season, retiring the four hitters he faced.

 

Down two-games to-one, the Heat bounced back on Sunday, and despite going 1-6 with RISP and finishing a woeful 5-38 for the series in that category, Perth got an early home run from Tim Kennelly and an insurance homer from Nick Rulli late on as the Heat bullpen kept the Adelaide Bite at bay throughout the day.

 

While the Heat pitchers walked eight hitters, the Bite could only manage four hits, fanning a dozen times for the game. Cameron Lamb picked up the win in relief of Tom Bailey, while Darren Fidge was the losing pitcher for the Bite, who fell 4-2 in the series finale.

AROUND THE ABL THIS WEEK

 

James Beresford (Melbourne) has re-signed with the Minnesota Twins. Beresford had become a Minor League Free Agent at the end of the season, however the twenty-five year-old has stayed with the organisation he has been with since 2007.

 

Terance Marin (listed by Melbourne this season but has not played) has re-signed with the Chicago White Sox organisation, while Kenny Wilson (Canberra) has signed with the Miami Marlins as a Minor League Free Agent.

 

Terance Marin, who had been listed to join the Melbourne Aces this season, is with the Caneros de los Mochis in Mexico.

 

Derrick Miramontes (Adelaide) has been traded to Can-Am League team Ottawa from Forth Worth in the United League.

 

Instead of joining Melbourne, Marin has joined Caneros de los Mochis in the Mexican League, while Derrick Miramontes (Adelaide) has been traded to Can-Am League team Ottawa from Forth Worth in the United League.

 

Justin O'Conner's two home runs for Peroia could not stop the Salt River Rafters from winning the Arizona Fall League's Championship game, with the Rafters taking the game 14-7.

 

Ranked the number three prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays minor league set-up by  Baseball America, O'Conner (Brisbane) hit a home run for the Javelinas on the final day of the season to help get the team into the Championship game, and was 2-4 with three RBIs in the AFL decider. Patrick Leonard (Brisbane) was 0-1 as a pinch-hitter for Peroia, while Ryan Casteel (Melbourne) was 2-4 with a home run, two runs scored and three RBIs of his own for the victorious Rafters.

 

Kenta Imamaya (Brisbane) came in as a defensive replacement in the opening three games of the Japan-MLB All-Stars exhibition series in Tokyo. He started at shortstop in game four of the series, but was 0-2 for the Samurai as they fell 6-1 to the MLB All-Stars at the Tokyo Dome.

 

WEEK FOUR PREVIEW

 

MELBOURNE ACES vs SYDNEY BLUE SOX

 

Following another interstate sojourn which only proved to extend their unwanted record of twenty-six road series without a victory, the Melbourne Aces return home to Melbourne BallPark for a home series against the Sydney Blue Sox, who are yet to lose a series so fat this season.

 

While the Aces have played just eight matches so far this season, the club does appear to have reverted back to the style of play that saw them achieve success at the Melbourne Showgrounds – a healthy reliance on the long ball.

 

Although the Aces have scored just thirty-one runs so far this season at an average of under four runs per game, the club has hit eleven home runs already, at an average of one home run for every 2.81 runs scored by the team. This compares with Brisbane (3.82), Adelaide (4.36), Perth (4.36), Sydney (8.85) and Canberra (17.50).

 

Against a starting trio of Craig Anderson, the ABL’s Pitcher of the Week for Week Three, Markus Solbach, the ABL’s Pitcher of the Week for Week Two and Luke Wilkins (1.69 ERA 0.84 WHIP and has pitched at least seven innings in each start), who have combined to give up just three home runs between them in 64.1innings pitched, the Aces will have to manufacture runs in order to be in with a winning chance against the Blue Sox.

 

Unfortunately for the Aces, they have a problem in manufacturing runs. With a team batting average of .223, the lowest in the league, and an on-base percentage of .299, over forty points south of Sydney’s .340 figure, the Aces will need big weeks out of players who are expected to be contributing more than what they currently have been this season.

 

Adam Engel (.152), Dylan Cozens (.156) and Scott Wearne (.172) have all started slowly, and while Kellin Deglan (.206) has hit three home runs already he has only four other hits and has scored just once outside of his home runs.

 

Sydney on the other hand come into the series with few hitting problems, hitting .275 as a team, and they will be strengthened by the return of Guy Edmonds (.308 at 21U World Cup), which will free up Will Swanner from catching duties, while Zach Shepherd returns to the middle infield.

 

Todd Van Steensel had a terrible 21U World Cup. He returns to a bullpen that is struggling, with the rest of the Sydney pitchers aside from the three main starters possessing a 10.70 ERA, though Jason Pospishil will be slightly relieved that the Aces average just one run a game from the seventh innings onwards.

 

For the Aces, Ben Leslie, Jared Cruz and Aaron Sayers return to the side after the 21U World Cup and Justin Huber is back for his first series of the season, with Mitch Ayres and Sam Moon making way. However to expect the three youngsters, who average a combined .151 in the ABL - and Huber - to kick-start the Aces season is a stretch at best. Jon Kennedy and Jeremy Young return to the pitching staff, with James Darcy omitted and Kyle Heckathorn heading back to America.

 

The series is a big one for the Aces, as another series loss would have them almost out of any serious finals consideration after just a dozen matches, but against three strong starting pitchers, possessing the lowest team batting average in the league and the highest team ERA (5.18), it is hard to see the Aces doing enough to take even a split of the series.

 

Series Prediction: Sydney 3-1

 

ADELAIDE BITE vs BRISBANE BANDITS

 

Although the Adelaide Bite are now 4-4 on the new ABL season, they are 0-3 in matches where they could have secured a series victory, and Brooke Knight will be only too aware how momentum sapping and potentially season damaging those losses can prove both in the present and future tenses.

 

In their series split at Coopers Stadium against Perth, the Bite arguably got good enough pitching, conceding on average just four runs per game. However, the offence that was so potent in Adelaide - and scored fourteen runs in just two innings during one stage at AFA Stadium against the Bandits - could only manage just ten runs for the series against the Heat,

 

For the Perth series, the Bite’s bottom order all but turned into an automatic out, with hitters seven through nine combining for 1-36 in the four games - the hit coming from a pinch-hitter in Michael Miller.

 

Not only did this snuff out several potential Adelaide rallies, but it meant that lead-off hitter Chan Moon came up as the lead-off or with no outs on only two occasions other than the first innings of each game, with the Perth pitchers doing well to break-up the run-scoring potential at the top of the Bite batting order.

 

With Ben Lodge returning, the Adelaide order will get a boost. However Lodge is coming off a poor 21U World Cup, hitting just .154 in a tournament where he was the only over-age hitter and was being counted upon to produce for the Australian side.  Wilson Lee also returns after just 2.1 innings at the tournament, but looms as the teams fourth starter after Darren Fidge’s spot-start last Sunday.

 

Brisbane venture to Adelaide in the unfamiliar role of ladder leaders, and they begin the series in the knowledge that a strong showing here, followed by a home series against a struggling Melbourne team would have them really being spoken about as a finals contender in season 2014-15 instead of missing out on the finals for the fifth successive season.

 

While Player of the Week Tommy Coyle (.348-3-9-4) has performed above expectations, he has been backed-up by CJ Beatty (.310) and Maxx Tissenbaum (.306), while Logan Wade and Johnny Field both bat .262 as a 9-1 combination.

 

Still finding his feet is Granden Goetzmann, who is hitting just .202 despite bludgeoning three home runs in twelve games.

 

In the Minor Leagues this season, Goetzmann tended to be kept in the middle of the park, with fielders at second, short and centre being in his line of fire as MLB Farm graphics suggest. While he can hit to the corners, and his power has been generated to left and right in the ABL, when Goetzmann is kept in the centre of the park, then the pitching side certainly has the advantage.

 

On balls in play this season, Goetzmann is hitting just .208 on balls kept in the middle of the park, but is hitting .357 (three home runs and a double) when able to hit more towards the lines.

 

Further, while Goetzmann possesses the fastest bat speed in the Tampa Bay Minor League system, his power comes largely from mistakes up in the zone, which allow him to get underneath the ball.

 

On balls in play to the outfield this season, Goetzmann is 8/15 for a .533 average.  On balls in play to the infield, he is 2/20 for a paltry .100 average.

 

If the Bite staff can keep the big left-fielder quiet, they’ll go a long way towards winning the series. Ryan Searle may not be a part of the roster this weekend for the Bandits, after a short outing last week. As the Brisbane go-to man, his presence would be greatly missed by the Bandits.

 

If there is no Searle, and the Bite return Ben Lodge and potentially Stefan Welch to the squad then the home side would be most confident of winning the series. However the Bandits have a bit more steel to them this season, and a share of the spoils come Sunday is not unrealistic, especially against a team that is yet to prove it can close out a series.

 

Series Prediction: Split Series 2-2

 

PERTH HEAT vs CANBERRA CAVALRY

 

After winning their final two matches of their series in Sydney, it will be a re-tooled Canberra Cavalry line-up that visits Barbagallo BallPark for a series against the Perth Heat, with up to five changes likely to be made by Michael Collins and his coaching staff.

 

The Cavalry will be boosted by pitchers Ian Marshall and the returning Sean Toler, both from Southern Maryland in the Atlantic League, while Aaron Thompson returns for his first ABL action of the season after spending the past fortnight with the 21U World Cup team.

 

A starting pitcher with the Blue Crabs, Marshall has posted a record of 22-18, 4.04 ERA in fifty-four starts and he will be a solid inclusion for the Cavalry, while Toler’s somewhat unexpected return does give Collins the luxury of a headache, choosing between his former closer and the incumbent in Dustin Crenshaw.

 

Like Thompson, who provides another local arm from the bullpen, which will give Collins the chance to keep an extra import hitter in the line-up, Adam Silva and local catcher Robbie Perkins also return from the World Cup.

 

The addition of the quintet of players will boost the Cavalry, who found their bats towards the end of game two of the series at Blue Sox Stadium:

 

Canberra First Six Games:        38 for 193   (0.193)

Canberra Last Two Games:       26 for 75    (0.346)

 

The only issue for the Cavalry is that the relaxing of the import rules is now over with the 21U World Cup players having returned home. Who now makes up the best hitting line-up and fielding alignment?  While the closing role will be a happy headache for Collins, fitting seven imports when you’re allowed five (at most) won’t be as welcome.

 

Canberra takes a seven-game losing streak to Barbagallo BallPark, venue of their Championship Series defeat to Perth last season, and while it is unlikely that the Heat will simply sweep their Cavalry this week, there is something about the venue that disagrees with the Cavalry.

 

Some eyebrows have been raised at the Heat’s supposed slow start. However, in last season’s record 32-14 season, the Heat started 4-4 before a series victory at Barbagallo BallPark against Melbourne launched Perth’s rise to the top of the ABL standings.

 

Perth’s current record is 4-4, and they are at home this weekend. Sound similar?

 

That’s not to say the Heat will not have to improve in order to rise above the rest this season. The situational hitting (5-36 RISP last week in Adelaide) was poor and aside from Brian Baker, the pitching staff has struggled for effectiveness, with the team ERA at present the highest of any season so far in the ABL by a Perth Heat club:

 

Perth Heat ERA by season:

 

2010/11:     3.79

2011/12:     3.07

2012/13:    4.02

2013/14:    2.63

2014/15:    4.32

 

One pitcher who has held-up his end however is Jorge Marban, who has proven somewhat of a surprise out of the bullpen for Steve Fish.

 

A late season revelation for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, Marban has proven to be unhittable for the Heat so far through seven innings and four appearances, and he has already proven to his manager that he is the man to turn to with a lead.

 

With the bats, the Heat have five regulars hitting over .300, and with Nick Rulli and Taishi Nakagawa beginning to hit, if Steve Fish can get more out of Brian Pointer (.226) and Matt Kennelly (.200) then the poor numbers with RISP from last week will soon be a thing of the past.

 

This series is a tough one to predict as Canberra will be introducing new players to their squad and will have to amend their line-up to suit the league rules, while the Heat is yet to put away an opposition so far this season, and has needed wins in two game fours to split their opening two series.

 

The home advantage, and Canberra’s run of poor results at Barbagallo does suggest Perth should take the series, but the Canberra rotation does look slightly more settled and consistent at present and should get them a win or two across the series.

 

Series Prediction: Split Series 2-2

 

 

Image:     Adelaide Now

 

 

Image:     Australian Baseball League