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 1
6 November 2014
The first week of the ABL season is in the books and - after some wild scorelines and the occasional conventional game - the four teams that were in action are all locked together on a couple of victories.
Week Two will see Melbourne Aces and Canberra Cavalry suit up for their first outings of the season – against Brisbane and Sydney respectively – while Perth Heat and Adelaide Bite will enjoy an early break before matching up in the first full round of games starting next Thursday.
OPENING ROUND: Brisbane Bandits vs Adelaide Bite
Game One: Adelaide defeated Brisbane 8-3 (Box Scores)
Game Two: Adelaide defeated Brisbane 23-3 (Box Scores)
Game Three: Brisbane defeated Adelaide 6-5 (Box Scores)
Game Four: Brisbane defeated Adelaide 7-2 (Box Scores)
There’s no doubt - following an off season where Brooke Knight had the potential to fully critique his roster and bring in the right parts to complement the existing strengths that the Bite possessed - that his would be a club that would score runs this season.
No-one, however, thought they could score twenty-three in a single game!
Following a comprehensive victory behind seven innings from Matthew Williams (pictured) in Game One, the Adelaide bats exploded for nineteen hits and benefited from eight walks and five errors en route to a 23-3 victory in Game Two. In all, the Bite hit five home runs, three of them by recruit Mitch Dening as they eclipsed Melbourne’s 2010-11 tally of twenty runs against Canberra at the Melbourne Showgrounds as the ABL’s highest score by a team.
From there, however, Adelaide ran into Ryan Searle - who seems to prefer starting on Saturday nights. On the back of 7.1 solid innings in which he struck out a dozen hitters, the Bandits held on for a 6-5 victory.
The Sunday match saw import pitcher Jaspreet Shergill hold the Bite bats in check as the Bandits kept Adelaide at bay for a 7-2 win that ensured a split of the series.
Knight was most upset with the Bite’s ending to the series, believing his team did not come to play in the finale, and meant the team did not meet their manager’s stated expectation of winning three of the four games in the series.
Following a series in which he hit four home runs, with six RBIs, six walks (two of them intentional) and scored eight runs, it was little surprise that Mitch Dening won the ABL Player of the Week. Ryan Searle, who was so excellent in his Game Three start which quietened the Adelaide juggernaut, was awarded the Pitcher of the Week by the ABL.
Image: Adelaide Now
OPENING ROUND: Perth Heat vs Sydney Blue Sox
Game One: Sydney Blue Sox defeated Perth Heat 9-4 (Box Scores)
Game Two: Sydney Blue Sox defeated Perth Heat 7-3 (Box Scores)
Game Three: Perth Heat defeated Sydney Blue Sox 5-0 (Box Scores)
Game Four: Perth Heat defeated Sydney Blue Sox 20-9 (Box Scores)
Much like the Brisbane-Adelaide series, it was the visiting team that made all the early running in the series, with the Sydney Blue Sox winning the first two games before the home side – Perth - clawed back the ground they had lost early by salvaging a series split.
The Blue Sox had just eight hits in Game One, but also capitalised on nine walks by the Heat pitching to put up a five-spot in the second in extracting six innings from veteran Craig Anderson en route to a 9-4 victory. Then, behind a seventy-six pitch, seven innings effort from Markus Solbach (below), the Sox took the opening game of Saturday’s double header 7-3.
From there, the Heat fought back, with Brian Baker and three relievers combining for the Heat’s eighteenth shutout in just over four seasons as the local club won 5-0 in Game Three, while in the Sunday finale the Heat overcame a 9-5 deficit to score the last fifteen runs of the game to snare a wild affair 20-9.
Image: Blacktown Sun
AROUND THE ABL THIS WEEK.....
After being traded back to the Toronto Blue Jays last week, Liam Hendriks (Perth) is already back at work, and is on the roster of Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican League.
Current Melbourne Aces pitching coach John Hussey (San Diego) and former Aces outfielder Tyler Massey (Colorado) have signed new contracts with their MLB clubs.
Staying in Melbourne, the club recently announced the addition of five players from Japanese team Seibu Lions, which was covered on ABL Fans Facebook page. Since then, there has been a change to the list of players joining the Aces, with the Lions sending an extra pitcher for the second portion of the club's tenure with the Aces this season.
Instead of sending permanent bullpen catcher Taichi Yoshimi from 24 November, the Lions announced yesterday they will instead send 20 year-old LHP Isamu Sato to join the Aces, meaning the Melbourne franchise will feature three Japanese pitchers once Komei Fujisawa returns home on 24 November. Sato will join Kentaro Fukukura as replacements for pitcher Kazuki Miyata and catcher Komei Fujisawa, with Makoto Aiuchi staying with the Aces for the first two months of the season.
Over in the Arizona Fall League, Michael Ohlman (Perth) went 1-2 in the AFL Fall-Stars game, with Justin O’Conner (Brisbane) and Patrick Leonard (Brisbane) both going 0-2. Back with AFL side Peroia, Leonard then hit his first two home runs of the AFL season in the same game, pacing Peroia to a 6-5 win over Scottsdale.
Josh Tols (Adelaide) has officially been signed by the Kansas City T-Bones in the American Association.
Jumpei Ono (Melbourne) has been invited to the fall camp of the Hiroshima Carp. Ono has spent the last two seasons with the Carp after moving over from the Giants.
Zack Penprase (Sydney), Brandon Tripp (Perth) and Kevin Fuqua (Melbourne Aces draft selection) have had their 2015 options picked up by Fargo-Moorhead in the American Association. Over in the Frontier League, Josh Spence (Melbourne) has been released by the Windy City Thunderbolts, while McKenzie Acker, who pitched so well for the USA All-Stars against the Perth Heat recently has been signed by the Rockford Aviators.
Over in Japan, Masumi Hoshino (Melbourne) has been given his senryokugai by the Yomuri Giants, and will not be offered a 2015 contract, while Toshihiro Iwao, Yusei Kikuchi, Hirotake Koishi and Fumikazu Kimura (all Melbourne) have been added to the Seibu Lions Fall camp roster.
WEEK TWO PREVIEW
CANBERRA CAVALRY vs SYDNEY BLUE SOX
The battle for the Hume Highway Cup will be on in earnest from Thursday as the Blue Sox continue their travels to start the new ABL season when they visit Narrabundah and the Canberra Cavalry.
With the 21U World Cup on, the series will be without eleven players, eight from the Blue Sox and three from the Cavalry as the Australians journey to Taiwan to test themselves against the elite of young baseballers from around the world.
Neither side will have their starting rotations impacted by the tournament, with the Blue Sox going with Solbach, Anderson, Wilkins and Cox again, while the Cavalry are likely to go with Brian Grening, Tim Atherton, Jake Brown and Tristan Crawford.
Missing three of his local players, Cavalry manager Michael Collins will have to juggle the line-up to cover the new ABL rule covering import restrictions, though the Cavalry has been working hard to receive an exemption to this rule despite not offering several local players contracts for the coming season.
Jack Murphy returns for his third season with the club, joined by exciting Blue Jays minor leaguers Anthony Alford - a two-sport superstar who recently chose baseball over his football career - while Richard ‘L.B.’ Dantzler promises to pepper the scoreboard at Narrabundah with line drives over the course of the season.
Pitching wise, Brian Grening returns for season four, and brings fellow Southern Maryland Blue Crabs pitchers Brown, Gabriel Hernandez and Ian Marshall with him, while veteran Wayne Ough returns after two seasons away from the ABL.
Sydney has issues in the bullpen, with Todd Van Steensel, Aaron Sookee and Josh Guyer absent and Lachlan Wells unable to be called upon, while Guy Edmonds and James Phillibossian are unavailable to catch and Zach Shepherd will be missing from infield defence along with Jacob Younis.
While Sydney’s bullpen has taken a few hits with 21U call-ups, that the starting rotation is untouched will be of benefit to Jason Pospishil, as Anderson, Wilkins and Solbach all proved they could go deep in the opening week of the season.
For the Cavalry, will Grening’s arm, which showed signs of slowing down in the Atlantic League, bounce back at Narrabundah? How will Tristan Crawford and his repaired arm fare as a starter? Is Tim Atherton right after being shut-down by Oakland, and is Jake Brown the man to lead the Cavalry staff? Michael Collins certainly needs his starters to answer some questions early in the season, though he does have several import arms to fall back on should things go bad early.
Canberra has tried to get around the new import restrictions, seemingly without success, so it will have to field at least five Australians at any one time - a far cry from their Championship season when they had up to eight imports in the hitting line-up. All of a sudden, the new rules mean that Jack Murphy will have to stand-up more with the bat, and his teammates from the Toronto farm system will not have it as easy as their predecessors.
While Sydney looks the better and more experienced team on paper, the unknown factor of Canberra, who tend to pick good imports does give them hope of a solid series result, though perhaps they should be content should they split the series given the Blue Sox almost had the Heat in Perth last week.
Prediction: Split series
MELBOURNE ACES vs BRISBANE BANDITS
The ABL gets their first peek at the new look Melbourne Aces and manager Tommy Thompson from Friday when they open their season at Melbourne Ballpark against the Brisbane Bandits.
With Jared Cruz, Ryan Dale, Ben Leslie and Aaron Sayers all away at the 21U World Cup, it will largely be back to the future for the Aces, with imports Dylan Cozens, Kellin Deglan, Adam Engel, Chace Numata and Mitch Glasserto being joined by veterans Brad Harman, Scott Wearne, Josh Davies and Mitch Ayres in the line-up, along with rookie Sam Moon and Essendon infielderTom Dicker - who played a dozen games three seasons ago - likely to make up the bench strength.
Pitching, however, is the biggest concern for Thompson and his pitching coach John Hussey, who will not throw until later in the season. Only Japanese import Makoto Aiuchi (three innings) has pitched in the ABL with the Aces previously, while Andrew Chesterton, James Darcy and Hayden Godbold will all make their ABL debuts during the season. Southpaw Matthew Wilson - who threw two innings for Canberra last season - returns home to Melbourne and will make his Aces debut despite having been part of the extended roster in two previous seasons.
Imports Nick Blount, Cody Buckel, Kyle Heckathorn and Ben Henry will all be asked to step up throughout the season, while Seibu Lions pitchers Aiuchi and Kazuki Miyata will also be relied upon to provide the club with solid innings.Catchers: Kellin Deglan, Komei Fujisawa, Chace Numata.
Infield: Mitch Ayres, Josh Davies, Tom Dicker, Mitch Glasser, Brad Harman, Sam Moon, Scott Wearne.
Outfielders: Dylan Cozens, Adam Engel
Following his disastrous Game Two start against Adelaide, Justin Staatz has been dropped from the Brisbane roster which will feature three Taiwanese players, led by pitcher Chen-Hua Lin. Look for Josh Roberts to perhaps see time behind the plate, spelling Maxx Tissenbaum as David Nilsson seems to have moved Ryan Battaglia to third base on a more permanent basis.
While Connor McDonald and Sam Holland will both miss, all four imports from the Tampa Bay Rays minor leagues have started the season strongly, though Nilsson will be hoping for better outings from the likes of David Sutherland (2-13), Josh Roberts (1-12) and Ryan Battaglia (0-8), who had their struggles against the Bite pitching.
Melbourne take fifteen ABL rookies into their opening series, and when you add in Aiuchi (three innings), Wilson (two innings), Fujisawa (20 at-bats), Ayres (23 at-bats) and Dicker (36 at-bats), the Aces feature only three players who have been around the ABL enough to be considered experienced players.
With both pitching rosters light on for depth, whichever team can get deep into their opponents’ bullpen early in the series will have a significant advantage as the weekend goes on. With Justin Erasmus a good security blanket to have in the pen, the pitching advantage may just go to the Bandits.
While Engel and Cozens look like they will excite and Harman again looks primed for a big season, just who will step-up and contribute for the Aces is a concern. With Brisbane’s line-up demonstrating already that it can score runs, the Bandits may also possess more danger throughout the line-up as well.
Last season’s series at Melbourne Ballpark saw the series split even though the Aces walked-off twice and the Bandits had been eliminated from playoff contention. Since then, the Bandits don’t appear to have regressed too much in comparison to Melbourne’s extreme makeover.
Prediction: Brisbane 3-1 IMAGES FROM THIS SERIES
Image: Australian Baseball Alumni