What we learned from ABL Opening Weekend

BASEBALL is back.

And boy it is great.

The Heat were too good for the Bite – again, the Cavalry edged the Bandits and in Melbourne the Aces found a way to avoid winning a series in an error-riddled finale.

Here are six things we learned from the Opening Weekend of the ABL season.

1. The Perth Heat are good even when they are not great. The Heat came out on top 3-1 at home to the Adelaide Bite in Championship rematch despite being far from their best. Walk-off wins on Friday and Sunday after entering the ninth with two-run deficits showed Perth can be down, but are never out. Adelaide out-hit the Heat 38-24 in the four-game set and Perth gave the Bite plenty of chances to inflict pain by allowing 18 walks. But the Heat came out on top in the big moments, and in the series.

2. OK Narrabundah is friendly to hitters, but maybe, just maybe these Brisbane Bandits might produce some runs this season. The Bandits scored a franchise-record 219 runs last season (4.76 runs per game), and despite dropping the series to Canberra they tallied 27 (6.75 per game) – an Opening Weekend high – in four games at The Fort. It was the most in a series at Narrabundah since the first season of the relaunched ABL. Infielder David Sutherland batted in seven runs, going 6-for-12.

3. The difference between a series win and split for last season’s last-placed Melbourne Aces was probably four errors committed on Sunday. The Aces showed positive signs all weekend but the final game errors hurt as the Sydney Blue Sox capitalised to establish an early 5-0 lead. Overall, Melbourne committed a league-high seven errors on Opening Weekend. Tanner Vavra and Jared Cruz were both responsible for two errors in the four-game series.

4. The Adelaide Bite managed one win from four games but its starting rotation was far from the blame. Steven Chambers was dominant his Opening Night start, allowing one run on three hits, and Matthew Williams pitched seven-innings for one hit. Nick Talbot steadied after a rough first inning to pickup a win, and Matthew Swilley recovered from a shaky start also to strike-out seven hitters. If the Bite’s bullpen can fix its waywardness, after allowing 18 free passes to first base, they will be one of the toughest teams to score against.

5. David Harris is WOW. The Canberra Cavalry outfielder went 9-for-16 including a two-out grand-slam home run against the Brisbane Bandits. In the second game of the Saturday double-header the 24 year old went 4-for-5 and batted in two runs. Overall it was a good weekend for the Cavalry sluggers with the home side blasting six homers at The Fort. Oh, and the team built a 3-1 record ahead of visiting the Aces – that’s good too.

6. The Sydney Blue Sox offence failed to fire (hitting a combined .200) but its pitching looked strong without a number of well-known names. Wayne Lundgren became the first pitcher other than Craig Anderson or Chris Oxspring to start on Opening Night for the Sox, and allowed two runs on seven hits in a losing effort. Jan Stoecklin, Todd Grattan and Brandon Zywicki were also tidy. As a team Sydney allowed a league-low 14 runs, an ERA of 3.09, and walked 11 hitters while striking 32 (second in the ABL)

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