THE long wait for baseball to return is finally over and Opening Weekend is in the books.
Defending champion Brisbane started off where it finished last season, Melbourne showed it could be a bolter this season and Sydney recorded an impressive series win at home.
Here are six things we learned from Opening Weekend of the ABL season:
1. The Melbourne Aces showed they could have all the pieces to be a genuine title contender this season. A 3-1 series victory over Perth was led by a balanced performance offensively and defensively. Off-season recruit Allan de San Miguel drove in a league-best eight runs across the weekend and the Aces’ imports provided plenty of offensive production. Mark Hamburger and Keisuke Honda turned in a couple of handy starts and Virgil Vasquez and looked strong out of the bullpen. One huge question looms over Melbourne’s chances still – can it end its road-drought?
2. Brisbane Bandits can go back-to-back. The Bandits did not have it all their own way but still came away with a 3-1 series win over Canberra. Brisbane still has a couple of imports to welcome, while its other prospects were mostly impressive without being outstanding against the Cavs. It mattered little with local talent picking up the slack.
3. Jack O’Loughlin is a name to keep an eye on. The 16-year-old, who was signed as an international free agent by the Detroit Tigers this year, was impressive in his Adelaide Bite debut. O’Loughlin entered the series-closing clash against Sydney with the Bite trailing 2-1 before putting in 3.1 solid innings to record the win. The left-hander threw 48 pitches, allowing one run on five hits while walking two hitters and striking out one.
4. Do not write off the Sydney Blue Sox. Much has been made of the player exodus out of Sydney, and the wealth of talent lost. But against Adelaide the Blue Sox showed there is a lot of players putting their hands up to fill the holes. Malik Collymore and Tucker Neuhaus should give Sydney fans plenty of hope after impressive weekends.
5. The Canberra Cavalry were went to Brisbane down on troops and put in a gritty performance. The Bandits needed to rally late in the opening two games before the Cavs bounced back to open their account led by Kyle Perkins. With several key players due to slot into the side in coming weeks, and a couple later in the season, Canberra will be confident it is strong enough to play postseason baseball.
6. A league-high 37 hits after the opening round, but an ABL-low 11 runs. The Perth Heat failed to convert on the weekend against Melbourne and need to turn that around if they are to return to the playoffs this season. Perth was the league’s lowest scoring side last season and ranked sixth for batting average.