THE Australian Baseball League playoff picture remains as complicated as ever after Brisbane swept Perth and Canberra managed just a split at Sydney.
In Melbourne, Adelaide stifled the Aces’ attempt to clinch top spot and a home ABL Championship Series.
With one week and 12 games – 13 if the Brisbane and Sydney make-up game is required –left there is plenty to play for.
Here are six things we learned from week nine of the ABL season:
1. BLOWN SAVE BUT IS IT BLOWN SEASON? Canberra’s hold on a playoff berth would be much tighter if the Cavalry had won Sunday’s series-finale against Sydney. The Blue Sox walk-off win – their first Sunday victory in eight attempts this season – left Canberra needing three wins over Brisbane in the final round to control its own fate. The Cavs have home-field advantage but the Bandits are growing in confidence and on a five-game winning streak. A series-split would create the need for Brisbane to play its postponed game against Sydney.
2. FOLD THE ACES: Adelaide’s series sweep over Melbourne on the weekend is about as impressive as they come. The Bite recorded their first four-game sweep on the road and restricted Melbourne to just seven runs for the series for the second time this season. Adelaide is the hottest team in the league since January 1 and have a wealth of experience at the business end of the season. They also have suffered the agony of defeat and have a hunger to go one better. Melbourne may have the raw talent, but the Bite have some ballplayers of their own that should not be discounted and so far have had the Aces’s measure.
3. ABLCS MATCH-UP: The Bite’s series win over the Aces – which wrapped up a 7-1 season-series victory – would leave most Melbourne fans hoping for an ABL Championship Series against Canberra or Brisbane. The Aces will (OK, should) get the one win they need in Perth to earn hosting rights this weekend. There they will face one of the three chasing teams. Melbourne won its season-series over Brisbane 7-1 and took six of eight against the Cavs. Either of those match-ups looks better than taking on Adelaide. Though, Victorians do like beating SA …
4. WARMING UP AT THE RIGHT TIME: Brisbane looked down and almost out last month. But in the New Year they hold the second best record in the ABL on the back of an offensive surge. The Bandits are averaging 7.2 runs per game this month (yes, one big game helped boost that) compared to 5.4 runs per game in December. They are hitting .310 since January 1 and clubbed 19 homers in 11 games this year. Their pitching has been a little bit better too, and long balls more infrequently.
5. A COAT OF CLASS IN IT: The 4-0 series scoreline suggests otherwise but there was little separating Perth and Brisbane on the weekend. The Heat could so easily have spoiled the Bandits’ postseason hopes despite having little to play for themselves. Brisbane outscored the visitors 26-20 – extending Perth’s losing streak at Holloway Field to 10 games – but trailed in each and took three by one run. Five of the Heat’s past six defeats have been by one run – it is evidence they are around the mark.
6. PARTY POOPER: As mentioned above the Sydney Blue Sox dented Canberra’s playoff aspirations with a walk-off win on Sunday. The Sox ended their home schedule above .500 and despite being eliminated themselves put a spanner in Canberra’s hopes. Sydney hit the road this weekend and can spoil the party in Adelaide with a series win.
What did you learn from week nine of the ABL season? Comment below …
Follow David Penrose on Twitter at @David_Penro