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Almonte, Kikuchi named best of Round Five
12/05/2011 10:48 PM ET
Denny Almonte takes a smooth stroke in Adelaide.
Denny Almonte takes a smooth stroke in Adelaide. (SMP Images/ Ryan Schembri)
Adelaide outfielder Denny Almonte and Melbourne left-hander Yusei Kikuchi have earned Round Five Player of the Week honours following a weekend of impressive performances. Almonte drove home a league-record eight runs during the first game of Friday's doubleheader, mashing two home runs on the day, including a walk-off three-run blast. Meanwhile, Kikuchi shut out Almonte and the Bite over six innings on Thursday, striking out eight and allowing just two hits in earning the win.

Almonte, a switch-hitting centerfielder, came into the series with Melbourne on a roll in which he had collected eight hits in his previous six games and got even hotter against the Aces. In the first game of the series, he accounted for three of Adelaide's four hits, including two doubles.

That game would catapult him into his finest performance in Friday's early game, in which he hit two home runs and drove in eight, setting an ABL record. The barrage began in the third inning, when he came to the plate with the bases full and jolted a Nic Ungs offering over the right field wall for his first grand slam. He added an RBI single in the eighth to give his team a 6-5 lead, which Melbourne would later tie back up. Coming to the plate again in the last of the ninth with two on, he crushed his second home run of the game, giving him eight RBI and his team the win.

Almonte would add his third home run of the series on Saturday, a three-run shot off Daniel McGrath in the seventh that also proved to be the game-winner. In Adelaide's two wins against the Aces, Almonte drove in 12 of the 14 Bite runs. He finished the series with a .563 batting average, three home runs, 12 RBI, and an astounding 20 total bases. For the season, he now sits in the ABL's top five in AVG (.368, 3rd), HR (4, t-2nd), RBI (14, t-4th), OBP (.438, 5th), and SLG (.649, 3rd).

Honourable mentions for the batting award included Sydney's newcomer Brandon Barnes, Melbourne's Josh Davies, Canberra's Brian Burgamy, and Tim Kennelly of the Perth Heat.

The Japanese left-hander Kikuchi had a great performance of his own matching up against Almonte and the Bite. Starting game one of the series for the Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces, he led his team to an important first-game win, allowing just two hits in six shutout innings. He also struck out eight, including fanning Chin-lung Hu, Almonte, and Calvin Anderson in succession during the third and fourth innings.

Kikuchi, one of the brightest young talents in Nippon Professional Baseball, showed exactly why he is such a sought-after arm, working through the powerful Bite lineup with ease. Almonte achieved the only two base hits against him, both doubles, and only two other men reached safely on the afternoon. By the time the Aces scored three in the top of the sixth on a Josh Davies home run, Kikuchi had the game completely in control.

After struggling in his first appearance for the Aces, the 20-year-old has now allowed just three runs in his last 17.1 innings of work, striking out 15 and walking just three over that span. His continued development will be a key for Melbourne as they continue to fight their way up from the bottom of the standings. They are currently in last place, but only 1.5 games behind the Bite, who sit at third.

Runners up for the pitching award were Mike McGuire of the Cavalry, following yet another strong performance, Geoff Brown of the Heat, Brisbane's Yohei Yanagawa, and Sydney's Vaughan Harris.

In Round Six, Almonte and the Bite will be in Canberra to face the "UberGlobal" Cavalry, while the 'Alcohol Think Again' Perth Heat will travel to Brisbane to take on the Bandits. The Aces and Blue Sox will each have the week off from ABL competition.

Fans can follow games through individual team streaming and radio partners. The ABL also offers new Gameday technology, which tracks live pitch-by-pitch action at www.theabl.com.au.

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.