The ABL brought to you by Be The Influence: Tackling Binge Drinking season approached the half way point with round 6 in the books with one more round to be played until the All-Star game in Melbourne. Teams are starting to separate themselves in the peaking order behind The Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat. When the dust cleared after a wild weekend, the ABL had a new second place team and a new team in the cellar proving that things behind the Heat remain fluid as ever.
The Heat remain on top but know it won't be easy to stay there. The Heat will have to dig deep into their talent pool to keep the club rolling. While one week ago it looked like a two team race with Perth and the Sydney Blue Sox in first and second this week has seen the Canberra Calvary and their offensive machine close to within 1.5 games of the Heat, Sydney find themselves 3 games back, Brisbane at 3.5 back, with their big weekend Adelaide is now 4 back and Melbourne are 6 back after the round. There was no shortage of runs scored in South Australia and road teams had a good weekend earning a split and a win with only Adelaide enjoying the comforts of home.
Brisbane v Perth
The Brisbane Bandits who had a tough "take it to the people" series last week in dropping 3 of 4 to Sydney headed across country for a four game series with The Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat. The Heat and Bandits split the four games with some of the Bandits youngsters getting a great working lesson on winning on the road in the ABL.
In what looked like a tough spot facing veteran and new Minnesota Twins signee Virgil Vasquez (3-1), the Bandits turned to their own veteran in Chuck Lofgren who was the strike out master. Lofgren struck out 11 Heat batters in 6.2 innings and the crafty lefty kept the Heat batters off balance all night in the 6-4 win. Cody Clark the league's co-leader in the RBI department drove in a pair in the opener.
The Heat as they seem to always do rallied back on Saturday and swept both ends of the doubleheader. Both games were one run gritty pitchers duals and saw the Heat come from behind to pick up wins 11 and 12. The first game saw some fantastic defense and a solo homer by Allan de San Miguel yet those highlights were overshadowed by a bench clearing altercation late in the game. The Bandits down to their last 3 outs got a leadoff walk from Andrew Campbell off of Cameron Lamb to start their rally. Logan Wade tried to bunt Campbell to second but it was an easy play for Heat catcher Michael Ohlman who gunned down Campbell at second. Campbell slid hard into second with SS Carter Bell covering. The two players exchanged words and both benches cleared. Interference was called on the play and Wade was also called out. The Bandits Brad Dutton was ejected along with the Heat's Luke Hughes as both teams danced "toe to toe" and exchanged fiery words following the play. Lamb got the final out to seal the 3-2 win and pick up the save (3).
In game two James Albury (0-1, 4.08) and Anthony Claggett (3-1, 1.76) both started but did not figure in the decision. The Bandits broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the 5th to take the 3-1 lead. In the 8th inning what looked like a missed opportunity on a failed suicide squeeze turned into a 4-3 Heat lead when the Bandits allowed Graeme Scorer to reach on a dropped third strike and an error by Bandits second baseman Brad Dutton allowed the winning run to score. The duo of Matt Zachary (1-0) and the season debut of Warwick Saupold (1) kept the Bandits at bay for the final 4 innings to pick up the win and the save in the 4-3 final.
The young Bandits club got some outstanding pitching during the Sunday finale with 6 scoreless "piggy back" innings from the bullpen in a 5-1 win to earn a hard fought split. James Schult making his season debut worked the first 3 innings then was backed up by Jason Kilby (1-0) who held the Heat hitless in 2 innings to earn the relief win. Perth starter Daniel Schmidt (3-1) took the hard luck loss going 7 solid innings and only 2 earned runs. While they have scuffled at home with a 2-4 mark the Bandits Sunday win was their 6th away from Queensland good for second in the ABL in road wins behind Perth with 8.
Perth will get a second look at Sydney when they host the Blue Sox for 4 games and Brisbane returns home to face a hot Adelaide.
Canberra v Sydney
The only game in the ABL on Thursday night was the first game of the four game series between the Canberra Calvary driven by Rolfe Renault and the Sydney Blue Sox. The battle for second place featured the matchup of two of the league's best arms in league leader Chris Oxspring for the Blue Sox and Brian Grening for Canberra. Both starters notched 7 strike outs a piece while getting their clubs late into the game which lived up to the billing. It took a 13th inning run by Canberra on a wild pitch to break the tie and send the Cavalry on to a 2-1 win.
In what is becoming a theme for the ABL, Friday saw another 1 run game with the Blue Sox picking up the 4-3 win at Blacktown International Sportspark. Sydney trailed early 3-0 but fought back with five straight hits in the 5th to grab the lead. The Blue Sox pen which has been solid followed starter Craig Anderson (2-1) with 3.2 of scoreless relief to shut down the Calvary.
On Saturday Canberra scored four runs in the first and never looked back in a 6-2 win over Sydney. This time it was the Calvary pen that settled in and kept Sydney in check with 4 innings of shutout ball while fanning 5. The win also sent Canberra back into second place jumping over Sydney in the process.
Sunday's series finale was a wild affair that looked like it would put the Blue Sox back into second place for a show down with Perth in round 7. The Sox had a 5 run lead in the top of the 9th inning and it seemed academic that the game would end right there at 6-1 with the Sydney bullpen once again looking strong. The Calvary offensive machine then revved up and scorched Sydney with 5 runs to tie the game. The teams went into extra innings and once again the Blue Sox pen gave way for the second time in the game when Canberra's Kody Hightower drove home the game winner to make it 7-6 and winning the series 3-1.
Canberra will take its second place show to Melbourne to face a reeling Aces club while Sydney will make the trek to WA in what should be another great series with Perth.
Melbourne v Adelaide
In the wildest series of the round, one team got out of the cellar in the standings and the other finished the weekend looking up at the entire league. The weekend came complete with 2 walk off wins and plenty of drama that left the fans exhausted in an Adelaide Bite sweep of their home series against the Jet Courier Melbourne Aces.
The Bite opened their four game series against the Aces in a loud fashion by pounding out 16 hits in a 10-4 hammering of the visitors. Stefan Welch went 3-5 with a solo homerun in the #3 spot and his team mate in the #4 hole Ji-Man Choi went 3 for 3 in the win.
The Saturday doubleheader featured an exciting finish and an offensive explosion. In game one the Aces held a 2-0 lead in the 7th just 3 outs away to pick up the win. The Bite fought back to tie the game when Ben Lodge hit a two-run blast to even it up off the Aces John Hussey. Melbourne took the lead in the 9th scratching out what looked like the winning run but Adelaide's Nathan Melendez hit a walk off homerun to give the Bite a 5-3 win against Adam Blackley (1-2).
In game two the Bite took a page from their Friday night win by pounding the Aces staff with 21 hits in an 18-1 runaway win. Angus Roeger hit league leading 6th homer. 7 of 11 Bite batters had a multi hit game and 10 of 11 hitters that Adelaide sent to the plate picked up a hit in the win.
If Saturday was wild then Sunday was off the charts. The Aces jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. The Bite got 1 run in the 2nd, 7 in the 3rd and another in the 4th to lead 9-4. Game over? Not by a long shot. The Aces fought back with 4 runs of their own to pull within 1 in the 6th. Still holding on in the 7th, the Bite gave up the tying run and it was a brand new game. In the 9th inning pinch hitter Josh Cakebread came off the bench to double home the game winner off of Blackley for the second game in a row. The Bite had their second walk off win of the weekend 10-9 and sweeping aside the Aces in the process and moving 2 games in the clear of last place in the league.
Adelaide will look to stay hot and go for their 5th win in a row when they head to Queensland to take on Brisbane. Melbourne stays on the road for the second straight week with the tough task of slowing down the Canberra offense.
6 of the 12 games from the round were 1 run affairs.
Adelaide's Angus Roeger hit homeruns #6 and #7 on the season which is one more than Sydney has as a team at 6.
The Heat added another triple to up the team total to 6. The rest of the 5 teams have hit 7 combined.The Heat lead the league with 51 extra base hits.
Adelaide has a league leading 18 homeruns.
With Adelaide scoring 42 runs in the 4 games over Melbourne the Bite take over the league lead in runs scored at 91 to 90 over the Heat.
This round saw the two double headers resulting in a sweep.
Melbourne has dropped 6 straight while Adelaide has won 4 in a row the leagues current best.
Sean Toller picked up his league leading 7th save over the weekend for Canberra and has saves in 7 of the 10 wins for the team. The Calavary have saves in 8 of their 10 wins which leads the league.
The Heat drew 4,410 at Barbagallo Ballpark during the round with only 3 dates. Adelaide posted 2,985 on the attendance ledger while Sydney in 4 dates drew 4,031.