SYDNEY, 27 December - Round Nine of the Australian Baseball League brought to you by 'Be the Influence: Tackling Binge Drinking' boasts all new match ups, as each team will face another they have not yet competed against this season. Beginning Thursday night, the Brisbane Bandits will host the Jet CouriersMelbourne Aces and the Adelaide Bite Proudly Presented by SA Power Networks will travel to face the Sydney Blue Sox. The Canberra Cavalry driven by Rolfe Renault have claimed the top spot in league standings for the first time in franchise history and knocked the two-time reigning ABL champions, the Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat, from the position for the first time since 27 January 2011. The top two teams will face off Friday night to start their four-game series in Perth.
Brisbane Bandits (11-14) vs. Melbourne Aces (8-18)
The bottom rungs of the ABL ladder will compete in Round Nine. Both coming off losing series, Brisbane and Melbourne will hope to redeem themselves at RNA Showgrounds. Last season, the Aces won five games out of nine against the Bandits.
The Aces will welcome new faces for the trip to Brisbane, with pitcher Andrew Russell returning to the side after a strong year playing AAA in the Atlanta Braves system. Infielder James Brooks, who has been touted as one of hottest infield prospects in Australia, will make the trip in search of an ABL debut.
With the departure of the Seibu Lions players, Melbourne’s manager Phil Dale will need to find a starter to replace Hirotaka Koishi, who quickly became a fan favourite off the back of several dominating performances.
Brisbane will look for catcher Cody Clark to continue to be dominant at the plate. Clark leads the Bandits with a .344 batting average, three home runs and 20 runs batted in (ranked second in the league).
Sydney Blue Sox (14-12) vs. Adelaide Bite (12-14)
Sydney and Adelaide, respectively in third and fourth place on the ABL ladder, will meet for the first time this season. Last season the two teams were fairly matched as Sydney won seven games to Adelaide’s six wins over three competing series. The Blue Sox return home to Blacktown International Sportspark after two weeks on the road and the Bite will travel to Sydney after hosting the Perth Heat at home.
Just as in Round Eight, the Delta Air Lines Player and Pitcher of the Week from the previous round will face off against each other. Adelaide’s outfielder Ji-Man Choi and Sydney’s left handed pitcher Craig Anderson took the Round Eight honours, marking Adelaide’s fourth Player of the Week title and Sydney’s fourth Pitcher of the Week title. Adelaide is yet to earn a Pitcher of the Week award although has earned the most player awards as Sydney has yet to win a Player of the Week honour but has claimed the most pitcher honours.
Anderson threw a complete game and allowed just one run in the Blue Sox 5-1 win over the Aces in Round Eight. He scattered eight hits over the nine innings and allowed just one walk with three strikeouts. The complete game was the first Anderson has thrown in his three-season ABL career. He will get the game one start on Thursday against Adelaide.
In Round Eight Choi batted .385 with three home runs and six runs batted in. Choi was a significant contributor to Adelaide’s two wins over Perth along with previous Player of the Week, Angus Roeger, who leads the ABL in home runs (7).
Round Nine marks the return of David Kandilas, who did not play for the Blue Sox in Round Eight because of an injury. After joining the team in Round Six against Canberra, Kandilas is batting .361 with a home run in eight games.
Perth Heat (16-10) vs. Canberra Cavalry (16-9)
The top two teams in the league will face each other for the first time this season in a clash that should prove who really deserves to be on top of the ABL. With just one loss separating Perth and Canberra, the Cavalry are currently only a half-game ahead of Perth in the ABL standings. The teams will play eight games in back-to-back series against each other, with Perth hosting the first four-game series at Barbagallo Ballpark Friday through Monday.
Canberra and Perth not only sit in the first and second positions of the league standings but also in the top two positions of team batting and pitching statistics. Canberra leads team batting average with a .296 average followed by Perth with a .276 average. Perth takes first place in team earned run average (2.77 ERA) with Canberra ranking closely behind (3.00 ERA).
Both teams boast league-best talent. Canberra’s Kody Hightower continues to lead the league in batting average (.410) after earning Round Seven Player of the Week honours with a .647 average 11-for-17 and continuing in Round Eight going 6-for-10 to earn a .600 average. Fellow infielder Adam Buschini leads the ABL with 21 runs batted in. Perth’s starter Daniel Schmidt has a league-best five wins.