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Table-top tilt highlights pivotal Round 12 schedule
Canberra host Sydney with first place on the line
01/16/2013 2:42 PM ET
Canberra and Sydney go head-to-head for first place in the ABL's Round 12.
Canberra and Sydney go head-to-head for first place in the ABL's Round 12. (SMP Images)

SYDNEY, 16 January - Round 12 of the Australian Baseball League brought to you by Be the Influence: Tackling Binge Drinking begins Thursday night with the two teams tied for first place facing off in Australia’s capital. The Canberra Cavalry driven by Rolfe Renault host ladder leading rival the Sydney Blue Sox for their final home stand of the season. The Adelaide Bite Proudly Presented by SA Power Networks will continue their road trip by travelling to compete against the Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces on Thursday. Hot off a sweep against the Cavalry, the Brisbane Bandits remain at home to host their final series of the season kicking off Friday night against the Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat.

Canberra Cavalry (22-16) vs. Sydney Blue Sox (22-16)

Canberra and Sydney both experienced sweeps in Round 11, with the Blue Sox sitting on the sweeter side after taking four games from the Melbourne Aces and the Cavalry suffering five losses at the bats of the Brisbane Bandits. With the Cavs and Sox tied in first place with just two rounds of play left in the regular season, this series could determine the host of the 2013 ABL Championship Series. 

Despite Canberra’s rough weekend, the Cavalry still boast league leaders in all but one major batting category. Adam Buschini continues to lead the ABL in home runs (10), RBIs (37) and SLG (.622), Kody Hightower tops the league with a .440 on base percentage, Jeremy Barnes has hit the most doubles (13) and Ryan Stovall has hit the most triples (4). As a team, Canberra’s batting statistics also rank in first place. The Cavalry are hitting .297 as opposed to the Blue Sox .247 batting average, ranked third.

Sydney claims the best team ERA (2.96) while Canberra is ranked third with a 3.99 ERA. Sydney’s closer Matt Williams shattered the ABL single-season saves record last weekend with 15 saves, which earned him the Delta Round 11 Pitcher of the Week honours. His three consecutive saves in Round 11 helped to close out a four-game sweep of Melbourne by the Blue Sox. Starter Chris Oxspring broke the single-season strikeout record with 75 strikeouts. Both pitchers will have the opportunity to extend their records in the final two rounds of the season.

Mitch Dening became the first player in Sydney’s history with 100 career ABL hits. Dening leads the league with 48 hits this season.

Melbourne Aces (13-25) vs. Adelaide Bite (18-20)

The Aces were unable keep their Round 10 momentum alive after sweeping the Bandits and were in turn swept by the Blue Sox in Round 11. Adelaide split their last series in Perth, but the two wins were not enough to keep the Bite from dropping a spot on the ABL ladder. Melbourne and Adelaide are at the bottom of league standings and have a lot to prove coming into the final two series of the season. The last time Adelaide faced Melbourne, the Bite swept the Aces in four games. 

The addition of Major Leaguer Travis Blackley to Melbourne’s bullpen was not enough to spark the Aces in Round 11. In game two of the series, Blackley made his season debut with the Aces and pitched 1.1 scoreless innings of relief, striking out one Sydney batter. Blackley is expected to emerge from the bullpen against the Bite.

Adelaide's Chris Adamson has an eight game hitting streak going with 12 hits in his last 34 at bats. Seattle Mariners farmhand and Korean import Ji-Man Choi is the only batter on the Bite currently hitting over .300 this season (.310) and leads Adelaide in hits (35) and runs batted in (27). Choi picked up a hit in all four games against Perth last weekend.

Brisbane Bandits (19-19) vs. Perth Heat (20-18)

After a clean sweep of the Cavalry, the Brisbane Bandits are just one game behind the Perth Heat for an ABL playoff spot. Neither Brisbane nor Perth can afford to lose this series if they hope to earn a spot in the ABL postseason. The four game series begins Friday night at RNA Showgrounds and is followed by a double header on Saturday. 

Brisbane’s C.J. Beatty earned the Delta Round 11 Player of the Week title after he recorded his first ABL multi-home run game last Friday by cranking two long balls and driving in five runs to lead the Bandits to a 6-1 win. The former St. Louis Cardinals farmhand had hits in all four games of the Bandits’ Round 11 series, going 6-for-11 (.667) with three home runs and eight runs batted in.

Sean Tracey, who made his MLB debut with the Chicago White Sox in 2006, made his ABL debut last Sunday with the Heat as a starter. Tracey pitched five innings, striking out five and allowing three earned runs.