SYDNEY, 23 January - The thirteenth and final round of the Australian Baseball League brought to you by Be the Influence: Tackling Binge Drinking begins Thursday night with all six teams in action across the country. With five teams in postseason contention battling for the top three spots, every game counts as no club has yet to safely secure their position in the playoffs. Over 50 potential playoff scenarios exist-fans will have to get to the ballpark to see how this historic weekend plays out.
Five teams can still earn a top two finish and therefore a right to host a round of the playoffs and three teams (Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane) can still finish the regular season in first and win the right to host the ABL Championship Series. The potential for four-way ties in both first and second place also exists. In the event of a tie, which occurred at the end of 2011-2012 ABL regular season (four-way tie), the ABL has numerous tie-breaking procedures in place-to read more about official playoff procedures and tie-breaking procedures, click here.
Currently sharing first place with the Sydney Blue Sox, the Canberra Cavalry driven by Rolfe Renault will hit the road to take on the Adelaide Bite Proudly Presented by SA Power Networks, who are only two games shy of a playoff spot. The Blue Sox will host the Brisbane Bandits who claimed the final postseason position after Round 12 but will have to hold their ground to advance after Round 13. For the first time this season, the Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat are not sitting in playoff position, as they fell to fourth place last week. One game behind Brisbane in third, the Heat will return home to face the league cellar dweller Jet Courier Melbourne Aces. While not eligible to make the playoffs this season, the Aces still have the potential to keep the Heat out of the postseason.
Adelaide Bite (20-22) vs. Canberra Cavalry (24-18)
The Canberra Cavalry meet the Adelaide Bite for just the second time this season after the Cavalry won the first matchup in the capital three games to one. This time the Bite will be on home turf after splitting their last two series while the Cavalry have lost seven of their last nine games in the past two rounds. Canberra is still in co-possession of first place with Sydney and even though Adelaide is ranked fifth on the league ladder, the possibility of reaching the playoffs has not been eliminated. Canberra has the opportunity to make their first run for the postseason in ABL history.
Canberra leads the league in team batting average (.295) while Adelaide sits at the bottom of the ABL, hitting .239 as a team. The Cavalry also boast the most home runs (45) but Adelaide trails in second with 34 long balls. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the Cavalry boast the league’s top hitters, with three of their infielders ranking among the top five batting averages in the ABL. Adam Buschini leads the ABL in home runs (11) and runs batted in (41) and is tied for the league best in runs (31) with teammate Kody Hightower.
Adelaide claims the Round 12 Delta Pitcher of the Week Dushan Ruzic, who started Sunday against the Aces and pitched six scoreless innings. Ruzic allowed only two hits and struck out nine batters in his fourth win of the season. After an eight-hit weekend, infielder Jeremy Cresswell became the first Bite player to reach 100 ABL career hits.
Perth Heat (21-21) vs. Melbourne Aces (15-27)
Back-to-back league champions the Perth Heat find themselves at an unfamiliar position-one game out of a playoff spot at the final round of ABL play. The Aces, who competed against the Heat in the 2012 ABL Championship Series, have the opportunity to seek revenge on Perth in the final round of the season. Melbourne has been stuck in the league cellar for the majority of the year and although the Aces cannot qualify for the postseason, they could still do considerable damage by taking wins from Perth this weekend and eliminating the Heat’s postseason potential for the first time in ABL history.
Matchup history between the two teams this season has resulted in five wins for the Heat and two wins for the Aces. In their last two rounds, Perth has only managed to win three games and Melbourne has slid by with two wins.
Perth and Melbourne both have two players that have appeared in all 42 ABL games this season-Carter Bell and Allan De San Miguel for the Heat and Elliot Biddle and Carlo Testa for the Aces. With all four players on the roster for Round 13, the potential to finish out the full season at 46 games is probable. Only two other teams have a player who has appeared in as many games (Sydney’s Zach Penprase and Brisbane’s Josh Roberts).
Sydney Blue Sox (24-18) vs. Brisbane Bandits (22-20)
With both teams currently in possession of an ABL playoff invitation, the Sydney Blue Sox and Brisbane Bandits have a lot on the line coming into the final series of the season. Sydney has a narrow lead above the Bandits in this season’s matchup history, with the Blue Sox winning four games to the Bandits’ three. In their last two series, both teams have been on fire with Brisbane winning eight out of nine games and Sydney winning six out of eight games. This season would mark Brisbane’s first ABL postseason appearance.
On the mound, Sydney has the lowest team ERA (3.12) but is trailed closely in second by Brisbane (3.26). Brisbane has the most team strikeouts (338) with Sydney stuck in a three-way tie at the bottom of the league (296 strikeouts).
Brisbane and Sydney rank in the middle of team batting statistics, with Sydney hitting .255 as a team and Brisbane batting .251. Sydney’s Trent D'Antonio earned Round 12 honours as Delta Player of the Week after going 12-for-21 (.571) against Canberra with nine runs scored and seven RBIs. Mitch Dening continues to lead the ABL in hits (57) and claimed the league’s top batting average (.350).
Brisbane’s C.J. Beatty scored ten runs in his last eight games while catcher Cody Clark has remained consistent at the plate throughout the season, batting .310 and collecting at least one hit and one run in each game against Perth last weekend.
ABL FAN CHOICE AWARD presented by Fielder’s Choice
Voting for the second-annual ABL Fan Choice Award began on Monday. Fans have the opportunity to vote for their favourite player from each of the six ABL teams until Sunday, 27 January on the team Facebook pages. On Monday, 28 January, the six team winners will compete in a league-wide vote for the title of ABL Fan Choice Award. Voting for this honour will run on the ABL Facebook page for 11 days throughout the ABL postseason. To find out more about the ABL Fan Choice Award, click here.