SYDNEY - Bizarre. This is the only word that can do justice in explaining what the standings look like in the Australian Baseball League brought to you by Be the Influence: Tackling Binge Drinking. With just two rounds remaining in the 2013/14 season, there is currently a three-way tie for second place. With that being said, there is almost no certainty as to what the playoff picture will look like when the regular season comes to a close in two weeks. This week's intriguing Round 12 matchups are sure to provide heaps of excitement as the season needs its climactic finish.
Sydney Blue Sox (19-19) at Adelaide Bite proudly presented by SA Power Networks (19-19) - Norwood Oval
The action gets underway at 7:00 PM ACDT in Adelaide as the Sydney Blue Sox pay a visit to the Adelaide Bite proudly presented by SA Power Networks. This matchup will be absolutely crucial in determining what the playoff picture will look like as both teams have identical records of 19-19 and are two-thirds of the league's second-place tie. Adelaide is riding a lot of momentum as of late as they have won eight of their last ten games, which is more than any other team during that stretch. Much of their recent success is due in large part to the stellar pitching of Kyle Brueggemann.
The two-time Delta Air Lines Pitcher of the Week is coming off of his best start of the season in which he silenced the bats of the Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces. Brueggemann pitched seven innings on Thursday night in which he allowed just four hits and one walk while striking out nine batters. His Round 11 start marked the second time this year that Brueggemann allowed no earned runs and the fourth time he allowed fewer than two runs.
Sydney will also have momentum heading into their Round 12 duel with Adelaide as they won three of four games against the Canberra Cavalry, driven by Rolfe Renault last weekend. One of the major factors as to why the Blue Sox were able to take the series from Canberra and move into the playoff picture was the outstanding play of first baseman Joshua Dean.
Dean had a monster series against the Cavalry as he recorded two or more hits in three of the four games. Dean's most valuable performance came on Thursday night when he sparked a huge rally in the bottom of the ninth when Sydney needed him most. With the Blue Sox trailing by one run, the former Minnesota Twins prospect strolled up to the plate and belted a triple, giving Sydney the lift they needed to score two eventual runs in the bottom of the ninth and win the game.
Thu., 16 January - 7:00 PM ACDT
Fri., 17 January - 7:00 PM ACDT
Sat., 18 January - 7:00 PM ACDT
Sun., 19 January - 1:00 PM ACDT
Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat (25-13) at Canberra Cavalry, driven by Rolfe Renault (19-19) - Narrabundah Ballpark
The second matchup of Round 12 takes place in Canberra as the Cavalry will host the Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat. Although this is a rematch of last season's championship series, it features two teams going in completely opposite directions. The Heat have been at the top of the league standings throughout the course of the entire year, and it looks as though they have no plans of moving down the ranks. Perth have won their last six games and seven of their last ten. One of the main reasons that they have been playing so well all season has been the hitting of Brandon Tripp.
Perth's outfielder has been absolutely crushing the ball as of late and has a .329 batting average to show for it. Tripp has been one of the hardest batters to get out in the entire league, picking up 16 hits, four HR and 11 RBI over his past ten games. The Cavalry pitching staff will have their hands full with Tripp and the rest of the powerful Perth offence this weekend.
Unfortunately for Canberra, the league's reigning champions have not enjoyed the same recent success that Perth has. The Cavalry are 2-8 in their last ten games but still find themselves in playoff contention. One of the bright points for Canberra this season's has been the remarkable play of catcher Jack Murphy. The Asia Series hero has been one of the most consistent hitters in the league this year.
Murphy has been playing exceptionally well despite Canberra's current slump with the fourth highest batting average in the league at .331. The Toronto Blue Jays prospect was on fire against Sydney last weekend, picking up nine hits and six runs batted over the four-game series. His most outstanding performance came on Friday night as went a perfect 5-5 from the plate while picking up two RBI. If the Cavalry want a chance to defend their title this year they will be relying heavily on Murphy to keep up his hot hitting.
Thu., 16 January - 7:00 PM AEDT
Fri., 17 January - 7:00 PM AEDT
Sat., 18 January - 7:00 PM AEDT
Sun., 19 January - 12:00 PM AEDT
Brisbane Bandits (14-24) at Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces (18-20) - Melbourne Ballpark
The final matchup of Round 12 will see the Brisbane Bandits travel to Melbourne to take on the Aces. This series will be extremely important for both teams as the Bandits try to make one final stand to save their season and the Aces look to move back into playoff position. Melbourne have a record of 18-20 and are just one game out of the playoffs. The Aces will be looking to have a big Round 12, and infielder Jared Schlehuber could play a key role.
The Kansas City Royals prospect has been enjoying great success in his first season Down Under. Through 11 rounds of baseball, Schlehuber finds himself ranked in the top ten in the league in batting average, runs batted in, runs scored and home runs. The first baseman has established himself as one of the most feared hitters in the ABL, and the Aces will surely hope that he can help lead the way in their crucial Round 12 matchup.
Facing the difficult task of containing Jared Schlehuber and the Aces offence will be Brisbane's top pitcher Ryan Searle. Searle got off to a blazing hot start to the year, picking up a win in his first three starts. However, he is currently on a three-game losing streak, though his skid doesn't do Searle's recent performances justice. In his last start against Perth, the right-handed pitcher had a phenomenal outing. He threw eight innings while allowing just two run and striking out eleven batters. Searle, who has the sixth-best ERA in the ABL, could be set for another solid performance against Melbourne this weekend.
Thu., 16 January - 7:35 PM AEDT
Fri., 17 January - 7:35 PM AEDT
Sat., 18 January - 7:35 PM AEDT
Sun., 19 January - 2:05 PM AEDT