SYDNEY, NSW -- The main story of the first half was the emergence of the Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces as the dominant side in the Australian Baseball League in 2016/17. The Aces continued that hot summer streak, winning another road series by defeating the CompassMarkets.com Sydney Blue Sox in Sydney to increase their first-place lead by a game. In the meantime, the Canberra Elite Cavalry reclaimed possession of second place, and just one game separates place two to five on the ladder.
ADELAIDE (12-12) split with BRISBANE (11-13)
An exciting series filled with explosive offence culminated in a series split that kept both teams in the hunt for playoff baseball. The Bite put six runs on the board in the final two innings of Game 1, winning 8-3. Texas Rangers prospect LeDarious Clark went 2-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs in the power push. Mitch Dening, who also went yard in the first game of the series, went 5-for-5 with three longballs and six RBIs in Game 2, leading Adelaide to a 13-10 win and 2-0 series lead.
Undaunted, the Bandits took the finale two games of the weekend, sweeping the clubs' New Year's Eve doubleheader. Led by five home runs, including two off the bat of Aaron Whitefield, Brisbane flipped the switch and won Game 3 by a 13-10 final score. The Bandits put another 13-spot on the board in the series finale, riding Rick Teasley's 5.1 shutout innings of relief and Whitefield's 4-for-5, three-RBI performance to a 13-15 win and the series split.
MELBOURNE (18-6) def. SYDNEY (10-14)
The Aces took the series opener 4-3 behind another solid outing from former Major Leaguer Mark Hamburger (4-0, 2.11), who tossed eight innings and struck out 11 batters while allowing just three runs on nine hits. Aussie MLB-er Peter Moylan earned the save for Melbourne, striking out two in his season debut. Sydney legend Craig Anderson (4-1, 3.73) out-dueled former Kansas City Royals World Series starter Jeremy Guthrie (0-1, 4.50) in Game 2, going five innings and allowing one unearned run on four hits. Trent D'Antonio, Malik Collymore and Jacob Younis drove in two runs apiece for Sydney in the 9-2 win.
But Melbourne rallied late in the third game of the series, scoring three runs in the top of the ninth inning to win 6-4. Cody Jones went 3-for-4 with two runs scored in the crucial victory. The New Year's Day finale seemed like it might go Sydney's way, but after being no-hit through the first four innings, the Aces broke the game open in the fifth inning of the series finale and went on to take the game 4-1 and the series 3-1.
CANBERRA (13-11) split with PERTH (8-16)
As badly as the Cavalry needed to win this series, the Heat needed to not lose it, which they accomplished by sweeping the final two games of the series. Tim and Matt Kennelly each homered and had multiple hits in Game 1, leading Perth to an 8-2 victory. Louis Cohen (1-0, 0.98) tossed seven innings and allowed four hits and no earned runs while striking out five, leading Canberra to a 4-3 win in Game 2.
The Cavalry pitch staff flexed its muscles again in the first game of the two teams' New Year's Eve doubleheader, as Sean Guinard 2-1, 2.63) and Andrew Case (1-2, 4.85) tossed a combined complete-game shutout in Canberra's 7-0 win. But the Heat wouldn't be cooled in the finale, winning 7-4 to split the series. Four members of the Perth starting nine tallied more than two hits, led by Tim Kennelly's 3-for-4, three-RBI day at the plate.