The Adelaide Bite, proudly presented by SA Power Networks, may feel the sting of a series split against Brisbane after taking a promising 2-0 lead, but there's no time to rest as the Canberra ELITE Cavalry ride into town.
It is a battle of second v third with Adelaide chasing Canberra's one game advantage in the first of three home series this month for the Bite.
Adelaide has turned into one of the league's best offensive sides alongside Canberra and Brisbane, but the Cavalry are dominating with a .296 team ERA and 235 hits - 13 more than Adelaide, while the Bite are hitting .275. Those differences are not huge, but across one series the extra hit could do a lot of damage.
Supported by a pitching department which has a 4.37 ERA, and allowed 200 hits and 118 runs, Canberra has been one of the most impressive sides. In contrast, Adelaide's pitchers have allowed 236 hits and 135 runs (the most in the league) for a team ERA of 4.95.
ROSTER: Brebner-Russ, Callegari (4), Chambers (3), Chappell, Cooper (2), Lee, Mosel*, O'Loughlin* (1), Snelgrove, van der Linden, van Mil, Williams,
Altmann, Carter, Clark, Cowan, Dening, Greene Jr, Hoschke, Lightbody*, McArdle*, McGarry, Nooij, O'Gorman, Roeger, Welch
IN: Sean Callegari, A.C. Carter, Zach Cooper, Hei-Chun Lee, Mitch Lightbody, Bas Nooij, James Snelgrove
OUT: Taylor Hawkins, Chris Horne, Max MacNabb
RECORD: 159-147 (H: 91-57; A: 68-90); v Canberra: 32-29 (H: 17-11; A: 15-18)
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
The bash brothers: Alright, it's a cliché name, but Mitch Dening and Marcus Greene Jr have grabbed the competition by the horns and taken charge. With six home runs each they are joint home run leaders, while Dening has the most hits with 31 and Greene is seventh with 28. For Dening, the former Blue Sox is back at his best thanks to nine hits last series, while Greene is making regular contributions to the scoreboard thanks to his strength and accuracy.
Zach Cooper: Having spent time in three different Minor League organisations, Cooper has brought valuable experience down under and as a reliever is yet to allow a run in six innings over four games. This series he will make his first start for the Bite after Taylor Hawkins returned to the USA. His last appearance was against Canberra and there will be pressure on him to start strongly in a pitching department lacking an affiliated arm.
Kyle Perkins: The Canberra native has the best average (.377) and slugging percentage (.667) in the league in what has been a perfectly scripted breakout season. After playing 23 games last season with a paltry .107 average, Perkins has roared to form with 26 hits and five homers, while he's striking out roughly once in every seven plate appearances.
Sean Guinard: His only loss of the season came at the bats of Adelaide, but he has picked up two wins on the trot to go with an improving 2.63 ERA. Most importantly he has allowed just one run in three games, pitching nine strikeouts across 12 scoreless innings in his last two starts (albeit both against Perth). Regardless of the competition there is confidence in his pitching and the Bite will have to be careful against the veteran's arm.
TIP: Bringing their offensive prowess to West Beach is not necessarily going to favour Canberra as the ground has proven to be a pitcher friendly diamond. There will likely be similarities to the Brisbane series and this is why a series split is highly likely: two offensively minded teams fighting for consistency over one weekend. It will be a hot weekend also which means an opening win will be a huge advantage ahead of a doubleheader and the Sunday finale. While a win for Adelaide is needed to close the gap on Canberra, 2-2 seems a lot more likely.