The Australian Baseball League Preliminary Final is a story long in the making. Not only does the ABLPF feature a rematch of the 2016 Australian Baseball League Championship Series, it showcases two teams that are nearly deadlocked statistically.
Adelaide and Brisbane found a second gear in January. The Bite went 11-5 in the first month of 2017, completely tossing Canberra from the second-place spot in the ABL standings. Brisbane was much of the same, posting a 10-6 record in January and climbing from fourth place into the coveted third-place playoff position.
Both organizations are offensively stacked. Brisbane enters the ABLPF with the best batting average in the league (.268). The Bandits' sky-high numbers feature an ABL-best 234 runs, 215 RBI's and 42 home runs. Brisbane's offensive unit is arguably the deepest in the ABL. Aaron Whitefield is the second-best hitter in the league (.338) and stands atop the ABL leaderboard in three different categories. Mitch Nilsson, Wade Dutton and David Sutherland provide consistent bats throughout the lineup, posting .317, .300 and .294 averages, respectively. Even more, Adelaide will have to find a way to contain David Rodriguez. The Tampa Bay Rays prospect is in stud form, riding a 19-game hitting streak and boasting a .442 AVG at the dish.
That said, Adelaide brings plethora of offensive weapons to the table, as well. The Bite boasts the second-best numbers in the ABL in runs (206), home runs (34) and RBI's (189).
The best hitter in the ABL, Mitch Dening, drives Adelaide's offensive momentum. The outfielder is riding steady with a league-high .340 AVG and 27 RBI's. Dening's offensive prowess finds support in Marcus Greene Jr., Jordan Cowan and Jordan McArdle, as the unit is credited for nearly half of the total hits this season. McArdle is riding a heap of momentum into the playoffs. The 18-year old is rolling off a grand slam in Game 3 against the Sydney Blue Sox, as well as signing a professional contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks Monday.
Adelaide's offence poses a significant test for Brisbane's streaky pitching staff. The Bandits post a league-worst 5.10 ERA, allowing 207 runs and 44 home runs this season. Brisbane counters an Adelaide pitching staff that boasts a 23-17 overall record and the best ERA in the ABL (3.90). Since the start of 2017, the Bite have a 2.41 ERA - the lowest in the league.
Brisbane and Adelaide split regular season play, posting a 4-4 record over two series. When comparing the series, the numbers were incredibly lopsided. In Adelaide, both teams combined for four home runs, 36 runs and 64 hits. The series in Brisbane showcased a drastic change of events. The Bite and Bandits recorded 18 home runs, 75 runs and 102 hits at AFA Stadium at Holloway Field. That being said, the wind and field dimensions have the ability to play a massive role in the ABLPF.
Standing alone, the statistics tell it's own story. Combine momentum, talent and touch of luck, and the ABLPF is anyone's game. Let the 2016 ABLCS rematch begin.