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TravelStream Round 4 Preview
Two of the ABL's Best go head-to-head in Round 4
12/06/2017 8:07 PM ET
 

Round 4 features a matchup between two of the best teams in the entire ABL. Whichever side comes out of Canberra with a series win could likely see themselves standing alone atop the ABL standings. Before a single pitch is thrown, here's a sneak peek at what to look for this weekend.

 

In Round 3

Both teams took series wins to vault themselves to the top half of the standings. Canberra had an all-out thrashing of Adelaide starting off with an 18-run explosion in Game 1 and subsequent wins in Games 2 and 3. It could've easily been a sweep had Sean Guinard not run into trouble in the opening inning of Game 4. As for the Aces, Mark Hamburger delivered a statement win with a 120-pitch complete-game shutout of the first-place Bandits. While both games scheduled for Saturday were rained out, the Aces were able to snatch both games in Sunday's doubleheader to finish up a 3-0 series win.

 

Round 3 Standout Performers

Aces: Mark Hamburger

Few pitchers are able to orchestrate performances that blend guile and aggression together. Hamburger led an all-out assault on the strike zone, and by relying on first-pitch strikes, it felt as though the Minnesota-native was in complete control. Despite facing the hottest offense in the ABL, Hamburger challenged the Bandits and finished the night walking only one and striking out seven. Every time a pitcher takes the mound he dreams of going the distance, and for Hamburger, he charged his way through nine innings with a ball in one and a win on the other.

 

Cavalry: Jay Baum

From a sheer production standpoint, it's hard to overlook what Jay Baum did while only playing in the first two games of the series. He went 6-for-10 with a double and two RBIs. While Canberra's opener-a 15 run victory-indicates that almost everyone had a positive day at the plate, Game 2 was a one-run game for nearly seven innings. Not only did Baum drive a run and tack on three hits, but he also scored a run emphasizing his importance on the game. There's no official word as to why he did not feature in the latter two games but hopefully for Canberra, he's able to be penciled in more often with this level of production.

 

Pitching Edge: Canberra

It's hard to go wrong with either team in this situation. Canberra's starters Lake Bachar and Frank Gailey have been terrific with the two of them combining for a 3-0 record and having allowed only three earned runs over 28.2 innings (0.94 ERA). In the bullpen manager, Michael Collins seems to have a reliable duo in Michael Click and Tyler Herr, each who have yet to yield a run over seven innings apiece. If there is any criticism to be found (and there is not much) it would be that Canberra has faced two of the bottom-half offenses in their first three rounds (Adelaide and Sydney) while the Aces currently rank fifth in batting and runs per game. The other question mark for the Calvary is the backend of the rotation, which has been shaky through the first three rounds. As it stands, Canberra has the slightest of edges, while Hamburger and Japanese import Kona Takahashi are capable of going toe-to-toe with any arm in the league.

 

Hitting Edge: Canberra

This matchup isn't as close as the pitching. The Aces have a lot of weapons in the lineup that could make them dangerous. The only problem is that they are not all clicking at the same time. As for Canberra, they have tallied the second-most runs behind Perth and the third-highest team average. Baum, Jake Amos, and David Kandilas are mashing with all three hitting at least .412 while Connor Panas and Boss Moanaroa each have three homeruns and have combined 16 RBI. Until the Aces offense consistently generates more runs, it's hard to pick them over Canberra.

 

Players To Watch For

Melbourne: Tomoya Mori

Mori finally tallied his first homerun of the season in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader. It was pitch low and on the outside corner for the lefty, and he poked around the left-field foul pole to neutralize Mitch Nilsson's solo shot earlier in the frame. Mori is striking out far less often than he did in Rounds 1 and 2, and he's driving the ball into opposite field gap. Over his last five games, Mori is hitting .308 while his on-base percentage during those five games is .471. If Mori remains in-form then Melbourne should have more than enough to hang with Canberra.

 

Cavalry: David Kandilas

Kandilas is the straw who stirs the drink for Canberra's offense. He's second in the ABL in RBIs (14), second in slugging percentage (.738) and third in batting average (.429). He maintained that pace in the Round 3 series against Adelaide going 9-for-19 (.474) with six RBI. It's hard to ask more from the 27-year old Sydney native through Canberra's 11 games. Last series Melbourne had to find an answer for Mitch Nilsson, and this series will be centered around stopping the Calvary's high-flying three-hole hitter.

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.