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PREVIEW: Melbourne @ Brisbane
Bandits look to clinch postseason berth against Aces
01/10/2018 12:10 AM ET
Brisbane catcher Adam Weisenburger celebrates after hitting a home run against Adelaide in round six (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA
Brisbane catcher Adam Weisenburger celebrates after hitting a home run against Adelaide in round six (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA (SCOTT DAVIS)

Brisbane can clinch its postseason berth when it hosts Melbourne in a five-game series at Holloway Field in round eight.

The Bandits and Aces will square off in an extend series after losing a game when they met in Melbourne during December.

Brisbane will welcome back a couple of stars from injury as it looks to extend its lead at the top.

Aaron Whitefield and Mitch Nilsson have both been added to the Bandits' roster.

Whitefield has not played since December 17 while Nilsson has missed Brisbane's past seven games.

Pitcher Patrick Young also returns to the line-up but Kenshi Sugiya will be a notable absence.

The Bandits have been red-hot at Holloway Field, winning nine of 11 at home, but did lose 4-0 to Melbourne at the venue last season.

Brisbane has crushed 30 home runs in its 11 games at Holloway Field this season, while opposition sides have gone deep 20 times.

Despite calling a hitter-friendly ballpark home, the Bandits still possess a league-leading 3.69 ERA.

Brisbane's starting rotation has been a big strength, led by Ryan Bollinger, Travis Blackley and Tim Atherton.

Bollinger will square off with former big leaguer Mark Hamburger in game one on Thursday night.

The last time they squared off both pitchers finished the game as the Aces prevailed 3-0.

It was a sign of what was to come with pitchers dominating as just 11 runs were scored across the rain-shortened three-game set.

The Bandits accounted for just three of them, hitting .159 (13-for-82) in a rare cold weekend with the bat.

At Holloway Field, Melbourne faces an entirely different task.

The Aces have added Dan McGrath to the bullpen while former Adelaide catcher Craig Maddox has linked with Melbourne to cover the loss of Brett Cumberland.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

ACES - Craig Maddox: The former Adelaide Bite catcher joins Melbourne as cover for Brett Cumberland. The 32-year-old spent 2014/15 with the Bite, hitting .270 with five home runs and 17 RBIs. He hit .274 with 83 RBIs for independent New Britain Bees during the 2017 US season.

BANDITS - Pat Young: Young has allowed just three earned runs in 14 1/3 innings for Brisbane this season. The 25-year-old has recorded saves, and made two starts within his six appearances. Young has 14 strikeouts and in 10 innings at Holloway has only allowed two runs, both on homers.

 

OUR PREDICTION

Bandits 4-1. Brisbane's powerful offence has been next to impossible to curtail at Holloway Field this season. The Bandits only two home defeats came, surprisingly, to Adelaide during round six. T.J. Bennett has six home runs at the ballpark while Wade Dutton and Lin Chih-sheng lead the way with 12 RBIs. The Aces have some big bats too, but do they have the pitching to stop Brisbane?

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

GAME 1: Mark Hamburger (2-4, 3.91 ERA) at Ryan Bollinger (3-1, 2.33 ERA)

GAME 2: Matthew Larkins (0-1, 27.00) at Chen Hung-wen (1-1, 6.35)

GAME 3: Josh Tols (3-2, 3.79) at Tim Atherton (2-0, 3.06)

GAME 4: Jon Kennedy (1-1, 5.74) at Travis Blackley (4-1, 2.97)

GAME 5: TBA at TBA

 

SERIES SCHEDULE

GAME 1: Thursday, 6.30pm AEST - watch live on ABLtv powered by Bing Lee

GAME 2: Friday, 6.30pm AEST - watch live on ABLtv powered by Bing Lee

GAME 3: Saturday, 3.30pm AEST - watch live on ABLtv powered by Bing Lee

GAME 4: Saturday, 6.30pm AEST - watch live on ABLtv powered by Bing Lee

GAME 5: Sunday, 12.00pm AEST - watch live on ABLtv powered by Bing Lee

 

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