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Quest Flemington Round 9 Preview
Aces come home to face Bite in key showdown
01/16/2018 10:40 PM ET
 

Round 9 is fast approaching. The Aces need a series win to keep a hold on to that fourth and final playoff spot. A showdown against the last-place Bite could be what the Aces need to turn around their dismal form. This is the Quest Flemington Round 9 Series Preview.

 

In Round 8

 

The Aces had all sorts of issues with the Brisbane Bandits, suffering a five-game sweep at the hands of their first-place rivals. There are a few bright spots for the Aces, but they mostly come from the offense. Delmon Young swatted five homeruns and nine RBI over the five games nearly doubling both of those totals for the season. Craig Maddox hit .381 and homered twice while Jarryd Dale hit .500. Over the weekend, the Aces offense scored 32 runs, which is nearly two more runs per game (6.4) than their season average (4.5).

 

What doomed Melbourne from the get-go was their pitching. The Aces conceded 67 runs over the five games, including 23 in the series opener. In four of the five contests, Melbourne pitchers surrendered at least 12 runs. Those totals are the highest the Aces have allowed in any series this year. The key to this round for the hosts is to simply forget about Round 8, and pitch better.

 

Adelaide are fresh off a sweep at the hands of the Perth Heat and have now lost seven of eight. Like Melbourne, pitching has been a sore spot for the Bite as they allowed 53 runs to Perth and in three of the four games gave up at 13 runs. The difference between these two teams is that the Bite have scored fewer runs and have an overall lower average than the Aces. Good news for Bite is that they finish the season with the Aces and the Blue Sox-the two teams ahead of them in the standings-and can potentially sneak into the playoffs with back-to-back series victories. It's no easy task, but then again, most teams that only have seven wins with eight remaining are usually eliminated at this point.

 

Pitching Edge: Push

 

Melbourne have been a better side at home this season, and Mark Hamburger, Josh Tols, Jon Kennedy, and Matt Marksberry have all pitched better at Melbourne Ballpark. Jack Enciondo also has pitched well all season including a handful of innings during the trip to Brisbane. They are also facing the league's lowest-hitting team in a park that is typically unfriendly to hitters.

 

Having said that, 67 runs allowed in Round 8 cannot be excused. That is an alarming figure to allow for any team, especially with the talent on this Aces roster. Adelaide comes into this showdown in equally dismal pitching form, having allowed 13.25 rpg to Perth. To put it simply, if Tols and Hamburger perform like they have all season (excluding the previous road trip), it should be Melbourne's series to lose.

 

Offensive Edge: Melbourne

 

The Aces scored enough runs to win more than a game in their trip to Holloway Field. As mentioned before, Delmon Young had the breakout performance many were expecting when the club signed the former 10-year MLB veteran. Both the Dale brothers have had strong second halves, with Ryan Dale hitting .304 over his last seven contests. Darryl George had a monster showing the last time the Aces were at home, and the addition of Craig Maddox should continue to bolster this team's offense. The key will be trying to slow down the three-headed monster of Stephen Lohr (.375), Tai-Shan Chang (.303), and Rodrigo Ayarza (.295). Ayarza picked up seven hits against a rugged Perth pitching staff while Lohr hit .438 against the Heat.

 

Player To Watch For

 

Craig Maddox (MEL) played only one other season in the ABL, and that was with the Adelaide Bite in the 2014-2015 season. Players always seem to take their game to the next level when they face their former club, and Maddox has the potential to swat five homeruns in what should be a hot series temperature-wise at Melbourne Ballpark.

 

Stephen Lohr (ADE) has hit safely in eight of his last nine games (.389) and has homered three times in his last two games. When the Aces faced the Bite back in November, the California-native picked up six hits and a couple of RBI. The Bite need him to stay hot in order to keep the postseason dream alive.

 

Prediction: Aces win the series 3-1, and eliminate the Bite from postseason contention. 

 

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