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Bite v Aces: Now or never for finals
Rookies return as Bite farewells two Rangers
01/17/2018 7:29 PM ET
It's a must win series for Adelaide - can Angus Roeger help guide the young Bite to success?
It's a must win series for Adelaide - can Angus Roeger help guide the young Bite to success? (Ryan Schembri/SMP Images/ABL Media)

With the Australian Youth Championships done and dusted, the Adelaide Bite, proudly presented by SA Power Networks, has rewarded four of the championship winning SA Under-18 players with a spot on the roster for Melbourne.

Pitchers Tyson McKee and Ky Hampton, and hitters Curtis Mead and Mason Clavell are back in the side after impressing at the AYC. McKee and Hampton had the two best ERAs for SA (while they sat in the top five for the whole tournament) and Mead was named tournament MVP with the best average of .455 - narrowly ahead of teammate Jarrod Miller.

The inclusions do come at a cost, however, with Texas Rangers' Isaias Quiroz and Darius Day returning to the States. The duo hit .137 and .190 respectively with Day a mainstay in centrefield for much of the season while Quiroz was first choice catcher. Adelaide thanks them both for their contributions all season, on and off the field.

With one import position up for grabs, USA-born, New Zealand international outfielder Max Brown returns to the Bite after playing two games for the club last season.

ROSTER
Pitching: Mosel, Koura, Powell, Hutchings, Williams, Brebner-Russ, van Mil, van der Linden, Chambers, McKee, Hampton
Hitting: Nooij, Clavell, Mead, McArdle, Chang, Chen, Ayarza, Lohr, Hoschke, Brown, Roeger

WATCH: ABLtv.com will broadcast Friday night's game.

Look out for the friendly faces

Josh Tols has been dazzling all throughout his ABL career. In his first full season of ABL action he went 9-2… as a relief pitcher. He then picked up 40+ strikeouts for three straight seasons; two at Adelaide, one at Melbourne. With an 0.91 ERA last season it was hard to see him getting better but the Adelaide native has. While a 5.36 ERA is not reflective of that, 62 strikeouts in 40 innings is. He's undeniably a starter to watch out for.

Another player to look out for is Craig Maddox - remember him? Coming as an independent import in 2014/15, Maddox hit .270 for Adelaide and was dependable at first base. Now he's a late season fill-in for the Aces and after a trip to Brisbane is hitting .381. That includes a pair of home runs from eight hits and the Indy ball slugger has seamlessly slotted back into ABL action

Starting strong

Canberra proved to be a big challenge for Bite starters with Nick Hutchings coming off worst of all. Four homers and six runs were scored off his Sunday start which lasted less than two innings and it was just the kind of day where Canberra was going to smash any pitcher. Just two days earlier he pitched two scoreless innings in relief against the Cavalry.

Steven Chambers, Ryo Koura and Greg Mosel also suffered and the trio will need to fine tune their game this series. The biggest change will be bringing those pitch counts down so they can really make the most of the start - something which is easier said than done. But if Mosel and Koura can get into a sixth inning their respective track records are very good while Chambers has gone to seven in the past and that stability would help younger hitters.

Who wins?

The Aces have been struggling and over their past 10 games are 1-9 with Brisbane taking five on the trot and Canberra also claiming a series win. Even a 3-5 run of form against Sydney across Christmas is a worrying sign for Melbourne, a season after they nearly claimed the ABLCS.

It's tough for Adelaide to brag too much over recent form but if anything, it shows both teams come in on level footing and one of those sides is set to play finals. A series win is a must if Adelaide is to play finals, and even anything less than a sweep might not be enough. Can it be done? It'll be very, very close.

Adelaide 3-1.

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