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SEASON IN REVIEW: Sydney Blue Sox
Sox chances to go waste as playoff hopes dashed
02/14/2018 10:58 PM ET
Sydney's playoff hopes came crashing down in the final round of the season (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA
Sydney's playoff hopes came crashing down in the final round of the season (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA (Ryan Schembri)

With the Australian Baseball League Championship Series done and dusted, we take a look back at how each team fared during the 2017/2018 season in reverse finishing order. Today we look at the Sydney Blue Sox.

Sydney failed to reach the Australian Baseball League playoffs for a third-straight season, falling out of contention in the final round of the regular season.

The Sox set themselves up for a playoff run when they closed to within a game of fourth-placed Melbourne on New Year's Eve.

But Sydney endured a horror start to 2018, losing eight-straight to begin the year before finishing 3-14 in January.

The losing streak followed a nine-game skid from late November into December.

Incredibly despite the two lengthy losing streaks, the Sox stayed in the hunt until the final round as they kept pace with the Aces.

They ultimately fell short, falling to a series defeat to Adelaide in the final round as Melbourne claimed the fourth playoff berth.

Sydney's late-season elimination completed a campaign where they were close but not close enough.

The Sox wasted a plethora of chances during a campaign where they were rocked by injury.

Sydney left more runners on base (296) than everyone except Perth (315) during the regular season as they finished fifth for a second-straight season.

The Sox pitching struggled, especially though the final month of the season, as it ranked sixth in the ABL for ERA.

A 3-21 record against the top-three teams also hurt Sydney's chances of qualifying for the playoffs.

 

What went right

Sydney brought infielder Connor MacDonald (Brisbane) and catcher Mitchell Edwards (Canberra) across from rival teams with great success.

MacDonald thrived with greater opportunity, recording career highs in games played, hits, home runs, runs batted in, walks and batting average.

The 21-year-old hit .277 in 37 games, finishing with eight doubles, 10 homers and 28 RBI.

MacDonald hit .333 with seven home runs and 18 RBI during January, also signing with Pittsburgh to cap off a hot start to 2018.

Edwards filled the void left by Jhang behind the plate well during January.

He finished the season hitting .293 with nine RBIs during 23 games.

There were positives, incluidng the performance of Chiang Chih-hsien, Jacob Younis and Michael Suchy, along with the rise of Connor MacDonald and Max Brennen.

 

What went wrong

Injuries.

The Sox were cursed from day one on the injury front.

Pittsburgh prospect Arden Pabst was announced but never made the trip after copping a late injury.

His replacement behind the plate, Jin-De Jhang, impressed before heading home injured at the midpoint of the season.

Infielder Gavin Fingleson went down while starter Trevor Foss missed a large portion of the season and Josh Guyer made just one appearance in an injury-riddled campaign.

Throw in Chiang Chih-hsien's early departure and Zac Shepherd's late arrival and it shows Sydney was down on troops for most of the campaign.

The Sox pitching also battled, finishing with the worst ERA in the league.

Sydney's pitching depth was tested with Foss and Guyer on the sidelines.

 

Most impressive win

Defeated Canberra 15-12 at Blacktown International Sportspark on January 21.

The Blue Sox worked out of an early 4-0 hole to prevail in a wild encounter at Blacktown, keeping alive their slim playoff hopes entering the final weekend of the season.

After the Cavs scored five runs off starter Luke Wilkins in the first two innings, Sydney took control.

Wilkins steadied, earning his fourth win of the season, and the Sox offence fired.

Sydney held an 11-5 lead after five and added four runs in the eighth to keep Canberra at bay following a late comeback attempt.

Lars Anderson homered and drove in five runs.

 

theABL.com.au Player of the Season

Chiang Chih-hsien

The third baseman was an outstanding acquisition for Sydney, leading the league in runs batted in ahead of returning home with two rounds to play.

Chiang hit .391 in 32 games, blasting 10 homers and driving in 44 runs for the Sox.

The 29-year-old raked against right-handed pitching, hitting .453 with eight homers.

His loss was felt as Sydney finished on a 2-6 run against Canberra and last-ranked Adelaide in the final fortnight of the season.

 

Highlight of the season

Sydney completed a wild win over Perth when Mitchell Edwards and Chiang Chih-hsien homered in the ninth to break a 19-all tie.

 

2017/2018 grade: C

Sydney showed - with a 5-3 season-series win over Melbourne - it was a worthy candidate for the fourth-and-final playoff berth.

But the Sox inability to take chances proved costly as playoff action faded away.

The addition of Connor MacDonald and Mitchell Edwards was a positive, as was the emergence of Max Brennen.

Sydney also cut down on errors, an issue identified by manager Tony Harris when he took the job.

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