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Sydney @ Auckland preview
Will a major addition get Auckland over the line?
12/04/2018 5:48 PM ET
 

A series win for either Sydney or Auckland in Round 4 of the Brut Australian Baseball League will propel one team into playoff contention in the ultra-competitive North-East Division.

A series loss however, could see one team scrambling to catch-up in the second half of the season.

Sydney (6-6), come into this week after a hard-fought series against the defending champion Bandits.

Despite only claiming one win from their four-game set against Brisbane, the Blue Sox were competitive in all four matchups, and almost pulled off the impossible on Sunday afternoon.

Gift Ngoepe and Dwayne Kemp homered off the flamethrowing Bandits closer Loek van Mil, sending game four of the series to extra innings. However they were undone by clutch performances from Andrew Campbell and Justin Erasmus as Brisbane claimed a walkoff win.

The Blue Sox have made one change for their trip to Auckland, with Rixon Wingrove replacing Dean Aldridge.

After a dominant opening weekend performance against Geelong-Korea, Sydney have spluttered, only claiming two wins from their last eight games. Their next task looms large against an Auckland side who are starting to get it together.

The Tuatara (4-7) have taken some significant steps forward since an opening weekend sweep against Perth, claiming four wins from seven games against divisional rivals Brisbane and Canberra.

The Auckland faithful will get their final chance to support the Tuatara at McLeod Park this weekend, and hopes are high for improved performances.

A back-and-forth matchup against the Cavalry proved the Tuatara could match it, as they split with last year's runners-up after a Sunday special from Josh Collmenter.

The former big leaguer anchored Auckland's 9-1 victory, allowing only one run in 5.1 innings of work.

Adding to the excitement is the return of 31-year-old John Holdzkom, who has spent time with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The 206cm righty has had stints in Canberra and Adelaide, before making his MLB debut in 2014.

Beau Bishop returns to the fold for Auckland, as does Uni-Lions infielder Tsai Yi-hsuan.

 

Ones to watch

Eric Jenkins and Dwayne Kemp are at the opposite ends of their careers, but they've been exceptional at the top of their respective lineups.

Jenkins - a second round MLB draft pick - has electric speed and the ability to heap pressure on the opposition, while Kemp - a World Cup gold medallist - gives Sydney experience and consistency.

Both are exciting ballplayers.

 

DYK?

Sydney's pitchers have struck out a league-high 119 hitters through three weeks while Auckland rank eighth for strikeouts, sitting down opposition hitters 69 times.

 

Probable starters

Alessandro Maestri (1-1, 4.60 ERA) @ Jimmy Boyce (0-2, 4.80 ERA)

Luke Wilkins (1-2, 3.18) @ Kyle Glogoski (1-0, 0.61)

Nick Fanti (0-2, 6.00) @ Atsuki Taneichi (0-1, 2.70)

Josh Guyer (2-0, 2.50) @ Josh Collmenter (1-1, 1.93)

 

Series schedule

G1: Friday, 3pm NZDT at McLeod Park, Te Atatu South, Auckland

G2: Saturday, 12pm NZDT at McLeod Park, Te Atatu South, Auckland

G3: Saturday, 3pm NZDT at McLeod Park, Te Atatu South, Auckland

G4: Sunday, 3pm NZDT at McLeod Park, Te Atatu South, Auckland

 

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