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What we learned - Round 8
Check out eight things we learned from round eight
01/06/2019 8:38 PM ET
 

The first week of the new year served up a thrilling round eight of the Brut Australian Baseball League season.

Canberra stunned ABL leaders Sydney with a sweep in the nation's capital, while Perth fought back from 2-0 down to split their series against Melbourne.

Brisbane and Adelaide picked up series wins to set up a thrilling final fortnight of the regular season.

Here's what we learned from round eight action:

 

1. The stage is set

With two rounds remaining in the regular-season, there are six teams battling for five playoff spots.

At this stage the only certainties are expansion teams Auckland and Geelong-Korea will be done after 40 regular-season games.

Sydney missed a chance to consolidate top seed over the weekend, falling to a series sweep against Canberra.

The Sox now have just a one-game lead over Brisbane and the Cavalry in the North-East.

But Sydney faces the Tuatara at home this weekend, while the Bandits and Canberra slug it out in Brisbane.

Perth also holds a one-game lead in the South-West Division, with Melbourne in second and Adelaide a game further back.

The Aces host the Bite in a battle for the second spot out of the South-West this weekend.

 

2. Sydney got a wakeup call

The Blue Sox were dealt a huge blow on the weekend, dropping all four games in Canberra

And while Sydney is still top of the North-East Division entering the final two rounds, they are sitting far less comfortably than a week earlier.

The Blue Sox host Auckland in round nine before finishing on the road to Adelaide in a four-game set.

Sydney swept the Tuatara when they met in Auckland earlier in the season, but are 2-6 against the Bite in two trips to West Beach.

The Sox destiny is in their own hands still, but the weekend must serve as a wake up call.

 

3. Josh Tols is a big in for the Aces

Tols made his ABL season debut for Melbourne in a 1-0 win for the Aces on Friday night.

The left-hander worked three innings and picked up a save.

Tols, in his third season with Melbourne, struck out two and did not allow a hit or walk.

If the Aces can get three quality innings - or more - out of Tols for the rest of the season they will be in a good spot to not only make the playoffs but have some success in them.

 

4. Luke Hansen is one to watch

At 24, Hansen's best years are ahead of him.

And on the weekend the New Zealander showed he can be a mainstay in Auckland's lineup for years to come.

Hansen went 4-for-12 with four RBI and blasted his first ABL homer in game four of the series on Saturday.

He doubled to drive in the go-ahead runs, and made a nice defensive play in the bottom of the 10th, in the Tuatara's game three victory on Friday night.

Hansen is hitting .231 with eight RBI this season.

 

5. Leadoff Shumpert works for Adelaide

Atlanta Braves prospect Nick Shumpert moved to the leadoff spot for the Bite in game three and four against GK as manager Chris Adamson tinkered with his lineup.

Shumpert went 1-for-3 with a walk on Saturday night before homering twice to finish with six RBI in a 21-1 rout on Sunday.

He hit a grand slam in the eighth and also stole a base.

With Aaron Whitefield, the man he replaced in the leadoff spot, having success down the order it will be interesting to see if Adamson sticks with the new look.

Adelaide is on the road to Melbourne in a vital series from Friday night ahead of hosting Sydney in the final round.

 

6. Brisbane is poised to strike

The Bandits took four of five games against Auckland to capitalise on Sydney's tumble in Canberra.

Brisbane now sits a game back from the Blue Sox ahead of a crucial four-game series at home to the Cavs this weekend.

TJ Bennett continued his strong form, homering three times against the Tuatara, and Wynton Bernard had an instant impact.

Logan Wade's return has also been a boost with the veteran hitting .324 in his nine games since coming back from injury.

The Bandits are suddenly a very strong shot of finishing top in the North-East and hosting a home semi-final series.

 

7. Perth can grind, as well as blast

The Heat have ridden hot bats to plenty of wins this season.

But on the weekend, down 2-0 in their top-of-the-division series against Melbourne, the Heat were able to grind out a pair of hard-fought wins.

Perth overcame a 2-0 deficit in game three, hours after falling in walk-off fashion.

The Heat battled back from 2-0 down again on Sunday to claim a split.

Carl Chester had two important RBI.

 

8. Zach Wilson has plenty of power

Wilson moved atop the ABL with 11 home runs after going deep three times in Canberra's 4-0 sweep of Sydney.

The former New York Yankees prospect went 7-for-20 with six RBI for the Cavs.

On the season he is hitting .336 with an OBP of .397 and 27 RBI.

Nine of Wilson's 11 homers have come at Narrabundah.

With a trip to hitter friendly OneHub Stadium powered by Optus this weekend, ahead of a home series against Perth, Wilson is a sneaky chance to reach the single-season homer record of 16.

 

What did you learn from round eight Brut Australian Baseball League action?

 

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