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Quest Flemington Round 3 Preview
11/29/2017 11:06 PM ET

Round 3 is a rematch of last season's championship showdown between Melbourne and Brisbane. The Bandits took home the Claxton Shield in two games and the Aces are out for revenge. Here's your Round 3 preview presented by Quest Flemington.


Quick Recap


After a disappointing Opening Series against Perth, Melbourne had a fabulous bounce-back effort on the road against Adelaide taking three of four. Josh Tols was superb making two appearances and striking out nine over five innings. His efforts earned him the Round 2 ABL Delta Airlines Pitcher of the Week. Delmon Young picked up the pace offensively hitting a pair of homeruns over the weekend and 17-year old Jarryd Dale hit .353 against Adelaide pitching. With reinforcements having arrived in LHP Matt Marksberry and OF Tyler Neslony, manager Jon Deeble finally starting to have a full arsenal at his disposal.


The defending champs are off to a scorching start to being the 2017/2018 ABL campaign. After sweeping Canberra in the opening round, the Bandits made quick work of the Perth Heat winning three of four and outscoring their opponents 47-28. Mitch Nilsson had a monster series hitting .529 with 12 RBI and was named the Delta Airlines Offensive Player of the Week.


Last Year


A year ago, Melbourne dominated Brisbane in the regular season winning seven of their eight matchups, including a four-game sweep at AFA Stadium. This was mainly due to strong pitching from the Aces that kept the Bandits high-flying offense in check. Obviously, the script was flipped in the playoffs where Brisbane got the last laugh.


Offensive Edge: Brisbane


Number don't necessarily tell the whole story, but in this case, they give us everything we need to know. As a team Brisbane are hitting .317, which is the highest in the ABL. They also rank first in slugging (.539) and as a team have already scored 65 runs in seven games (9.3 rpg). Any team in any league that is averaging almost 10 runs per game is going to win a lot of games. Mitch Nilsson is hitting a scorching .577 to lead all qualified ABL hitters and fresh of a series in which he racked up 12 RBI. Aaron Whitefield ranks fourth in the league with a .400 average and three other Bandits are hitting .333 or higher. Meanwhile, the Aces rank fifth in batting average (.241) and only have two qualified hitters batting above .300 (de San Miguel, .385; Cumberland, .360).


Pitching Edge: Brisbane


There's a good argument to be made that the Aces possess more talented pitchers than Brisbane, but given the two-round sample size, Brisbane's pitching has been more effective compared to Melbourne's. The Bandit's starting pitching has pitched deep into ballgames, leaving the bullpen with manageable assignments through their first seven contests. Tim Atherton is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA while Travis Buckley has been even better notching a 1.80 ERA and a 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Zac Treece has made three scoreless appearances out of the bullpen while Sam Holland allowed just one run over his 3.2 innings in relief. Brisbane has the second-lowest ERA in the league while Melbourne have issued the most walks (45), the second-most ER (38), and have the second-highest WHIP (1.64). This isn't to say the Aces can't win this series against Brisbane, but if the pitching is similar to what was seen against Perth, it could be a long series for the hosts.


Players to Watch


Melbourne: Mark Hamburger


Usually, a position player is slotted in the Player To Watch category, but these are not usual times. Mark Hamburger a top-class pitcher in this league who is off to a shaky start in 2017. He has allowed 11 ER in just 13 innings. His 7.62 ERA is the third-highest among all ABL pitchers, and his 2.38 WHIP is dead last. He desperately needs a bounce-back effort and he'll get his chance in Friday's opener. Look for Hamburger to set the tone and see if he can rally the hosts to a quick 1-0 series lead.


Brisbane: Mitch Nilsson


This should be pretty clear by now, but in case you scrolled down to the bottom, read the earlier sections of this article, or the Round 2 Roundup piece from earlier in the week, or just look at the Delta Airlines Offensive Player of the Week Awards. Nilsson is a hitting monster, and when a 2-for-5 night actually lowers his season batting average, you know that is a menacing player loaded with quality.


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