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#ABLCS PREVIEW: Bandits vs. Cavs
02/07/2018 9:24 PM ET

Brisbane and Canberra opened the season on November 16, now they will close it out when they clash in the 2018 Australian Baseball League Championship Series this weekend.

The Bandits will feature in their third-straight decider as they chase a historic three-peat while the Cavalry are back on the ABL's biggest stage for the first time since 2014.

Canberra will be the host for game one on Friday night ahead of game two and three (if required) in Brisbane on Saturday and Sunday as the ABLCS is split across two cities for the first time.

The Bandits booked their spot after taking down Melbourne 9-8 on David Sutherland's walk-off homer in their winner-takes-all semi-final on Sunday.

After the opening two games of the series were washed out at Holloway Field, Brisbane survived a late scare when Aces' infielder Darryl George tied the ballgame in the top of the ninth on his second homer.

Sutherland's lead-off home run in the bottom of the ninth propelled the Bandits into another ABLCS.

Brisbane will be chasing its third-straight title after defeating Melbourne last season and Adelaide in 2016.

The Cavs will be hunting for a second ABL title at their third attempt after completing a comeback victory in their best-of-three semi-final series against Perth at Perth Harley-Davidson Ballpark.

Canberra lost to Perth 2-0 in its last ABLCS appearance in 2014, a year after claiming the 2013 crown against the Heat.

This season's version of the ABLCS looms as a fascinating contest, especially with hosting rights split between the competing teams.

The Bandits claimed five of seven regular-season contests between the teams with one game rained out in Brisbane.

The Bandits won all three encounters at Holloway Field with the series in Canberra ending in a split.

Despite the difference in the head-to-head ledger, the season-series was a tight affair with Brisbane winning several games from behind.

 

HITTING

The Bandits and Cavs ranked second and third for runs scored and batting average during the regular season.

Brisbane ranked second behind Perth with 312 runs while Canberra finished with 289.

The Bandits outscored the Cavalry 44-28 during their seven regular-season meetings, including 18-11 at Holloway Field.

Brisbane hit .308 as a team compared to Canberra's .298.

There is a plethora of quality hitters on both sides.

Cavs' infielder Jay Baum led the ABL for batting average during the regular season, hitting .439 with 41 RBI, nine homers and a league-high 18 doubles.

David Kandilas has also had career year, hitting .380 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs.

The duo have played a key role in Canberra's charge to the ABLCS.

But Casey McElroy has also played an important role along with Cameron Warner, covering for the departure of San Diego prospects Buddy Reed and Gabriel Arias in the final weeks of the season.

McElroy is hitting .306 with 11 extra-base knocks since January 1.

Warner is averaging .295 and is tied for 10th most runs batted in (16) in the ABL since the start of 2018.

The Cavs' offence will need to be hot this weekend against the Bandits.

Brisbane bats deep but its biggest weapon, especially at Holloway Field, is the long ball.

The Bandits crushed a league-record 96 home runs during the regular season, 30 more than third-ranked Canberra.

Donald Lutz and T.J. Bennett led the way, equalling former Melbourne slugger Kellin Deglan's single-season record of 16 homers.

Lower-order hitter David Sutherland, the game winner on Sunday, has been the hottest hitter in the league since January 1.

He averaged a league-high .444 with 13 RBIs across the final month of the regular season.

 

PITCHING

Brisbane and Canberra finished the regular season with the two best ERAs in the ABL.

The Bandits led the league with a team-ERA of 4.56, followed by the Cavs (5.41) in second place.

Through January the teams both compiled a 5.54 ERA.

Canberra's starting rotation was in stunning form, finishing 10-2 with an ERA of 3.46 in the final month of the regular season.

Frank Gailey was particularly impressive and continued his dominant form in the Cavs' game three semi-final win over Perth.

The left-hander struck out 12 and allowed three hits in 7 1/3 scoreless innings.

Along with Brian Grening and Lake Bachar, Gailey forms a strong rotation for Canberra manager Michael Collins.

The trio ranked inside the top-five for earned run averages during the minor round.

But Brisbane's pitchers took care of the Cavs' offence during the regular season, keeping them to a .217 average.

Left-hander Ryan Bollinger finished the regular season with the third-lowest ERA (3.48), while Tim Atherton (sixth with a 4.15 ERA) and Travis Blackley (eighth, 4.82) enjoyed strong campaigns.

Bollinger tied with Aces' left-hander Josh Tols for most strikeouts (75).

 

YOUR PREDICTION

 

PROBABLE STARTERS*

GAME 1: LHP Ryan Bollinger (5-1, 3.48 ERA) at RHP Brian Grening (5-1, 3.53 ERA)

GAME 2: RHP Lake Bachar (5-1, 2.91) at RHP Tim Atherton (3-1, 4.15)

GAME 3 (if required): LHP Frank Gailey (4-0, 1.80) at LHP Travis Blackley (5-2, 4.82)

*subject to change, stats from regular season.

 

SERIES SCHEDULE

GAME 1: Friday, 7.00pm local time @ The Fort at MIT Ballpark, Narrabundah, ACT

GAME 2: Saturday, 6.00pm local time @ Wild Moose Stadium, Newmarket, QLD

GAME 3 (if required): Sunday, 4.00pm local time @ Wild Moose Stadium, Newmarket, QLD

 

ABLTV.COM POWERED BY BING LEE SCHEDULE

GAME 1: Friday, 7.00pm AEDT / 6.00pm AEST - WATCH LIVE on ABLtv powered by Bing Lee

GAME 2: Saturday, 7.00pm AEDT / 6.00pm AEST - WATCH LIVE on ABLtv powered by Bing Lee

GAME 3 (if required): Sunday, 5.00pm AEDT / 4.00pm AEST - WATCH LIVE on ABLtv powered by Bing Lee

 

 



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