Over the winter, we aim to meet your baseball fix here at Beyond the Box Score. Doing so, we’ll be covering the Australian Baseball League for each week that the competition is running. Many of the games are streamed and recorded on the league’s YouTube channel.
Brisbane wins the series over Canberra (3-1)
Game 1: BRS 3 - 2 CAN
Game 2: BRS 8 - 3 CAN
Game 3: BRS 2 - 8 CAN
Game 4: BRS 4 - 2 CAN
The reigning ABL champion Brisbane Bandits opened the season against last year’s third place finisher, the Canberra Cavalry.
The Calvary, looking to continue to make strides, added a few interesting pieces to their 2016-17 roster. A relationship with the Toronto Blue Jays landed Canberra DJ Davis, Mike Reeves, Andrew Case, Josh Almonte, and Josh DeGraaf this year. Along with them came Padres farmhand Zech Lemond, as well as a couple of former Sydney Blue Sox in David Kandilas and Tyler Herr.
The Bandits drew primarily from the Rays farm system for their minor league imports. Tampa Bay sent over Kevin Padlo, Thomas Milone, and Rick Teasley. They also added another Blue Jay in Kramer Champlin, and a few independent ball players.
This series was the only one to go four days this week. Game one was a nail-biter. Brisbane was leading 2-0 in the fifth when Aaron Sloan took a Teasley fastball just over the wall in left center to score two. Then the Bandit bullpen shut down the Cavalry offense and, after the Bandits took the lead in the seventh, Ryan Searle earned the first save of the 2016-17 ABL season. The second game was not quite as tightly contested. Though the Calvary brought the game even in the fifth inning on an all-Perkins two run home run, the Calvary were unable to overcome their five error night. Canberra’s only win of the series came in game three, and it was another big night for Kyle Perkins. Perkins went 3-4 with two home runs and led them to a comfortable win. The final game of the series is when things got a bit weird. Long time position player Aaron Sloan threw 2.2 innings. He took the loss with long time pitcher Tim Atherton, who had played in the field in the GCL, at first base. Baseball!
Melbourne wins the series over Perth (3-1)
Game 1: MEL 8 - 1 PER
Game 2: MEL 5 - 0 PER (7)
Game 3: MEL 4 - 9 PER
Game 4: MEL 5 - 1 PER
This series pitted the ABL’s most historically polarizing franchises against each other in Melbourne and Perth.
Melbourne has historically been the worst team in the ABL. Excluding a second place finish in 2011, the franchise has never finished higher than fourth. However, they’ve undergone a massive shakeup under general manager Justin Huber that’s made them one of the more exciting teams to watch this year. They brought in a star-studded staff led by Australian national team manager John Deeble and pitching coach Peter Moylan, a current big league reliever. Their roster underwent a bit of a facelift. They currently boast the most high profile import addition in Ronald Acuna, who was ranked #2 in the Braves system by Baseball Prospectus. Along with him came former big leaguer Mark Hamburger, minor leaguers Roman Collins and Cody Jones, and Seibu Lions pitcher Shogo Noda. The Aces also had a big in-country addition with long time Perth catcher Allan de San Miguel.
Perth has seen more business as usual after a franchise worst fifth place finish. After losing de San Miguel, they turned to Matt Kennelly and Jake Bowey to take up behind the plate, both of which have spent time in the minors. The return of their star middle infield in Joey Wong and Luke Hughes will certainly be a key for them to return to their former glory. They also added two Orioles prospects in Will Dennis and Lex Rutledge, along with Blue Jays farmhand Michael Lee.
Hamburger started game one for the Aces and went 5 innings, giving up one run and striking out six. The Aces’ offensive effort in that game was led by the former Heat star de San Miguel. Game two was decided early after the Aces put four runs on the board in the first. Japanese import Keisuke Honda cruised to six scoreless innings in the first half of the doubleheader with Josh Toles closing it out in the seventh. In game three, the Aces jumped out early to the tune of three runs. Dushan Ruzic, a former ace for Melbourne, returned to the team for the first time since the 2012-13 season. He went five deep and gave up only one run. The wheels feel off after that, though. The Heat added eight of their nine runs after the fifth inning, including four in the top of the ninth. Two players, Joey Wong and Ulrich Bojarski, notched three-hit days in the fifteen-hit bid by the Heat. Finally, the Aces took game four by committee. The longest outing by an Aces pitcher that game was the three innings Jon Kennedy gave them to start the day. Roman Collins was the star of the game as he went 2-4 with a home run and three RBIs to propel Melbourne to victory.
Sydney wins the series over Adelaide (3-1)
Game 1: SYD 13 - 4 ADE
Game 2: SYD 2 - 0 ADE (7)
Game 3: SYD 3 - 2 ADE (11)
Game 4: SYD 3 - 7 ADE
Finally, last season’s runners-up went to Blacktown to take on the Sydney Blue Sox.
The Bite had a somewhat active offseason. First off, their import class is a bit scattered around the big leagues. Two came from the Rangers, Josh Altman and LeDarious Clark; one from Tampa, Taylor Hawkins; one from Seattle, Jordan Cowan; and one from San Diego, Marcus Greene Jr. In addition, they also saw the return of long time ABL veteran and former Blue Sox, Mitch Dening. On top of that, they added 37-year old Korean import Hei-Chun Lee, who pitched in relief for the Doosan Bears for many years.
The Blue Sox continued a bit of a shakeup that started last year with their roster. Their MiLB imports are also a bit scattered. They signed Malik Collymore and Tucker Neuhaus from Milwaukee, Stone Garrett from Miami, and Sven Schuller from the Dodgers. Trevor Foss was formerly a Cleveland farmhand, but he was released shortly after the World Series. Two Japanese amateurs, Yuki Yamazaki and Ryoto Yoshikoshi, were also added to fill out the roster. Finally, Guy Edmonds returned to the club after serving a 50-game PED suspension.
The first game of the series was a drubbing. Sydney smashed Adelaide pitchers Sean Callegari and Tyler Chappel to the tune of thirteen runs in the first five innings. Collymore led the Blue Sox offense, going 3-4 with a grand slam and six RBIs. Game two was more of a pitcher’s duel. Luke Wilkins carried the Blue Sox with a complete game shutout where the only runs were scored on a Tucker Neuhaus bases-clearing double. In game three, we saw the only extra inning game of the weekend. Each starter, Taylor Hawkins for Adelaide and Foss for Sydney, went through five innings giving up two runs. The game was held in check by each team’s bullpen until Matthew Campbell, a rookie outfielder for the Blue Sox, knocked in Garrett in the 11th for the walk-off win. The final game of the series, and the only Adelaide win, came at the behest of former Blue Sox closer Aaron Sookee. Sookee walked seven and gave up four in the first 4.2 innings. The game was tight until the top of the seventh when the Bite added insurance runs and put the game away.
Matchups for Next Week
Brisbane @ Perth
Melbourne @ Adelaide
Sydney @ Canberra
Anthony Rescan is a Contributing Writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @AnthonyRescan.