When the season began, every club was dreaming of the Claxton Shield. Now, the ABL playoff race hinges on a final handful of games this weekend. Although the weather has not been cooperating in Sydney and Brisbane, there will be three teams in the postseason when the last contests of the regular season are in the books. It’s a last dash for the finish line with only one team out of contention.
ABL Scoreboard: January 24
After a soggy day postponed the first game of the series at Holloway Field, the Canberra Cavalry and Brisbane Bandits got together for a very long night. The Cavalry staked themselves to a 3-0 lead in a 1st inning that included a two-run tater from Michael Crouse. After a solid start, the Cavs were shut out for the next dozen frames. The Bandits climbed back to tie it up at 3-3 and took the game to extras. A solo shot by Joey Rickard in the bottom of the 13th inning brought the home crowd to their feet and sent them to the exits with a 4-3 walk-off win.
Still feeling the sting of a game that ended with controversy and a cloud of dust, the Melbourne Aces wanted to leave no doubt on the scoreboard in the 2nd contest against the Sydney Blue Sox. Ryan Casteel was ejected in the melee the night before, so there was a certain justice to the grand slam that capped off a six run outburst by the Aces in the 5th inning. The Blue Sox kept it interesting by tallying 3 runs, but it was not enough. Assuming that the league gives game one to the Sox, the series was tied at 1-1 after the 6-3 Aces victory.
The Perth Heat have not had a chance to relax during this last home stand, but have answered the challenges. The Adelaide Bite have been right in the running in both of the games at Barbagallo Ballpark, but just haven’t been able to finish with a lead. The Bite had to be thinking that a 4-0 margin looked pretty good going into the late frames last night, but the Heat would have none of it. With scoring rallies in the 6th and 8th innings, Perth climbed even and eventually topped the Bite 5-4 in another exciting one run affair.
ABL Action: January 25
The Canberra Cavalry are all alone in 5th place. The Brisbane Bandits are all alone in 6th place. After this doubleheader at Holloway Field, they may also be the only teams completely out of the playoff picture, but they won’t be lonesome. The Cavs need to win both games to stay alive and have a chance to defend their 2012-2013 championship. The Bandits want to steal those dreams away. Game two of the four game set begins at 7:00 p.m. PST or 10:00 p.m. EST on the 24th. Game three of the four game set begins at 12:30 a.m. PST or 3:30 a.m. EST.
While the league won’t render a final decision on game one until Monday, every club including the Melbourne Aces and Sydney Blue Sox still have to carry on. With the series presumably level at a game a piece, the last two contests will make or break both clubs as they make a final dash to the playoffs. The Sydney faithful will be on hand to encourage the hometown nine to victory, but may be witnessing the end to their season this weekend. Game three of the four game set begins at 11:00 p.m. PST on the 24th or 2:00 a.m. EST.
The Perth Heat are sitting all by themselves in first place with home field advantage in the playoffs, but still have to do their best against an Adelaide Bite club that still feels like they could sneak into contention. The most the Bite can hope for is a split and they need to win the last two games at Barbagallo Ballpark to even imagine going into the postseason. The Heat would like nothing more than to win this game and help sort out a crowded field. Game three of the four game set begins at 3:20 a.m. PST or 6:20 a.m. EST.
Streams for the games can be found at the Australian Baseball League website. Click on the tab that says “Watch Live” and enjoy a long evening of action.