Last weekend the Adelaide Bite made a seamless transition from leading ABL contenders to meek pretenders in being swept by the Sydney Blue Sox. Well up in Game 1, Adelaide looked the minor premiership square in the eye, but like a rabbit in the spotties froze a little scared to believe in themselves and close out the deal. History shows premiership clubs in all sports are able to find a way to win the close ones down the stretch and the Sox did so with 3 one run victories – conversely Adelaide were very brittle at the business end of every game. The Bite were very charitable at the harbor city in firstly blowing a 4 run lead, stranding the tying run on third in the 9th, then blowing another 4 run lead, before the piece de resistance meltdown from a 2 all game in the middle of the fifth. All this after blowing a 6 run lead in Melbourne. In a weird paradox, the city that does desperately require enormous charity of a different kind from a well documented crisis visits Norwood Oval this week.
MC B-Bantz is mired deep in struggle town after going 0-13 in clean up the last 3 games, while Feathers Harris continues to anchor the statistically weakest hitter in his starting line-up (Kwak excluded) in the 3 hole: the result being 1 RBI from 34 ABs out of the two key production slots across the series. Quack Kwak, a renowned power hitter out of Korea, has tallied up 1 extra base knock from 67 plate appearances and is a fish out of water against southpaws – his English vernacular must have a mellower inflection than fellas like Brad Hodge and the late great David Hookes, but finally the weight of non-numbers may see him relegated to the local league this week.
Amidst the BOP gloom, 3 hitters and 2 pitchers have taken the bull by the horns to keep the Bite’s finals chances flickering with some light at the end of the tunnel. G-Whiz Gladstone has officially made the transition from fringe guy to being a legitimate 2 hole hitter, bouncing back well from being cruelly cut down with a torn ACL as a youngster, albeit with a little less toe. A pleasant line-up dilemma for Feathers awaits the return of gun imports McOven and Big Q from injury, who both will be slotted somewhere in the top four hitting spots against Brisbane – the statistical blip aforementioned seemingly assured of a 2 or 3 hole pozzie regardless of form, means G-Whiz’s terrific form will likely be wasted somewhere lower down the line-up.
The son of a Goose, a lefty line drive spraying non-power guy, has found the stroke including against the southpaws and is deserved of elevation up the line-up. After tallying 6 hits in 2.5 games, now squaring up to a Brisbane roster featuring 1 southpaw hurler, the Buzz have been left flummoxed by his absence from this week’s team! Finally dark horse Brendon Pett continues to shine with the stick to be one of the leagues more dependable hitters, and has a far superior glove than Iceman Wigmore or Kwak if required to be ‘hidden’ in the outfield.
Interestingly the Quacker, hitting a massive 207 points less with 1 RBI on the season (himself), was the pinch hitter of choice over the dark horse on a 2 hit evening to rack up the 30th out in Game 3 with the go ahead run on base – all the stranger with Petty nailing a walk off against Sydney previously on the season. He was allowed to pinch hit for Pett again in Game 4 to rack up a couple more Ks!
Mark Brackman and Brandon Maurer have both delivered 3 quality starts since Christmas, and will be a little frustrated the relief corps cannot preserve deserved W’s. Maurer in particular, blessed with a great live arm, has made solid progress in locating his stuff under tutelage from MC B-Bantz behind the dish.
The situational relievers will have copped a firm kick where the sun don’t shine after the crippling triplet of blown leads. Boris Becker, the Specimen, Wacko Jacko and James Brown combined to see a staggering 6 for 6 inherited runners merrily waltz across the dish over the late innings in worrying signs. Burnside Village, not having allowed a run of any kind in 6.2 innings is scratching the bonce in bewilderment at his usage. In Game 3 the Specimen, having already leaked an inherited runner before plating a further 2 of his own to tie a game that was Adelaide’s, was amazingly left in to start the 10th and put Sydney’s hottest hitter Al-Jo on second with none out – before the Village was finally summoned several miles after the horse had bolted for one pitch. Meanwhile the SABL’s best player Ryan Murphy remains under utilized with only 12 digs for the season and no action in the batter’s box. His elevation to the roster this week is a sight for sore eyes, and he looms likely to be one of the additional 2 starting verpers across the extended 6 games!
Now for a look at Brisbane. Unfortunately the flood crisis gripping Queensland also claimed the series in Brisbane, hosting cellar dwellars Canberra Cavalry. Opinions were polarized up north where most considered the series postponement as a sensible and respectful decision in light of the tragic circumstances – while some others thought free entry to those on nearby evacuation centres may brighten up an otherwise bleak week for many unable to return home. The wash-up in Melbourne where the hosting Aces were swept 4-0 by the rampant Heat leaves the door well ajar for the Bandits to grab the fourth and final playoff pozzie. This of course is dependent on the Adelaide series, while things don’t figure to get any easier for Melbourne as they make the return leg to Perth. If and when a make-up series against the Cavs goes ahead has not been announced by the ABL at the time of writing, so we shan’t speculate!
Reports confirm the Bandits boys have been doing some magnificent work in the community in their unplanned spare time, and will need to continue that theme on the Norwood Oval to keep their sniff of finals in the air. With no weekend form line to analyse, we’ll have a Captain at a fortnight ago when the Bandits visited the Cavs at the Bundah Dome. Medium relief guys Big Stocky, Simon Morriss and Kenny Powers Mowday recaptured the mojo after a collective smashing in Melbourne – Mowday now leading the ABL with 6 wins from 0 starts in similar style to the Ace’s Blackmore’s Vitamins last season. Phillies’ big leaguer Drew Naylor made his first start of the campaign, throwing 4 digs assumedly off a pitch count, which may be bumped up a fortnight later to thrill the fans in Adelaide.
Jimmy Albury-Wodonga was unconvincing in a win where he had 13 runs of support by the 4th, and will need to improve on that to snaffle the buttered confection at Norwood. With the extra 2 games, the Bandits roster will be stretched further than it has been all season, and we expect Lamb Chop, Thommo, Brodie Atkinson and Brant Chambers to all see extended game time on the hill. Strong hitting catcher Joel ‘Naughto’ returns to the frey to bolster the hitting and complement the breakout series from ‘Showey’ Shoenberger who came out of his shoes for 10 hits and a salami in Canberra. Chad Gabriel (see January 14 post) will no doubt steer clear of any website journals to apply a Zen like focus on the 108 seamer – Ipswich’s own Shayne Watson looking to emulate his Ipswich heralding namesake’s performance with willow at the ‘G’ on Sunday.
Bite season ticket holders rack up mega value this week with 6 games for the price of four. With Brisbane still a mathematical chance to figure in February and the Bite still a mathematical chance to miss out, the stakes are massive in what will be a cracker jack stoush at Norwood. On Friday the TDU Challenge Tour ride kicks off at Norwood at 6:30 am, with Lance Armstrong and company following suit at 10:00 am – no better place to take in the atmosphere before the crescendo at 7:00 pm! With 4 massive days of non-stop action and entertainment, join Sammy-D and the die-hard crew to beer and cheer your Bite towards the holy grail!