2017/18 ABL R10 – Canberra v Brisbane
27 Jan 2018 19:30 AEDT
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GAME 1: Thursday, 7.00pm AEDT
GAME 2: Friday 7.00pm AEDT
GAME 3: Saturday, 4.00pm AEDT
GAME 4: Saturday, 7.00pm AEDT
The league’s two hottest teams will go head-to-head in the final round when Canberra hosts Brisbane at Narrabundah.
The Cavalry have put together a 10-2 record this month while the Bandits head to Canberra with 11 wins in their past 13 outings.
Brisbane will be aiming to clinch top spot – and a home semi-final series against Melbourne or Sydney – while Canberra is still in with a top-two chance.
The teams will battle it out in a four-game series with the possibility of playing a make-up game on Sunday if required to finalise top-four spots.
The Bandits can take care of business on their own with two wins against the Cavs.
But Canberra, to finish top, must take five games and rely on Perth dropping games at home to Melbourne.
Brisbane took three games against the Cavs in a rain-shortened series in round one at Holloway Field.
But it was closer than the series scoreline indicates with Canberra’s bullpen giving up a couple of games.
The bullpen has been taken out of the equation recently for the Cavs with their starting rotation going deep into games.
Canberra starters Brian Grening, Frank Gailey and Lake Bachar allowed three runs in 20 innings across the opening three games of their series with Sydney in round nine.
Cavalry pitching leads the league in January with an ERA of 5.28.
The Bandits’ pitching is not far behind, with a 5.94 ERA ranking them third this month.
But it is the offences of both outfits that is firing most.
Brisbane is hitting .346 in 13 games this month, blasting 43 home runs.
The Cavs are hitting .333 with 25 homers in 12 games.
Kenshi Sugiya has left the Bandits’ camp with Dan Nilsson, Ryan Ihle and Jake Turcato added to the roster.
Even if Canberra fails to leapfrog Perth into second to earn a home semi-final series, they will still want to go toe-to-toe with Brisbane to prove they can match them if an ABL Championship Series between the teams eventuates.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
BANDITS – Justin Erasmus: With manager David Nilsson getting his starting rotation primed for playoffs, Erasmus is set to be given a game one start in Canberra. His last start was on December 17 against Adelaide when he did not allow a run on four hits in 4 1/3 innings. Since then the right-hander has made four relief appearances, compiling an ERA of 3.21 in 14 innings of work.
CAVALRY – Jay Baum: Baum did not feature during Canberra’s 3-0 series loss to Brisbane in round one but has starred since joining the Cavs. Last weekend against Sydney he went 7-for-19 with six extra-base hits. Across the season he is hitting .457 in 30 games and with 18 doubles he is one off tying the single-season record set by Jason Leblebijian two seasons ago.
Split. Canberra and Brisbane have been two of the most enjoyable teams to watch in recent rounds. Both have strong offences and impressive starting rotations. It is hard to split them and even last time they met the Bandits’ 3-0 series victory is not reflective of how close the games were. A split seems likely, leaving Brisbane with a home semi-final series and Canberra a likely road trip to Perth.