2017/18 ABL R9 – Brisbane v Perth
18 Jan 2018 19:30 AEDT
Watch the 2017/18 Australian Baseball League season LIVE on Epicentre.tv.
GAME 1: Thursday, 6.30pm AEST
GAME 2: Friday, 6.30pm AEST
GAME 3: Saturday, 3.30pm AEST
GAME 4: Saturday, 6.30pm AEST
Are we about to witness a preview of the 2018 Australian Baseball League Championship Series?
First will go up against second at Holloway Field when Brisbane hosts Perth in the penultimate round of the regular season.
The Heat head to Brisbane with a point to prove after dropping three of four at home to the Bandits in November.
Fast forward to January and Perth and Brisbane are the two form teams entering an intriguing series.
The Heat are 7-2 so far in 2018 while the Bandits are a perfect 9-0 after sweeping Sydney on the road and Melbourne at home last round.
Brisbane is also 14-2 at Holloway Field this season but Perth are the league’s best road team, winning 11 of 15 away from home.
The stage is set for a huge series.
The Bandits have added some punch to their line-up for the top-of-the-table series with Kenshi Sugiya and Wade Dutton returning along with veteran Ryan Battaglia.
Starter Chen Hung-wen has departed, leaving Pat Young to assume his role in the starting rotation.
The Heat’s pitching has also undergone change with Matt Kennelly not travelling with the team and Adam Millson dropping off the roster.
Scott Mitchinson and Lachlan Southee join Perth for the trip.
The visitors will need their pitching to be on its game in the four-game series after allowing 47 runs when the teams met in the west in round two.
Brisbane took three out of four, outscoring the hosts 47-28 as Mitch Nilsson raked, going 9-for-17 with 12 RBIs.
Nilsson is expected to return this weekend after being active on the Bandits’ roster last round but not featuring in a five-game sweep of Melbourne.
The Heat will need to stop him, as well as league home run leader Donald Lutz and the dangerous T.J. Bennett.
Luke Hughes, Jesse Williams and Robbie Glendinning will need to swing the bats hot to match Brisbane’s dangerous batting order.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
HEAT – Jesse Williams: The 18-year-old infielder has lit up the league across his past 10 games, hitting .372 and driving in 22 runs. He crushed his first ABL grand slam in Sunday’s loss to Sydney. Across the season, Williams has hit .330 with three home runs and 32 RBIs. His RBI tally puts him equal fifth in the ABL with now departed teammate Michael Brosseau.
BANDITS – Donald Lutz: After hitting four home runs across a five-game series with Melbourne last weekend, Lutz has the ABL single-season home run record in his sights. The former big leaguer enters round nine with 13 bombs, three off equalling off Kellin Deglan’s record of 16 set with Melbourne in the 2014/15 season.
Bandits 3-1. Facing Brisbane is a daunting prospect at any time, but at Holloway Field they are even more lethal. Then Bandits flexed their muscle against Melbourne at the hitter-friendly ballpark last weekend, blasting 24 home runs across the five-game set. While the Heat have plenty of punch in their line-up too, questions linger over whether the Perth bullpen will be able to close out any games they inherit a lead in.