2017/18 ABL R9 – Melbourne v Adelaide
19 Jan 2018 19:00 AEDT
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Game 2 – 7:00pm
Melbourne will aim to reverse its poor recent form when it hosts bottom-side Adelaide at Melbourne Ballpark this weekend.
The Aces enter round nine on a seven-game losing streak but remain a game clear of Sydney in the fourth and final playoff spot.
With the Blue Sox holding the head-to-head advantage between the teams, Melbourne needs to win as many games as Sydney – or more – across the final two rounds.
The Aces will not only need to turnaround their poor start to 2018 but their recent struggles at Melbourne Ballpark.
Melbourne is 6-9 at its home ballpark this season and was swept by the Bite at the venue last January as they limped into the ABL playoffs.
The Aces have made some aesthetic changes to their starting rotation with left-hander Josh Tols to take the mound in game one and Mark Hamburger relegated to game two.
It follows Hamburger starting two games in Brisbane last weekend and failing to get out of the third on both occasions.
Jon Kennedy and Matthew Larkins – who has yet to hit his stride since returning to the league – will again complete the rotation this weekend.
Melbourne’s starters will need to provide more innings against the Bite.
Only Kennedy went five innings in round eight as the Bandits gave Aces’ starters a tough time.
Apart from the addition of development arms Liam Evans and Blake Townsend, Melbourne will carry the same pitching staff that gave up 67 runs in five games last weekend into their series with Adelaide.
The Bite also enter round nine slumping and with pitching struggling to keep the runs down.
Adelaide has lost its past five, including a sweep at the hands of Canberra last weekend as it gave up 13 runs per game.
Despite the lopsided scoreline the Bite did show some fight and their past month has seen a marked improvement.
Adelaide has undergone a shakeup with Darius Day and Isaias Quiroz gone and outfielder Max Brown coming in a year after making his ABL debut on the road against Melbourne.
They also welcome back teenagers Tyson McKee, Curtis Mead and Mason Clavell following the Australian Youth Championships while Ky Hampton could make his season debut after being added to the roster.
The Bite’s bats have warmed up in recent weeks and combined with some strong outings from their starters an upset could be possible.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
BITE – Curtis Mead: Mead returns to the Adelaide camp after starring in South Australia’s drought-breaking under-18 title at the Australian Youth Championships. The infielder was named the under-18 Most Valuable Player, going 15-for-33 (.455) with five doubles and six RBIs. With the Bite, Mead has gone 7-for-21 (.333) in 12 appearances.
ACES – Josh Tols: The left-hander is slated to start game one against his former team in a vital match-up. Melbourne needs to break out of its slump and while the Bite’s playoff hopes seem merely mathematical a win in game one would give the visitors some momentum. Tols enters round nine leading the league with 62 strikeouts.
Bite 3-1. Melbourne enters round nine under pressure with Sydney – and even mathematically Adelaide – in pursuit. The Bite head to Melbourne written off as a playoff team but with a party to spoil. It looms as an interesting series with both sides conceding runs aplenty. Whichever team gets more innings from its starters will be in a strong position to take the series with the bullpens lacking depth to be relied upon.