Week 8 of Australian League sees Canberra surge

Week 8 of Australian League sees Canberra surge

Week 8 of Australian League sees Canberra surge

The eighth week of play in the Australian Baseball League saw the Canberra Cavalry charge up the standings by sweeping the first-place Perth Heat, the Melbourne Aces take three of four from the Sydney Blue Sox, and the Adelaide Bite and Brisbane Bandits split a four-game set in Adelaide.

Canberra received solid contributions from much of its lineup, scoring 20 runs in three games, but nobody did more than Casey Frawley. The front-runner for the MVP Award went 7-for-13 with seven RBIs in the series to raise his average to a league-best .390. Frawley also leads the league with 25 RBIs and 13 doubles.

As usual for the Cavalry, a trio of Blue Jays made major contributions as well. Leadoff man Jon Berti went 6-for-13, recording two hits in each game and adding six stolen bases to his league-leading total. Berti has been successful on 18 of 20 stolen-base attempts.

Shane Opitz put together a 6-for-12 series to lift his average to .283, and catcher Jack Murphy added four hits and an RBI to keep his average at .323 -- fifth best in the league.

Handed its first series sweep, Perth made a fine showing on offense but didn't deliver its characteristic good pitching. Ace Mike Ekstrom was tagged with a loss in his final ABL start after allowing three runs on 12 hits over six innings. Ekstrom had previously allowed just 19 hits in 44 1/3 innings, but finished the season 5-1 with a 0.72 ERA in seven starts.

Center fielder and Padres prospect Corey Adamson finished the weekend with five hits and two stolen bases, and fellow Aussie Matt Kennelly chipped in with four hits and four RBIs to bring his average to .302. Rockies prospect Joey Wong, named MVP of the ABL All-Star Game last Wednesday, had a big weekend, going 5-for-12 with three RBIs and his first two home runs of the season. Tucker Nathans of the Orioles, another participant in the ABL All-Star Game, delivered a hit in each game of the series, with a home run and three RBIs.

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In Melbourne, the Aces received more quality pitching en route to taking three of four from the Sydney Blue Sox, never allowing the Blue Sox to score more than three runs in a game. Left-hander Lewis Thorpe, an 18-year-old Twins prospect, tossed five shutout innings, with four strikeouts, to improve to 3-1 and lower his ERA to 1.32. He has allowed just four runs in 27 1/3 innings since joining the Aces in late November. Fellow left-hander Joe Burns was also sharp, allowing one run on five hits over six innings in the series opener. Burns, a lifelong reliever, has excelled in a starting role for Melbourne and now has a 4-1 record and 3.32 ERA after seven starts. In 38 innings he has struck out 34 while walking just five.

Ryan Casteel led the Aces' offense, going 7-for-13 with three home runs and six RBIs in the series. The Rockies prospect now ranks second in the league in batting average (.333) and RBIs (21) while leading the league in home runs, with eight.

A pair of Royals prospects had a strong weekend for Melbourne, with Jared Schlehuber and Justin Trapp finishing the series with five hits apiece. Trapp belted a pair of doubles and stole a base, and Schlehuber delivered the game-winning hit, a two-run single, on Sunday to win the series.

Sydney received another solid start from Angels prospect Aaron Sookie, a six-inning performance in which he allowed three runs on five hits, though the right-hander took the loss to fall to 2-4 with a 3.03 ERA. Sydney native Guy Edmonds, 20, was one bright spot in the series for the Blue Sox, as the young catcher went a combined 3-for-5 in his two starts with his first home run of the season.

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Right-hander Ryan Searle continued his dominance since joining the Brisbane Bandits, tossing a complete-game three-hitter on Saturday night in a 3-1 win. A Cubs prospect, Searle did not allow an earned run and struck out nine to improve to 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA after three starts. He has allowed just three earned runs on 13 hits in 22 innings, with 24 strikeouts. Searle's catcher, Ryan Battaglia, a 20-year-old Indians prospect, provided the offensive support in that particular victory by launching his sixth home run of the season. Battaglia ranks second in the ABL with the six homers, and 12 of his 16 hits this season have gone for extra bases.

Twins prospect Logan Wade, 22, launched his first home run of the season for Brisbane, finishing the series with four hits and three RBIs, and Joey Rickard of the Rays finished the series with five hits and five stolen bases. Rickard's average (.327) ranks third best in the ABL, and he has three home runs, 13 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.

The Dodgers' Blake Smith continued to emerge as a dominant force out of the bullpen for Adelaide, tossing 2 1/3 perfect innings and notching his first save. He has not been scored upon in his last seven outings, and has not allowed a hit in his last five. Overall, the right-hander has worked 14 innings in 10 appearances, going 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .111 batting average.

Stephan Welch of the Red Sox finished the weekend with three hits, two RBIs and two stolen bases for the Bite and is hitting a team-high .316 since joining the club at the end of November.

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The final set of games before the new year will see the Melbourne Aces travel to Perth to take on the Heat, the Canberra Cavalry hit the road for four with the Adelaide Bite and the Sydney Blue Sox host the Brisbane Bandits for four in Sydney.

Craig Durham is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.