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Thorpe makes strong impression in ABL debut

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Fresh off winning the Asian Series -- a historic feat for an Australian club -- the defending Australian Baseball League champion Canberra Cavalry took three of four from the Brisbane Bandits to improve to a league-best 8-3. In Perth, the Heat took two of three from the Melbourne Aces.

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Left-handed Twins prospect Lewis Thorpe made his much anticipated 2013 ABL debut for Melbourne on Sunday -- a day after his 18th birthday -- and was sharp, allowing just two runs in five innings. He struck out three and walked one. As a 17-year-old, Thorpe was lights out in the Gulf Coast League in 2013, going 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA for the GCL Twins. In 44 innings, he struck out 64 and walked six while holding opponents to a .203 batting average.

Following Thorpe's debut, former Phillies infielder Brad Harman launched a three-run homer in the ninth for Melbourne on Sunday night, turning a two-run deficit into a 3-2 lead. The home run was Harman's third of the ABL season.

South African hurler Justin Erasmus, a former member of the Red Sox organization, made Harman's blast stand up, working a scoreless ninth to notch his second save for Melbourne.

The Royals' Jared Schlehuber turned in another solid series, going 4-for-11 with hits in all three ballgames. Schlehuber is riding an eight-game hitting streak, and he leads the Aces with a .297 average.

Rockies catching prospect Ryan Casteel hit his first home run of the ABL season on Friday night, and he is now batting .282, having caught 10 of the Aces 11 games.

Joe Burns turned in his second standout performance in as many weeks for Melbourne, allowing one run on four hits in six innings on Saturday. Burns, a member of the Rangers' organization, struck out eight without walking a batter. Though he was a reliever with the Hickory Crawdads in 2013, the lefty is now is 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA after three starts for Melbourne. He also ranks second in the ABL with 18 strikeouts. In his past two starts, he has fanned 14 while walking just one walk in 13 innings.

Perth received another stellar start from Mike Ekstrom, as the righty shut out the Aces over eight innings on Sunday night. Through three starts in the ABL, the former Major Leaguer is 2-0 with a 0.41 ERA, and he has put up sparkling numbers in all three starts. In 22 innings, Ekstrom has allowed just one run on 10 hits, and he leads the ABL with 25 strikeouts.

Jack Frawley, Ekstrom's Perth teammate, tossed his second complete game of the season on Friday night, holding the Aces to two runs on six hits. A former member of the Astros' system, Frawley struck out five and walked one.

Center fielder Corey Adamson paced the Heat's offensive attack, collecting five hits and two stolen bases while batting atop the lineup. A member of the Padres' system, Adamson hit a combined .274 and stole 32 bases for the Fort Wayne Tin Caps and Lake Elsinore Storm in the 2013 season.

Tucker Nathans continued his solid ABL play with a three hit series, and the Orioles prospect is now tied for the league lead with five doubles. He is hitting .333 with seven RBIs and five stolen bases on the heels of a Minor League season that saw him hit .273 with 10 home runs and 56 RBIs.

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In Canberra, the Cavalry received key contributions from all of their Blue Jays Minor Leaguers throughout weekend.

Catcher Jack Murphy opened the series with a three-hit performance, and he finished the series hitting .317 overall through the season's first 11 games. Murphy is among the league leaders with four doubles and six RBIs.

John Berti finished the series 5-for-14 and capped it with three hits in Sunday's finale. Two of the second baseman's hits on Sunday were triples, and he picked up a stolen base to increase his league-leading total to eight. Overall, Berti is hitting .316 with a home run and six RBIs.

Outfielder Michael Crouse registered stolen bases in three of the four weekend games, and he is tied for second in the ABL with five steals. He is hitting .250 with seven RBIs in his first season in Australia.

Casey Frawley, a former 17th-round pick of the Cleveland Indians, continued to lead the Cavalry's offensive attack, setting the tone for the series with two home runs in the Friday night opener. Frawley finished the series with four hits and four RBIs, and he ranks fifth in the league with a .364 average.

For the Bandits, the series featured the continued emergence of 22-year-old Brisbane native Logan Wade. A Twins prospect, Wade finished the weekend series 6-for-14 with three runs scored and four RBIs. Wade is third in the ABL with a .378 batting average, has a .465 on base percentage, and has chipped in with seven RBIs. The infielder is coming off a season with the Elizabethton Twins of the Appalachian League in which he hit .303 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 32 games.

Joey Rickard, a Tampa Bay Rays farmhand, collected four hits in the series and now carries a .359 batting average, two home runs and four stolen bases through the season's first 11 games. Selected in the ninth round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Rickard swiped 30 bases last season with the Bowling Green Hot Rods.

On the mound, Andrew Aizenstadt continued his dominance out of the bullpen with four scoreless innings. The 6-foot-5 right-hander spent parts of the 2012 and '13 seasons in the Phillies' organization, and he has posted a 1-0 record and 0.96 ERA through six ABL outings. Aizenstadt has allowed one run on seven hits in 9 1/3 innings of work with seven strikeouts.

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All six ABL teams will be in action this upcoming weekend, with the Aces hosting the Cavalry, the Sydney Blue Sox at home against the Heat and the Adelaide Bite squaring off with the Bandits in Adelaide.

Craig Durham is a contributor to