Week 10 in the Australian Baseball League saw the playoff race heat up as the Adelaide Bite took three of four from the Canberra Cavalry, the Melbourne Aces split a four-game series with league-leading Perth, and the Sydney Blue Sox split a series with the Brisbane Bandits.* * * * *
Adelaide got itself back into postseason contention by winning three tight ballgames, receiving major contributions from Astros prospect Joe Sclafani. The utility infielder went 7-for-19 with four stolen bases and an RBI in the series, and is now riding a seven-game hit streak that has seen him collect two hits in five of his last seven games. Over his last 10 games, Sclafani is batting .342 with five RBIs and five stolen bases.
Adelaide also benefited from a breakout weekend from 22-year-old Mariners prospect Brock Hebert. The leadoff man and Louisiana native finished the series with six hits, including his first home run of the season, and a pair of stolen bases.
For Canberra, Jon Berti continued to be one of the best all-around players in the ABL, going 6-for-18 with two RBIs and three stolen bases over the course of the weekend. With hits in all four games, Berti now carries an 11-game hit streak into next weekend's action. The Blue Jays prospect is hitting .300 with a home run and 16 RBIs on the season, while leading the league with 38 runs scored and 23 stolen bases in 34 games.
Canadian born Michael Crouse, another Blue Jays prospect, went 6-for-16 in the series, including two home runs, three RBIs and a pair of stolen bases. In 27 games this season, Crouse is hitting .330 with six home runs, 17 RBIs and 10 steals.* * * * *
A wild weekend in Melbourne featured a walk-off win, a near no-hitter, a 15-0 blowout and ultimately a ton of offense from the Perth Heat.
Tim Kennelly, a longtime Phillies farmhand, was on fire throughout the series, going 10-for-17 with three home runs and six RBIs. One of four Kennellys to occupy a spot on Perth's roster, Tim collected three hits in three games in the series, and raised his batting average to .348 after 23 games in the ABL.
Tim's brother, Braves prospect Matt Kennelly, finished the weekend with four hits and four RBIs while playing both behind the plate and at first base.
Allan de San Miguel, who joined the Heat on Thursday night, had a big first weekend going 5-for-15 with a home run and four RBIs. A staple of Perth teams in years past, de San Miguel had even more reason to celebrate this weekend as he was signed by the Colorado Rockies on Friday.
Orioles prospect George Barber also had a solid series for Perth, making a number of sparkling defensive plays in center-field while collecting four hits and a home run.
The Aces received the top pitching performance of the weekend from former Rangers Minor Leaguer Joe Burns. The left-hander lost his bid for a perfect game in the seventh inning on an error, and lost his no-hitter in the eighth, but managed to improve to 5-1 by allowing one run on two hits over eight innings. Burns struck out six without walking a batter, and has fanned 46 while walking just six in 53 innings this season. His 2.55 ERA ranks fourth amongst ABL starters, and he has held opposing hitters to a .190 batting average through nine starts.
Offensively, Justin Trapp and Jared Schlehuber of the Royals continued to lead the Melbourne attack. Trapp extended his hitting streak to 13 games with hits in all four games of the series and finished the weekend with four RBIs and three stolen bases. Schlehuber chipped in with five hits, including a home run and four RBIs, and is now hitting .317 with six homers and 26 RBIs on the season.
Darryl George, a 20-year-old Rays prospect, continued his resurgent second half with a four-hit series, and is hitting .368 with three RBIs and four stolen bases over his last 10 games.* * * * *
The Sydney Blue Sox broke out of their offensive funk while splitting a series with the Brisbane Bandits, led by No. 15 White Sox prospect Jacob May. May was 6-for-16 in the series with two home runs, four RBIs and two stolen bases. The 21-year-old outfielder ranks third in the league with 15 stolen bases, and has rounded out his season with a .266 average, four home runs and 10 RBIs batting in the leadoff spot.
Detroit Tigers 18-year-old prospect Zach Shepherd had a five hit series with an RBI while D-backs prospect Keon Broxton finished the weekend with four hits, two RBIs and a stolen base for Sydney.
Brisbane found offense in 22-year-old Twins prospect Logan Wade, who collected five RBIs on four hits in the series, and 20-year-old Indians prospect Ryan Battaglia who drove in three runs in three games played. Battaglia, a catcher, now has 14 RBIs and 13 extra-base hits in just 26 games played this season.
Meanwhile, Tristan Crawford remained terrific out of the Bandits bullpen. The Alaska native struck out five over three scoreless innings while earning his second win of the season. The right-hander has gone 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA and three saves in 12 appearances, holding opposing hitters to a .164 average and striking out 20 in 16 innings of work.* * * * *
With just three weeks remaining in the regular season, a sensational playoff race is shaping up as five teams find themselves within four games of one another. Next weekend will see Melbourne travel to Adelaide, Brisbane head to Perth, and Canberra playing a four-game series in Sydney.
Craig Durham is a contributor to MLB.com.