If the Auckland Tuatara are unable to overcome their woes at the plate, they'll have to watch as their hopes of competing for a spot in the playoffs are crushed.
The Tuatara have struggled mightily with bat in hand this season on their way to a less than impressive 4-11 record through their first four series. They've posted 43 runs through those 15 matches, with nine of those being scored in one outing.
The team left home shores today on a 40-day road trip around Australia where they'll play out the rest of their season. Manager Steve Mintz said the team knew they had to make a move soon to keep their season alive, and this weekend's series against fellow ABL newcomers Geelong-Korea, who have struggled their way to a 2-14 record, was a good place to start.
"We've got to start somewhere, and that's who we play next. Obviously we're not going over there thinking we're going to mop them up, we still have to play the game; we still have to get 27 outs and have one more run than they do.
"We understand what we're up against now. It's not impossible … but we have to play good baseball; we've got to start hitting."
The Tuatara lead all teams in striking out, and have the lowest batting average and on-base percentages in the competition. They have just two players who have successfully gotten a hit in more than 25 percent of their at-bats: Baltimore Orioles first base prospect Guiyuan Xu and utility Kris Richards.
However, when they've managed to get on base they've been a problem for their opposition and lead the league in stolen bases, with outfielder Eric Jenkins second in the league in that category.
The pitching, on the other hand, has been strong since some opening week hiccups. Canadian reliever Brandon Marklund has been locked in and retiring hitters at a high rate, while the starting rotation has continued to pitch well.
"We have the team to win games, there are just a lot of things we've got to continue to work on and do better," Mintz said.
"This is a hard game, and when you're not doing things you think you can do, it wears on you. It's up to me and the coaching staff to keep these guys positive, keep them going, keep them fighting and keep them competing out there."
The Tuatara will be without catcher Kuo Chun-Wei for the series in Geelong this weekend as he continues to recover for a nasty collision at home plate against Sydney last weekend. Taka Kaneko will travel with the squad instead.
Young Aucklander Elliot Johnstone will also get his opportunity in Tuatara colours, replacing the injured Kyle Glogoski in the pitching rotation during the series in Geelong.
The series gets underway on Thursday night.
Auckland Tuatara batting statistics
- 457 at-bats (fewest in the league)
- 99 hits (fewest in the league)
- 28 extra-base hits (second fewest in league)
- 149 strikeouts (most in the league)
- 36 walks (fewest in the league)
- .278 on-base percentage (lowest in the league)
- .217 batting average (lowest in the league)
- 19 stolen bases (most in the league)
- 4 home runs (fewest in the league)
- 43 runs scored (fewest in the league)