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Firing Saupold hopes to lead Heat response

By Chris Pike

Perth Heat pitching gun Warwick Saupold has had a strong start to the ABL season and across the three games he's pitched in he's going at a stunningly low ERA of 1.40, but for him it's all about bouncing back as a team.

The Heat have taken to heart a surprise home series loss to the Auckland Tuatara with Saupold keen to lead the response this weekend again at home to the Sydney Blue Sox.

Saupold has already had quite the decorated career setting an ABL record with a 1.41 ERA back in the 2011-12 season while part of two championships with the Heat before ending up in the MLB at the Detroit Tigers, and more recently in Japan.

He returned to the Heat in 2020 but with the last two seasons ravaged by COVID, it's only now he's getting the chance to show just what he's got left in his 32-year-old tank – and it's mighty impressive.

Despite the challenges in the start to the ABL season, Saupold has thrown eight strikeouts and only conceded four runs in his 19 innings across the three games he's played, and earned two wins in.

He's happy with the way he's throwing them and looks to continue building on that.

"It's been good although the schedule to start with has been tough," Saupold said.

"Obviously with national commitments up to Japan and then coming back, and getting straight off the plane into a series against Adelaide.

"The body took a bit of a hit with that and a bit of hamstring tightness probably from the travel, and then I missed Week 2 with some family commitments wasn’t ideal. I'm grateful that I've settled back in and put up a decent start against Geelong and then a good one last weekend."

Saupold feels he is only just warming into the season as well, but he's already especially excited by fellow starting pitchers Brock Gilliam and Gunnar Kines.

"I'm just trying to get back in a groove and I'm really enjoying guys like Brock Gilliam and Gunnar Kines go about it too," he said.

"We're all feeding off each other and I love watching those guys pitch and go to work. They're starting to put on clinics themselves so it's been fun watching those two guys and it pushes you to want to do better too.

"Our starting pitching right now is in good shape so if we can continue that hopefully everything else can fall into place."

Despite coming off back-to-back trips to Victoria to take on the Melbourne Aces and Geelong-Korea, the Heat were sitting atop the Southwest Division. But losing three of four games to Auckland at Empire Ballpark last weekend saw them slip to second at 8-8 behind the 11-5 Adelaide Giants.

They now remain at home this weekend starting Friday night against the struggling Blue Sox who are 2-13 to be last in the Northeast Division.

"It was obviously a frustrating result and to be honest after training last night we've all taken it pretty personally," Saupold said.

"We know that's not really acceptable for us and we know we're a really good team, and aren’t far away, but when you can't be consistent and drop games that you're in a chance to win, it hurts.

"We need to do a better job of taking accountability and winning these close games, and coming back with a big hit or shutting down a big inning. It's frustrating but lucky for us we move on quickly and get ready for Sydney this weekend."

Saupold was one of several Heat players who represented Team Australia in Japan on the eve of the ABL season before returning home and thrust into the season-opening series with the Adelaide Giants.

That didn’t necessarily agree with his body, but the Heat responded well to win that series before splitting their Victorian trips with a loss to Melbourne and win over Geelong-Korea.

However, coming off last weekend's disappointing performance against Auckland at home, the focus for Saupold and everyone at the Heat is bouncing back and giving the home fans more to cheer about.

"Obviously it's been a really hard start to the year and the schedule's been crazy," Saupold said.

"We had a few guys with national commitments up to Japan and then straight into a series at home against Adelaide, and back to back Melbourne trips, which is probably the hardest in baseball when you add in the trip down to Geelong.

"It's been a hard schedule but we're not making excuses. We were really eager to get home to play in front of our crowd, and we let our fans down. But we've gone back to work, all had a chat together and we're really eager to get after Sydney this weekend.

"They aren’t going that well but have nothing to lose and will throw everything at us. We also have a big weekend at the Ballpark celebrating the Claxton Shield winners.

"We have to stand up and we want to put on a show for not only everyone who has played in the Claxton Shield, but our fans who keep coming to support us."

IMAGE: File.

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