Heat triumph for Kennelly
The Perth Heat have bounced back impressively from their first series loss of the ABL season to beat the Sydney Blue Sox 3-1 on the road as captain Tim Kennelly brought up his 300th appearance.
Having already recorded his 350th ABL career hit earlier this month, Kennelly brought up his 300th game in the league during the series against the Blue Sox at Sydney International Sports Park.
In the end, the Heat won games on Friday, Saturday and Monday to take it three games to one and to improve to a 15-9 record on the season to remain knocking on the door of the southwest conference leading Adelaide Giants.
"It is a strong division and we saw that firsthand when we played Adelaide last weekend. They got the better of us and we dropped our first series, and they looked very strong," Kennelly said.
"It's very important that we keep on tacking up wins winning as many series as we can. This one was a big one for us just to keep us in the hunt for top spot in that division."
The Heat were looking to bounce back from losing their first series of the 2019/20 ABL season last week to the Adelaide Giants at Harley-Davidson Ballpark, but it was always going to be a tough challenge away to the perennially strong Blue Sox.
But the Heat started strongly on Friday night led by South African pitcher Dylan Unsworth, who was awarded his fourth win from six starts this season in a 5-3 victory.
The Heat hadn’t scored in the last 22 innings against the Giants the previous week and that stretched to 26 having failed to score in the first four appearances at bat on Friday night.
But they managed to score five runs over the fifth and sixth innings to rack up 14 hits for the night on the way to the 5-3 victory.
Perth then made a fast start on Saturday night with two runs in the first inning. Sydney tied scores up with two runs in the fourth and then scores remained 2-2 at the end of nine.
The game went into the 10th inning tie-break with both teams starting with runners on first and second. It was a clever Heat move for Jess Williams to bunt and get bases loaded and then Tim Kennelly made good connection on a sacrificial fly ball.
He might have got caught, but Ulrich Bojarski scored while Alex Hall and Jess Williams advanced. A Pete Kozma single and then Robbie Glendinning getting walked allowed the Heat to go up 5-2. That's where the scored stayed as Daniel Schmidt completed a standout 10-inning pitching display.
Kennelly couldn’t help but reflect on just how important that 10th inning performance was in the contest of the series, and potentially the Heat's season.
"Obviously the tie-breaker rule is something that's been brought into the ABL which is pretty cool. Jess Williams did the job of getting the bunt down to get on base which loaded up. With loaded bases with none out, it's pretty simple at bat really," Kennelly said.
"You just have to put the ball in play and try to score a run. Then Pete came up huge after me and got a base hit for us to score another couple. You just try and score one or two runs in that extra inning to give your team a chance to win."
The Heat had the chance to wrap the series up on Sunday in what doubled as the 300th ABL appearance of Tim Kennelly. But it wasn’t to be with the Blue Sox starting on fire with eight runs over the first four innings on the way to securing the 8-4 victory despite 13 hits from the Heat.
That left the Heat with some work to do to close out the series on Monday with Trevor Frank up to pitch. Sydney scored first in the first inning but the Heat's bats soon warmed to the task.
The visitors piled on four runs in the third highlighted by a Kennelly double in game No. 301.
Things remained tight until the seventh when the Heat pulled away with a home run to Jordan Qsar which brought Kennelly home to take scores to 6-3. Bojarski also homered in the eighth and the Heat went on to win 10-3 to take the series three games to one.
The Heat are back home this coming weekend to bring in 2020 looking for revenge for last year's championship series against the Brisbane Bandits with the series starting Friday night before two games on Saturday and the decider on Sunday at Harley-Davidson Ballpark.
Any milestone provides the opportunity to reflect on your career while at 33 Kennelly has plenty left in the tank, that's what reaching 300 games in the ABL allows him to do.
With more than 350 hits in the league along with having been part of the Heat's four championships since 2010 along with winning an MVP award, there's little Kennelly hasn’t achieved.
But it's winning those titles and getting to play alongside his brothers over the years that standout to him as he turns into reflection mode.
"You look back on your career and it's some of the championships you've won that stand out. You share those memories with a lot of your teammates and Aussie players that you grew up playing with from a young age. To share those memories with them has been pretty special," Kennelly said.
"Obviously it's pretty special playing with your brothers. You grow up playing in the backyard and to then get to put on the uniform together in a professional team is pretty cool.
"They are all travelling along pretty well and Sam has been on and off the roster this season, so hopefully he can get back on it and I can play with him at the Heat again."
Written by Chris Pike.