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Heat v Aces ABL preview

The fate of Perth Heat remains in their own hands heading into the final round of the ABL regular season and things couldn’t be set up any better with Melbourne Aces coming to Perth Harley-Davidson Ballpark with second spot up for grabs.


The Heat and Aces are locked on identical 21-15 records coming into the final round of the ABL regular season which begins this Thursday night at Perth Harley-Davidson Ballpark at 7pm.


Game 2 will then take place on Friday night before the series will then wrap up with a double-header on Saturday beginning at 4pm, and there couldn’t be more at stake for the two teams coming into the encounter.


Locked on the same record in the southwest conference and with the Adelaide Giants having all but sewn up top spot, that leaves the Heat and Aces fighting over second position and a guaranteed spot in the semi finals.


The team that wins this series in Perth to close the regular season will finish second in the southwest division and third overall in the ABL to advance straight to the semi finals.


But the loser will remain third in the division and be the fifth placed team across the league meaning they will play a Wildcard game on Tuesday January 28 on the road, needing to win that one-off game to advance to the semi finals.


That all sets the stage for a series that has it all between the Heat and Aces this weekend. Going back to their series in Melbourne earlier this season and it only heightens what is to come with that series tied at two wins apiece after a Robbie Glendinning grand slam in the fourth game.

Heat captain Tim Kennelly has every reason to be feeling confident about his team's chances of winning and moving straight into the semi finals, but he knows getting off to a good start is going to be pivotal.


"This weekend obviously we need to win the series to avoid that Wildcard game even though we'll be in the finals either way by the looks of it. But trying to get to that three-game series is huge for us," Kennelly said.


"Trying to win Game 1 and taking care of that first is where our focus is. We'll have Sharkie going again for us who has been outstanding all year. We'll just try to get those early runs on the board and that's pretty key for us to keep that momentum over in the dugout.


"We'll just worry about taking Game 1 first and then the hopefully the series should take care of itself."

The Heat's pitching has been their great strength right throughout the ABL season, and they remain the best pitching team in the league, but the batting is building momentum too.


They were outstanding in last week's 3-1 series win on the road to Geelong-Korea by hitting 15 home runs and scoring 33 runs across the four matches.

American powerhouse Nico Hulsizer hit four homers on his own while Kaleo Johnson cleared the fence three times, and Tim Kennelly and Sam Kennelly twice apiece.


That has improved the Heat's batting numbers overall to an average of .269 to be third in the ABL having hit a league-high 49 home runs and scored 195 runs with 319 hits.


But the Aces have been slightly better with the bat across the season with average of .292 with 37 home runs, 203 runs and 357 hits.


Colin Willis is having a brilliant season for the Aces averaging .425 from 87 times at bat where he's hit just two home runs but had 37 hits and scored 28 runs. Delmon Young has hit 11 homers for Melbourne on the season and is their leading hitter too with 46.


Meanwhile, the Heat's great advantage could still be in their pitching, led by South African sensation Dylan Unsworth who will again start off in the series opener on Thursday night.

The Heat continue to lead the league pitching-wise with a team era of 3.08. Only three teams in the ABL are under four and the Aces are also one of those at 3.75.


Across the 36 matches and 304 innings this season, the Heat have only conceded 18 home runs and 137 runs from 261 hits while delivering 314 strike outs.

In comparison, the Aces have given up 28 home runs, 153 runs and 282 hits with 281 strikeouts from 307 innings.


Unsworth will start game 1 and he has put himself right in contention to be the ABL's best pitcher this season.


His numbers are phenomenal with an ERA of 2.11 while being credited with six wins from nine starts on the back of 68 strikeouts and only conceding 18 runs and 43 hits in 64 innings.

Meanwhile, the Aces will be full of added motivation with star veteran trio Allan De San Miguel, Luke Hughes and Peter Moylan looking to extend their careers having announced this will be their final ABL seasons.


Hughes played with the Heat between the 2010/11 and 2017/18 seasons while De San Miguel also played in Perth up until the end of 2015/16 from the start of the ABL.


The pair won four Claxton Shields in the first five seasons of the ABL while going to the championship series on each occasion with the Heat, so it's fair to say they know Perth Harley-Davidson Ballpark well and will return home with fond memories.

But they will also be motivated to make life tougher for their former team and to advance the Aces cause as they attempt to finish their decorated Australian baseball careers on the best possible note.


ROUND 10 ABL SEASON (AWST)

THURSDAY

Perth Heat v Melbourne Aces – Perth Harley-Davidson Ballpark, 7pm

FRIDAY

Perth Heat v Melbourne Aces – Perth Harley-Davidson Ballpark, 7pm

SATURDAY

Perth Heat v Melbourne Aces – Perth Harley-Davidson Ballpark, 4pm

Perth Heat v Melbourne Aces – Perth Harley-Davidson Ballpark, 7pm




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