Heat v Giants preview
The Perth Heat have the chance to return to the top of the ABL this weekend with a series victory against the Adelaide Giants and manager Brooke Knight thinks batting smartly to the conditions will be key as he continues to have faith in his pitching staff.
The Heat came away with a surprise series tie last weekend at Perth Harley-Davidson Ballpark after setting the venue alight in the opening 10 innings against the Brisbane Bandits piling on 18 runs.
They still won the first two games on the back of that, but the four-time defending champion Bandits responded to win the last two matches and deny the Heat the chance to snatch top spot in the southwest conference from Adelaide.
The Giants had their series last weekend with the Canberra Cavalry rescheduled due to the bushfire situation so now this weekend will determine who sits in top spot in the conference with three rounds to go.
Coming into the Round 8 contest at Adelaide Shores Baseball Complex starting on Friday night before two games on Saturday and the fourth on Sunday, the Heat sit second at 17-11 while the Giants remain in first place at 16-8.
The batting has been hit and miss for the Heat so far this season and never more evident was it last week after their dominance in the first 10 innings with 18 runs and then just seven runs in the remaining 24 times at bat.
But Knight has confidence they can get back on track in Adelaide provided they hit smartly in the beach-side conditions.
"When you go over there and play at West Beach with the wind blowing in, for our guys who have a lot of power, we have to be satisfied just hitting line drives," Knight said.
"You can hit the ball extremely well there and hit it in there, but it will get knocked down and be caught. Half our club hasn’t played at West Beach before and they have to understand that low line drives are going to win games.
"We can't look past any team and now Adelaide is very good, and hopefully it will self-motivate knowing we have to go in there and win at least two, if not three or four to get back in the driver's seat."
It was a disappointed Heat camp after losing the last two games last weekend to the Bandits with the knowledge they now face two series on the road starting in Adelaide and then against Geelong-Korea before finishing the regular season at home to Melbourne Aces.
Knight is under no illusions as to how important this series against the Giants is and he hopes his players rise to the occasion accordingly.
"It is going to define where we end up because the weekend after that is GK which have been a little bit light lately and then it could be a massive, massive Melbourne series here at home for us to finish up," Knight said.
"We can't go and drop the ball in Adelaide. We have to be competitive and we have to play well, and I'd love to get at least three if not all four being greedy. You don't want to come out of Adelaide with a split, that's just not where you want to be."
Pitching has been the great strength of the Heat so far this ABL season and even after last weekend's two losses to Brisbane, they lead the league with a team ERA of 3.18 while only conceding nine home runs and 83 earned runs while delivering 256 strikeouts.
That's why Knight isn’t too concerned after the last two games against the Bandits especially knowing he has South African star Dylan Unsworth, Trevor Frank and John Anderson locked in for the first three games.
"We've still got plenty of confidence in our pitching staff and we've been pretty darn consistent all season," Knight said.
"Maybe we were due for one of those stinky outings on the mound because they have carried us, but I know everybody will be excited to get over to Adelaide. They know how big that series is and they'll be ready to go.
"I really like our frontline pitching and the bullpen has been reliable, we just have to go and hit."
Being able to back in Unsworth to start a series as the pitcher in Game 1 remains one of the true strengths of the Heat team of this ABL season.
Then with Frank and Anderson to following in Games 2 and 3, Knight likes how they are delivering but that fourth game remains up in the air especially after last Sunday's outing at home to the Bandits.
"He has been Mr Consistency for us and then Trevor Frank will be even better with another start and John Anderson has been exceptional," Knight said.
"That day four starter is still a bit of a fight for it whether it's Neunborn, Perez, Bailey or a healthy Lourey again.
"We're still kind of rotating through that and trying to give different guys opportunities, but it would be nice if we could settle on somebody. But we still had five or six healthy arms to win this fourth game this week, which is
plenty. We just didn’t do the job."
ROUND 8 ABL SEASON (AWST)
Perth Heat v Adelaide Giants – Adelaide Shores Baseball Complex, 4.50pm
Perth Heat v Adelaide Giants – Adelaide Shores Baseball Complex, 1.30pm
Perth Heat v Adelaide Giants – Adelaide Shores Baseball Complex, 4.30pm
Perth Heat v Adelaide Giants – Adelaide Shores Baseball Complex, 9.30am