Hulsizer hits big for Perth Heat
Perth Heat's batters answered the call to stand up at the business end of the ABL season with their best performance of the campaign to beat Geelong-Korea 3-1 on the weekend but they remain locked in a battle over second position.
The Heat headed on the road for the second straight week needing to bounce back from a loss against the Adelaide Giants last weekend which left them almost out of the race for top spot in the southwest conference, and battling for second with the Melbourne Aces.
That meant they simply had no choice but to beat Geelong-Korea this weekend before hosting the Aces in the final round of the regular season at Perth Harley-Davidson Ballpark.
Inconsistent batting has been the story of the season for the Heat, but it wasn’t the case over the series in Geelong, resulting in impressive 4-0, 7-2 and 14-2 victories. While Geelong-Korea won Game 4 on Sunday 10-8, the Heat's batting was still OK with eight runs from 14 hits.
The 3-1 series result means that the Heat missed a chance to go ahead of the Aces back into second spot with the loss on Sunday. The Heat and Aces are now tied at 21-15 coming into this final round in Perth starting Thursday night with everything on the line.
With the way the ABL playoffs are structured, a second place finish would see the Heat advance to the semi finals likely to play the Auckland Tuatara, who lead the northeast conference.
Across the four games, the Heat ended up scoring 33 runs on the back of 15 home runs, 47 hits and it was the most impressive display with the bat all season.
American Hulsizer, dubbed 'The Hulk' was the undoubted star of the series ending up hammering four home runs with seven hits for five runs and batting in another 11 runs for his teammates going at an average of .438 – nearly double his season mark.
That sort of hitting display shows why Hulsizer has quickly become a fan favourite at the Heat this season, but he was far from the only batter to shine over the series as well, which is no surprise when you score 33 runs with 15 homers.
The seven home run performance of the team in Saturday night's big win equalled a franchise record for the Heat.
Kaleo Johnson cleared the fence three times for the series against Geelong-Korea, Tim Kennelly and Sam Kennelly twice apiece, and Ulrich Bojarski, Jordan Qsar, Pete Kozma and Robbie Glendinning all once. Glendinning had a team-high nine hits.
The series began back on Thursday and it was another standout pitching performance from Dylan Unsworth, who produced a shutout and delivered six more strikeouts in six innings.
Ulrich Bojarski, Niko Hulsizer and Jordan Qsar all cleared the fence to secure the win.
Then on Friday night, it was another brilliant pitching effort from all five pitchers used to hold Geelong to two runs. Then offensively, Kaleo Johnson, Pete Kozma and again Hulsizer hit home runs as the team racked up 10 hits on the way to seven runs.
The series was wrapped up on Saturday night and it was among the most dynamic hitting performance in history from the Heat.
The Heat raced to an 8-0 lead after two innings with Hulsizer getting his third homer in as many games this weekend. Captain Tim Kennelly also cleared the fence in the second inning to bring in two more runs before Hulsizer continued to shine with his second of the night to make it 8-0.
Johnson would hit two more homers as the night unfolded with Sam Kennelly and Robbie Glendinning also hitting big as they amassed an equal franchise high of seven homers in the game to secure the series with the 14-2 win.
The Heat would have been disappointed with the 10-8 Game 4 loss on Sunday, especially considering it went to a 10th inning and Geelong-Korea scored four runs to take the game away from them.
The Heat still managed to score eight runs on the back of 14 hits throughout the game including home runs from Sam and Tim Kennelly.
But they couldn’t quite close out the Geelong-Korean team when it got to that 10th inning as they missed a chance to move a game clear of the Aces which would have taken a little of the pressure off the series back at home this weekend starting Thursday and finishing with the double-header on Saturday.
Written by Chris Pike.