Perth Heat/ Sydney Blue Sox preview
Perth Heat have turned their attention immediately post-Christmas to bouncing back from their first ABL series defeat of the season with star South African pitcher Dylan Unsworth ready to provide a big start on Friday against the Sydney Blue Sox.
The Heat lost their first series of the season last weekend at home to the Adelaide Giants losing the last three matches of the four-game series, while going scoreless over the past two matches and last 22 innings having led on Saturday's first game 5-4 after three at bats.
But the Heat remain well-placed this season with a 12-8 overall record to be second in the southwest conference just a game behind the Giants ahead of this weekend's road trip to Sydney to play the Blue Sox.
The Blue Sox themselves are coming off being swept against Auckland Tuatara and now with a 9-11 record, they have slipped from top spot in the northeast division.
So both the Heat and Blue Sox are looking to return to first place in their respective divisions while also attempting to bounce back from loss in their series last weekend heightening the significance of the contest.
The series gets underway at Blacktown International Sports Park on Friday night from 4.30pm WA time. Game 2 takes place Saturday from 3.30pm, Game 3 on Sunday from 1pm and then it concludes on Monday from 9am.
The Heat will begin the series on Friday night with South African star pitcher Unsworth getting the start as he looks to continue his outstanding start to his time with Perth in the ABL as he tries to knock down the door for another crack at Major League Baseball.
Unsworth is a significant reason why the Heat lead the league with a 2.90 ERA this season while Sydney ranks last at 5.00 ERA.
The South African is behind much of that success to date with three wins already credited to him from five starts all coming in the Game 1 of each series.
Along the way, Unsworth has delivered 33 strike outs while only conceding 24 hits and operating at a stunning 2.00 ERA.
But he credits the whole staff to the way the pitching has become the great strength of this Heat line-up so far in 2019/20 while the batting will be keen to hit back hard in Sydney this weekend.
"We've got a great group of pitching guys and they are great teammates. Everybody binds together which is really awesome," Unsworth said.
"It's more like a little family over here which his pretty cool because a lot of times overseas you don't really get that. If you struggle a little bit then the next guy will come in and pick you up, and that's how a team wins championships.
"They are a great group of boys and we all just help each other out every day. If you're struggling with something, there's always someone to help you out and everyone is wanting to learn every day which is pretty cool."
While only 27 years of age and potentially at the halfway point of his pitching career, Unsworth has ridden the highs and lows of spending nine years signed to the Seattle Mariners before then signing with the Los Angeles Angels in 2018.
He was banging down the door for a Major League chance notching a 6-1 AAA record, but ultimately he just missed out and now is looking to carry on this form he is currently in with the Heat to another opportunity.
With the form he's in, he is certainly giving himself every opportunity and deserves to be considered the best pitcher in the league right now. But he knows full well you have to ride the good with the bad in baseball.
"Well I've been pitching for the last 10 years so I've been doing it for a while and you have to take the good with the bad, and the bad with the good – you know it's baseball," Unsworth said.
"Right now I feel like I'm in a good place and the coaching staff, especially Tyler (Anderson) the pitching coach who brought me over here and believed me, believing in you and for them to say that Game 1 is mine is huge for me.
"They just want me to go out and give everything and over the last 10 or 11 years, that's what I do well – I compete. I give up five runs, I give up five runs but I'm still going to compete and maybe go another six, seven scoreless innings after that.
"Right now everything is working whether it's my change up, curve ball, sinker, fast ball. It's all coming out nicely and I'm feeling good but it's baseball and you have to take the good with the bad and you have to keep rolling with it."
ROUND 6 ABL SEASON (AWST)
Perth Heat v Sydney Blue Sox – Blacktown International Sports Park, 4.30pm
Perth Heat v Sydney Blue Sox – Blacktown International Sports Park, 3.30pm
Perth Heat v Sydney Blue Sox – Blacktown International Sports Park, 1pm
Perth Heat v Sydney Blue Sox – Blacktown International Sports Park, 9am
Written by Chris Pike.
IMAGE: Perth Heat