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Playoff spot on the line in final weekend for Heat

Chris Pike

With nine people involved with Major League Baseball experience and Perth Heat trying to lock away an ABL playoff spot, and then fighting for first place, it couldn’t be a bigger last weekend of the regular season to come against the Melbourne Aces.

If it's not enough that the Heat and Aces are still fighting over a playoff spot in the last weekend of the regular season, but the series at Empire Ballpark starting Friday night features no fewer than nine people involved who have played Major League Baseball.

The equation is quite simple for both teams going into Friday night's opening game of the series. The only way the Aces can still reach the playoffs is by winning all four games so that opening match will set the tone for the weekend.

If Melbourne wins all four games, then the Aces reach the playoffs and the Heat miss out altogether.

However, one win from the four games will be enough for the Heat to reach the post-season. Then how many wins they get will determine whether it's a first or second place finish.

Coming into the final round, the Adelaide Giants are first in the southwest division at 21-15 with the Heat second at 20-16. Perth needs to win at least one more game than Adelaide does in their series against Geelong-Korea.

The difference between a first and second place finish is significant as well. Whoever finishes first in the division will host either the Canberra Cavalry or Auckland Tuatara while the second place team will need to play on the road to the rampant Brisbane Bandits.

With so much on the line, former Detroit Tigers and veteran Heat pitcher Warwick Saupold can't wait to get out there this weekend with the one game Friday night, double-header on Saturday, and the last game of the regular season on Sunday.

"We're in a good spot. We're throwing the ball really well, hitting the ball really well and guys are starting to get hot," Saupold said.

"There are guys with bats really starting to wind up. This is where it's called fun time and we'll go out there starting Friday night to give it our all and hopefully get the win."

With the playoff stakes and then nine people involved in the game having MLB experience, it's going to be quite the weekend.

"Two weeks ago at home was awesome to see so many fans here all weekend. It was something special and it drives the boys up. We want to see the packed house this weekend too because it gets us up and about. We're really looking forward to it," Saupold said.

"It's a cool experience for the fans to see especially because on the other side there's two West Australian boys too. That's even more special and there's a bit of a rivalry there, and there's a lot on it.

"There's playoff positions involved and possibly first place. We're looking forward to it and we're really excited to start on Friday night."

The Heat team this weekend features Josh Reddick, Pete Kozma and Saupold who will be playing with Major League experience as does assistant coach Luke Hughes.

The Aces also feature Aaron Whitefield, Ryan Lavarnway, Brian Flynn and manager Peter Moylan and pitching coach Graeme Lloyd with MLB experience, including Lloyd being a former Heat star himself and winning two World Series rings at the New York Yankees.

Saupold is excited to part of a weekend featuring such experience and feels those on the Heat with the cool heads will be crucial.

"It means a lot having those experienced players," Saupold said.

"Obviously the game speeds up when things aren’t going great so it's good to have guys in each position, the outfield like Redick and short stop with Kozma and on the mound with myself.

"It helps to slow the game down and understand that you can make your pitch, make your play and get out of big situations, and keep a calm head about yourselves and move on. It's a great tool to have and we're very lucky and fortunate to have it in our clubhouse."

IMAGE: Perth Heat


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