Last night the Perth Heat lay claim to their third title in four year knocking off the defending champion Canberra Cavalry 2-1 at Barbagallo Park. The Perth Heat proved to be the better team on the night with starter Brian Baker proving a strong outing for Perth in the biggest game he has pitched in since becoming a starter in December.
The Heat got started early in the bottom of the first thanks to the bat of Brandon Tripp who brought in Corey Adamson with a
strike to right field. Joey Wong advanced Adamson to second with a sacrifice bunt, with Adamson following this by stealing of third, one of the biggest plays of the night. The Heat continued to remain a threat to score particularly in the third, however Canberra starter Ethan Cole came up with a big strike them out throw them out double play that could have easily tiled the momentum back towards Canberra.
However, Baker continued to be dominant and in fact had left the Cavalry hitless through 4 innings until catcher Jack Murphy, as he has done throughout this season came up with a big hit. This one, a leadoff triple that would be a potential threat to the Perth Heat. Unfortunately for Canberra, Perth was able to work out of the situation with clutch pitching and superb defence. Two hallmarks of this Heat side.
The Heat blew several chances with Cole getting Brandon Tripp out twice when there were runners on base. But eventually, after consistent pressure, the Heat was able to drive in another run that would make it exceedingly difficult for Canberra to come back and level the series. This run was driven in by who else, Allan de San Miguel, bringing in Matt Kennelly after he hit his first triple of the year. Overall, Cole’s start was solid, but not spectacular allowing 2 earned runs, 10 hits in 5.2 innings pitched.
Baker would continue his dominance of the Canberra line-up working an easy sixth innings and would finish with the line of 1 earned run, allowing 2 hits in 6.1 innings pitched. The run surrendered was off the second hit, a solo Home Run blasted by Jeremy Barnes in the seventh inning to cut the deficit to 2-1 with one out. To replace Baker the Heat went to Cameron Lamb who picked up the last two outs with the spectacular defence of Joey Wong who has protected the infield for the Heat spectacularly this season and throughout these two games.
Canberra would have one more chance to try level this game coming in the eighth inning. At this stage for the Heat Warwick Saupold was in for the Heat. He retired the first hitter Aaron Sloan, but then proceeded to walk Jon Berti. Ben Warner struck out looking and then proceeded to strike out Casey Frawley, despite Berti stealing second to end that chance for Canberra.
The Heat did not add to their lead in the eighth, with the Heat needing to protect a 1 run lead going into the ninth. Saupold remained on the mound on the getting them 1-2-3 with big strikeouts of Jeremy Barnes and Jack Murphy. For the final out, Mike Crouse was retired a fly ball to centre field ending another cracking game and series between two tough teams.
Baker earned the win and Cole was charged with the loss. The Heat’s three championships in four seasons is an incredible feat. All aspects of their game have been near or top of the league this season lead by American imports Mike Ekstrom, Tucker Nathans and eventual MVP of this championship series Joey Wong. Wong adds this accolade to his MVP from the all-star game earlier in the season. So another season is finished in the ABL, with the Perth Heat as your champions, and the question that other teams will be asking themselves is how can you beat the Perth Heat?