Season Series – The Perth Heat (32-14) won seven out of eleven contests against the Canberra Cavalry (24-25) this season, including a 4-0 sweep the one time the teams met in Perth. Since that sweep, however, the Cavalry have won four out of seven over the Heat, outscoring Perth 28-26 over that stretch.
What’s Coming – As you might expect, Game 1 features a great pitching matchup. Jack Frawley takes the mound for Perth, and he has enjoyed a stellar season. The only two pitchers in the ABL with a lower ERA than Frawley this season (Mike Ekstrom and Richard Olson) have pitched far fewer innings than Frawley.
Meanwhile, the Canberra Cavalry will send out Brian Grening to face the dangerous Heat lineup. Grening has actually enjoyed more success against the Heat this season than his 1-2 record indicates. In fact, in each of those losses Grening gave up just 3 runs while striking out 7.
On the season, Grening’s 70 strikeouts lead the rest of the ABL by a significant margin.
However, tonight Grening will need to bounce back from his unmitigated disaster of a performance against Sydney in the Preliminary Finals, when 5 runs crossed the plate before he was pulled early in the 2nd inning.
Point of Notice – If Perth has cause for concern, it is that Canberra Cavalry finally regained their mid-season hitting form last weekend against the Blue Sox. The Cavs plated 11 in a loss before going to Sydney and outscoring the Blue Sox by a combined score of 13-4. The 24 runs Canberra scored in the Preliminary Finals were more than they had scored in their previous nine games combined.
Also of note, it will be interesting to see if the long layoff has any negative effect for Perth in Game 1. The Heat have not played in two weeks, and have not played a meaningful game since clinching the Minor Premiership on the 19th of January. This is only the second season that the ABL has used this playoff format, though it should be noted that Canberra showed no rust in Game 1 of the ABLCS last season.
What We Think – There is no getting around the fact that all logic points to another Heat championship. However, from the Asia Series, to the final day of the regular season, to the Preliminary Finals, the Cavalry have enjoyed a season that has consistently flown in the face of logic and prognostication.
Canberra brings significant momentum to WA, which will lead to a Game 1 victory, and the pressure of playing in front of a home crowd that has expected a title all season will finally catch up to the heat in a tight Game 3. The Cavalry will retain the Claxton Shield in a thrilling three-game series.