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HEAT return favour and sweep Sydney
01/09/2011 11:56 PM ET
Ronnie Welty led the Heat's offense with three hits.
Ronnie Welty led the Heat's offense with three hits. (TEAM Image)
SYDNEY - The saying goes that turnabout is fair play. For the Perth Heat, it might be season-saving play, as well.

A week after a seemingly devastating series sweep by the Blue Sox on their home ground left them in fourth place, the resurgent Heat rebounded to proclaim loudly to the Australian Baseball League that they are anything but done in the circuit's regular season title fight. Mitchell Graham snapped a scoreless duel in the top of the seventh inning with an RBI double in support of an outstanding effort from Perth starter Matt Zachary, and the Heat knocked off the Sox for the fourth time in as many days 4-1 at Blacktown Olympic Park.

"[Perth's] approach at the plate was a lot better this weekend. They really valued their at-bats, and they swung the bats great," said Blue Sox manager Glenn Williams. "They've got a really good hitting team, and they're a kind of lineup that if they get hot at the right time, they can definitely come through and win four games in a row. They proved that this weekend."

Following last week's dominant performance by Sydney, the Heat were out for revenge in a crucial series in New South Wales.

"We didn't discount that for a minute," Williams said. "We went over to Perth, and we swung the bats the way that they did when they came here, and we were really happy with that. But we were very cognizant of the fact that those guys were going to come out and come out playing."

From the start, pitchers Craig Anderson and Zachary threw up zero after zero on the left-centre field scoreboard, and the game was a scoreless draw entering the sixth. That's when the afternoon's momentum seemed to turn in a controversial Sydney half.

Michael Lysaught led off the dig with a double to centre, but on a Trent D'Antonio grounder to second one batter later, Lysaught was called out trying to advance ahead of Luke Hughes' throw to third. Lysaught appeared to beat the throw, if not the tag, but despite an argument from Williams, Sydney's leadoff man in scoring position was gone. One batter after that, Trent Schmutter tapped a roller to the right side of the infield where Hughes fielded and tossed it to second base. The throw was apparently gloved briefly at the bag by shortstop Graham before trickling into left field, but umpire Matt Carter ruled the play a catch and the lead runner out. Williams wasn't pleased with the call, and neither were the 1,175 in attendance at the ballpark who sent boos cascading down upon the officiating crew. A subsequent argument led to the Sydney manager's ejection. Perth got out of the inning unscathed.

"From where I saw it, a couple of calls in a pivotal situation, we get a leadoff double there from Mickey and move him over. We get the job done and then get a call that's pretty questionable in my eyes," Williams said. "Then the very next play, another very questionable call where we could have been second and third and one out. You never know. They might have struck the next two guys out. You don't have a crystal ball, but it's disappointing on our end. The guys are out there busting their backsides putting themselves in good positions and giving themselves chances, and those chances got taken away from us."

Perth didn't miss its opportunity with the game still knotted at zero. With a pair of men in scoring position, Graham drove his double to the wall in left field to plate Ronnie Welty and give Perth a 1-0 lead. Anderson (3-2) played the role of tough-luck loser, allowing only one run while scattering seven hits over seven innings in an otherwise sterling performance. Zachary (1-1) pitched seven shutout frames, surrendering just four hits and no walks while striking out four.

The Heat tacked on another run in the eighth and two more in the ninth. Sydney's lone threat came in the bottom of the final frame when the Blue Sox scored a run on a Tim Auty single and brought the potential tying run to the plate. With two men on, however, Warwick Saupold struck out Josh Dean, Pat Maat, and Shannon Pender in order following Auty's RBI to end the affair.

The Blue Sox have seen their fortunes change quickly in the course of four days, much the same Perth did last week. After entering the series in first place, three and a half games up on the Heat, the Sox exit it in third. The importance of Sydney's last home series of the regular season, against the Adelaide Bite from Wednesday to Saturday at BOP, wasn't lost on Williams nor his club. "We spoke about it here, and obviously everyone's really disappointed, but we're not trying to get caught up in series wins, series losses, who we're playing," the manager said. "At the start of the season, we talked about making sure that we're playing well enough to be right in the mix right at the end of it. Once the playoffs come, you never know what happens. You've just got to get there first, and we're happy that we're right in the mix of it. We're excited to go out and get to work against a good Adelaide team."

The Blue Sox continue their eight-game, two-series homestand on Wednesday when the Bite make their first visit of the year to Blacktown Olympic Park. Game time for all four contests is scheduled for 7:35.

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.