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Round One Preview: Heat, Bite kick off season
A new ABL campaign gets underway this weekend
10/31/2012 12:04 PM ET
Reigning ABLCS MVP Virgil Vasquez leads the Heat in Adelaide in Round One.
Reigning ABLCS MVP Virgil Vasquez leads the Heat in Adelaide in Round One. (SMP Images)

SYDNEY, 31 October - The grass is growing brighter, and the sun is getting hotter. Summer has nearly arrived in Australia, bringing with it a thrilling third season of Australian Baseball League action. This year, the league is packed with more storylines than ever. Will the Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat pull off their third consecutive Claxton Shield title? Which team is best poised to knock out the champs? Which young Aussies will assert themselves and show their promise as the nation's next great baseball star? It all starts now.

Adelaide Bite presented by SA Power Networks vs. Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat

(2011-12 Season Records)

Adelaide Bite: 20-25 / finished regular season in 3rd place / lost in Round One of postseason / 1-8 against Heat last season

Perth Heat: 34-11 / finished regular season in 1st place / won championship for second consecutive year / 8-1 against Bite last season

The first official game of the 2012/13 Australian Baseball League season will take place Thursday night, when the two-time defending champions Perth Heat take on the Adelaide Bite at Norwood Oval. 

Virgil Vasquez will toe the rubber for the Heat on Thursday, and could potentially be available for relief work on Saturday if needed. Former Yankee and Pirate, Anthony Claggett, will take the mound on Friday. New Heat manager Steve Fish could not commit to the starter in the finale, but narrowed the choice down to veterans Daniel Schmidt or Scott Mitchinson.

Look for the Heat’s bullpen to be very strong if called upon in this series, as they dominated hitters during Spring Training. Tim Kennelly, last year’s ABL MVP and one of the league’s top sluggers, has made the transition to pitching per the request of his parent club, the Philadelphia Phillies.  During his relief outing against the Blue Sox, while representing Australia this past weekend, he was clocked in the mid 90’s (mph).

The Heat will rely not only on Luke Hughes’ bat this season, but also his leadership. Along with imports Carter Bell (Arizona prospect) and Adam Melker (St. Louis), and Heat veteran Allan de San Miguel, Perth has the offensive firepower to drive in plenty of runs in the series.

Adelaide will bite back with left-hander Zac Fuesser, U.S. import from the Pittsburgh Pirates organisation, as the probable starting pitcher for the season opener. Righty Dushan Ruzic and lefty Paul Mildren are projected to start on Friday and Saturday, which will mark their third seasons pitching for Adelaide. 

The Bite will look for run support from centre fielder Nathan Melendres, one of four players on Adelaide’s roster from the Seattle Mariners organisation including Koreans Seon-Gi Kim and Ji-Man Choi, and infielder Justin Howard, who joins Fuesser as one of the four imports from the Pirates organisation. Shortstop and Adelaide native Jeremy Cresswell, who played with Team Australia over the weekend, will look to get his bat going against the Heat.

ROUND 1 SERIES SCHEDULE (Home team listed first, all times local)

Thursday 1 November

G1: Adelaide Bite vs. Perth Heat @ Norwood Oval - 7:00PM

Friday 2 November

G2: Adelaide Bite vs. Perth Heat @ Norwood Oval - 7:00PM

Saturday 3 November

G3: Adelaide Bite vs. Perth Heat @ Norwood Oval - 7:00PM

TEAM ROSTERS

Adelaide Bite       

Perth Heat

___

Canberra Cavalry driven by Rolfe Renault vs. Sydney Blue Sox

(2011-12 Season Records)

Sydney Blue Sox: 20-25 / finished regular season in 4th place / lost in round two of postseason / 4-5 against Cavalry last season

Canberra Cavalry: 20-25 / finished regular season in 6th place / 5-4 against the Blue Sox last season

Canberra’s home opening series will commence at the “Fort” in Narrabundah this Friday against the Sydney Blue Sox. Canberra will aim to earn their first trip to the postseason, while Sydney is chasing their first ABL title after reaching the playoffs in the league’s first two seasons.

U.S. import JD Williams (Minnesota Twins organisation) and returning Blue Sox Trent D’Antonio and Shane Benson all picked up two hits in Sydney’s win against Team Australia and will look to keep their bats hot in Canberra.

Right-handed hurler Chris Oxspring, who made his Major League debut with the San Diego Padres and holds the Blue Sox all-time win record with 8 wins, is slated to take the mound Friday night. To kick off Saturday’s double-header, former Dutch Major Leaguer Vaughan Harris is scheduled to start. The Blue Sox will switch things up by putting the left-handed pitcher Craig Anderson on the bump for the final game of the series.

The Cavalry will play as a team for the first time at Friday’s home opener. Canberra will rely on their returning veteran players, such as Brian Burgamy and Kody Hightower, to show the variety of new international and local talent the ropes. Burgamy’s return was celebrated in Canberra, as he was named last season’s SAM BAT Silver Slugger, the title for the best offensive player in the league. Burgamy led the league in numerous batting categories and his batting average (.409) set a new ABL record.

Canberra-native Kyle Perkins, formerly with the New York Yankee organisation, returns for his third season with the Cavalry after converting from a catcher to a relief pitcher midway through last season. He will join right-handed reliever Brian Grening (former Cleveland Indian) in the bullpen.

ROUND 1 SERIES SCHEDULE (Home team listed first, all times local)

Friday 2 November

*G1: Canberra Cavalry vs. Sydney Blue Sox @ Narrabundah Ballpark - 7:00PM

Saturday 3 November

G2: Canberra Cavalry vs. Sydney Blue Sox @ Narrabundah Ballpark - 4:00PM

G3: Canberra Cavalry vs. Sydney Blue Sox @ Narrabundah Ballpark - 7:00PM

*Featured Game of the Week, aired on Fox Sports 2 on Thursday 11 November at 4:00PM

TEAM ROSTERS

Canberra Cavalry

Sydney Blue Sox

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