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Preliminary Final preview: Champs take on Sox
Perth trying to reach third straight ABLCS; Sydney going for first
01/30/2013 11:50 PM ET
The Heat are looking for their third ABL title; Sydney for their first.
The Heat are looking for their third ABL title; Sydney for their first. (SMP Images)

SYDNEY, 31 January - The Australian Baseball League Preliminary Final presented by Fielders Choice begins Friday night at 7:30pm at Blacktown International Sportspark. The Sydney Blue Sox, who will make their third trip to the postseason but have yet to advance to the Championship Series in franchise history, will host the two-time reigning ABL champions, the Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat, in the best-of-three series.

The winner of the Preliminary Final will advance to compete against the Canberra Cavalry, driven by Rolfe Renault the following weekend in the internationally televised 2013 Be the Influence ABL Championship Series presented by Futuretronics at Narrabundah Ballpark.

Sydney Blue Sox (26-19) vs. Perth Heat (25-21)

The Blue Sox may have finished the season one win above the Heat on the ABL ladder, but the season matchup history between the two teams remains equal. Sydney and Perth split their two series this season, resulting in an even 4-4 record.

Both teams boast a significant yet comparable amount of Major League Baseball and World Baseball Classic talent. Sydney claims four former Major Leaguers: Dae-Sung Koo, Chris Oxspring, Chris Snelling and Brad Thomas, in comparison to Perth’s two former Major Leaguers Luke Hughes and Anthony Claggett. The Blue Sox have 10 players who are currently affiliated with an MLB team, representing five MLB clubs. Eleven players on the Heat roster are currently affiliated with nine different MLB clubs. In the upcoming 2013 World Baseball Classic, six players on the Blue Sox roster and seven from Perth will suit up for Team Australia. (*See bottom of this article for MLB and WBC roster breakdowns.)

The return of Luke Hughes, who missed roughly two months of play due to injuries, will be critical to the Heat’s lineup in the Preliminary Final. 

As a team, the Heat rank slightly above the Blue Sox in almost every batting category. Perth’s .267 team batting average ranks second above Sydney’s .258 average in third. Each club can claim bragging rights to a young Australian centre fielder who led their respective team behind the plate. Corey Adamson batted a team best of .321 for the Heat, while Mitch Dening led the Blue Sox batting .347 with 60 hits, one hit shy of the league best behind ABL Triple Crown winner Adam Buschini of Canberra.

The Sydney Blue Sox made a collective effort to claim the top spot in nearly every pitching category and emerged with the lowest team ERA (2.91) in ABL history. Perth's 4.02 ERA ranks third in the ABL. The Heat threw two more strikeouts (322) than the Blue Sox (320), to rank fourth and fifth in the league, although Perth played one more game than Sydney. The Blue Sox gave up considerably less walks than any team in the league (97) followed by Perth with 139 walks.

Left-handed pitcher Craig Anderson, who leads the league with his 2.10 ERA and holds the record for most wins in a season (8), will get the Game One start for the Blue Sox. Perth’s Daniel Schmidt held the previous record of six wins, which he broke by earning seven wins this season but the extra victory was not enough to retain the lead. Former Major Leaguers Thomas and Oxspring will take the mound in Games Two and Three for Sydney.

In 13 rounds of ABL play, Sydney has claimed one Delta Air Lines Player of the Week award and five Pitcher of the Week honours, while Perth never took home a Player of the Week award but earned their second Pitcher of the Week honour in the final round of the season. Right-handed pitcher Jack Frawley pitched his first start of the season, throwing eight scoreless innings to earn the title.

Both teams have momentum going into the do-or-die series. In Round 13, the Heat swept the Aces to win their first series since November while the Sydney Blue Sox beat up against the Brisbane Bandits two games to one to eliminate Brisbane's playoff hopes.

Sydney Blue Sox - MLB & WBC affiliations

Total: 5 MLB clubs, 10 currently affiliated players

Current Blue Sox Affiliated Players
MLB Club Number of players Player
Boston Red Sox 1 Boss Moanaroa
Colorado Rockies 1 David Kandilas
Detroit Tigers 4 Dean Aldridge, James Robbins, Ricky Schwartz, Zac Shepherd
Minnesota Twins 3 Tim Atherton, Tyler Herr, JD Williams
St Louis Cardinals 1 Geoff Klein

Four former major leaguers

Sydney's Former Major Leaguers
Player MLB Debut MLB Clubs
Dae-Sung Koo April 4, 2005 New York Mets
Chris Oxspring September 2, 2005 San Diego Padres
Chris Snelling May 25, 2002 Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals, Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies
Brad Thomas May 26, 2001 Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers

Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat - MLB & WBC affiliations

Total: 9 MLB clubs, 11 currently affiliated players

Current Heat Affiliated Players
MLB Club Number of players Player
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 Carter Bell
Baltimore Orioles 3 Allan De San Miguel, Michael Ohlman, Brenden Webb
Cincinnati Reds 1 Elliott Hargreaves
Detroit Tigers 1 Warwick Saupold
Houston Astros 1 Cameron Lamb
Minnesota Twins 1 Brendan Wise
Philadelphia Phillies 1 Tim Kennelly
Pittsburgh Pirates 1 Sam Kennelly
San Diego Padres 1 Corey Adamson

Two former major leaguers

Perth's Former Major Leaguers
Player MLB Debut MLB Clubs
Anthony Claggett April 18, 2009 New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates
Luke Hughes April 28, 2010 Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics

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