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Looking ahead to Round Five
Tough Challenge Awaits in the ACT
12/13/2017 8:02 PM ET
LUKE HUGHES (Perth Heat) - Photo: SMPIMAGES.COM. Action from the Australian baseball League Round 5 series between the Canberra Cavarly v Perth Heat played at MIT Ballpark in Canberra ACT.
LUKE HUGHES (Perth Heat) - Photo: SMPIMAGES.COM. Action from the Australian baseball League Round 5 series between the Canberra Cavarly v Perth Heat played at MIT Ballpark in Canberra ACT. (SMP IMAGES)

CANBERRA - Until someone unseats the Brisbane Bandits as the Australian Baseball League Premier winners, everyone else is playing for runner up to the two-time Premiership winners. After four rounds, the Bandits have a half game lead over the Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat and a game and a half lead over the Canberra Cavalry.

The Heat and Cavalry have had their first go at the front-running Bandits, and the results were not too good. Combined, the two clubs went 1-6 against the Bandits with Brisbane taking three of four in Perth over the Heat and taking all three games in a rain-shortened opening round series with Canberra.

"Brisbane are the blue print at the moment," said Heat Manager Andy Kyle. "They are deep, and they know how to win, and it showed again over last weekend."

Over the next two rounds, Perth and Canberra will meet eight times. When the dust settles, the opportunity exists for one of the two teams to separate themselves from the other, and in the process close the gap on the Bandits into the new year. A split will bring us back to where we started.

"It is a short turnaround; Canberra is one of the form teams at the moment after a couple of big weeks for them. They are starting to come together with their imports and local players," said Andy Kyle.

The Heat will make the trip to the nation's capital to a park the club has had little success in over the years. Over all, the Heat are 14-20 at "the fort" after going 1-3 last season. That includes the two losses in the post season in 2013 in that record. In eight series between the two clubs in the ACT, Perth has won only two series, with two more splits and the rest going in Canberra's favor.

"Canberra has put up some big numbers offensively and on the mound, so it will be an exciting challenge for the guys to head over and get a good test of where we are on the ladder," said Heat General Manager Lachlan Dale.

This season the numbers and the way the two teams have played against everyone except Brisbane sets us up to give the league one really entertaining series. One-point separates Canberra and Perth in the batting race. The Cavs are hitting .301 while the Heat are right at .300. Both clubs will score runs with Perth scoring 113 leading the ABL with Canberra crossing the plate 111 times, second in the circuit. The Heat scored 11 runs twice last weekend while Canberra scored 17 and 15 in their first two games against Melbourne. 

Canberra has won three straight series after dropping their first-round series. For Western Australia it has been two impressive road series wins and another series win at home against Adelaide.

Check out the top 10 in the league at the plate and the Heat. Jay Baum of Canberra leads the league with a .462 average. Baum, who played in the CAN-AM League last North American summer, is joined by veteran David Kandalis, who checks in with a .400 clip and is sixth in the ABL. The Heat can boast #2 Michael Brosseau (.439) #8 Jake Fraley (.357) and #9 Tim Kennelly. Jesse Williams (.317) and Garret Whitley (.306) check in at number 14 and 16 respectively. 

The Heat did not escape the last round without some major issues. Zac Law was already on schedule to return to Texas to get married after the midway point, but he is questionable to return at all this ABL season. He will make the trip with the team, but the Heat are already planning on life without the Rays prospect, who is 10th in the league at the plate with a .375 average. The Heat will move Jake Turnbull to catcher, and he will be there to spell Alex Hall, but the loss of Law will be something the Heat will have to overcome.

Sunday, Ulrich Bojarski and Jesse Hall were held out of the lineup, but both are expected to return this round. On the pitching front the team will be without Benn Grice. Dylan Thompson, who stepped in a pitched effectively in round one at Melbourne, will join the club for part of the weekend. Also, Jett Wright will move from development to the active roster as both a pitcher and position player, and Matt Dixon is always there to pitch in should the Heat get thin in the series in the pen.

Canberra will feature 17-year old short stop Gabriel Arias. The San Diego Padres farmhand hit three long balls last weekend and could provide a spark at the plate with 13 RBI and a .259 average. 

The real challenge and where the series may all hinge is the pitching staff. Canberra has the only team ERA below 4.00 with a 3.91. The Heat are almost a run and a half higher with a 5.61 ERA good for fourth in the league. The Heat did move from sixth to fourth over the last round in team ERA so the club is headed in the right direction.

Then there is the ultimate challenge Canberra and the "fort". When the Heat come to town, the local fandom always give their best to the boys in the visitors' dugout. They are always ready for Perth, and the Heat will be ready as well.

"They (Canberra fans) like to get stuck in ya. We embrace that, and It is great to get a crowd in there. Hopefully we will be competitive and give them something to cheer on," said Andy Kyle. 

Pitching matchups

Thursday 14/12/17- RHP Alex Boshers (1-1, 3.05) at RHP Brian Grening (1-0, 4.63)  4:00 pm AWST

Friday 15/12/17- RHP Kyle Simon (1-2, 11.93) at LHP Frank Gailey (1-0, 0.90) 4:00 pm AWST

Saturday 16/12/17- RHP Nick Veale (0-1, 4.96) at LHP Steve Kent (1-3, 5.79)  4:00 pm AWST

Sunday 17/12/17- RHP Tom Bailey (3-0, 6.88) at RHP Lake Bachar (3-0,1.31) 9:00 am AWST

All games can be heard on Talking Baseball Australia on MixLR.

Dan Vaughan teams up with Paul Morgan as the Heat media team and will join Morgan on air as the Heat play-by-play broadcast due for all home and away games in 17-18. Follow him on twitter @DanVaughanJr. This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.