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Melbourne @ Perth preview
Who will lead the North-West Division at round's end?
12/04/2018 8:06 PM ET
 

The South-West division's two best teams face off in a highly anticipated Brut Australian Baseball League matchup in Round 4.

Perth and Melbourne have been the ABL's two hottest teams after three rounds, each picking up nine wins from 12 games.

The Heat fell victim to two stellar pitching performances in Round 3, before regular transmission resumed for the league's best offence.

Lead by Tristan Gray, Jake Bowey, Tim Kennelly and Alex Hall, Perth piled on 30 runs in their last two games against the Bite, after putting up 48 in four games against Geelong-Korea.

The starting rotation was one of the major question marks surrounding the Heat in season 2018/19, but two Aussie arms have shouldered the load through three weeks.

U23 silver medallists Nick Veale and Conor Lourey have been locked in as mainstays in Perth's rotation, with ERAs of 2.03 (Veale) and 2.45 (Lourey).

Local legends Scott Mitchinson and Dan Schmidt combined with flamethrowing Rays pair Joe Peguero and Cristopher Sanchez make up an intimidating bullpen.

Couple those performance with a .307 team batting average (.57 points higher than second best Sydney), and you've got a recipe for a team winning three quarters of their games.

Robbie Glendinning is a major inclusion for the Heat, as the Pirates prospect makes his season debut.

The major key to the Aces' success this season has been their pitching staff, which has anchored Melbourne's revival.

In season 17/18, the Aces managed a team ERA of 6.72 however 2018/19 has been a different story, as Melbourne currently hold a league-best team ERA of 2.86.

Tyler Fallwell and Hiromasa Saito have both logged 10 scoreless innings in relief, while Luke Westphal and Hayato Takagi have each given the Aces three quality starts.

Round three saw Melbourne dismantle Geelong-Korea en route to a series win, outscoring their intrastate rivals 34-17 in four games.

Luke Hughes returns to the site of his four ABL Championships this weekend, and will no doubt have some extra motivation to perform against his old teammates.

Hughes became the first to hit 50 home runs in the reborn ABL and is hitting .324 through 12 games.

 

Ones to watch

Each team boasts a talented roster, but a pair of affiliated infielders are lighting up the league.

Perth's Tristan Gray has bagged four doubles, a triple and two homers in 12 games, as the Rays continue their tradition of sending quality players to Australia.

Melbourne has a star of their own, as Royals prospect DJ Burt has shown he's a five-tool player. Burt leads the league in stolen bases (7), is second in the league for walks (11) and hits well to all parts of the field. 

 

DYK?

Allan de San Miguel drove in Luke Hughes to give Perth their last home series win against Melbourne in December 2014. Since then, Melbourne are 6-6 at Perth Harley-Davidson Ballpark.

 

Probable starters

Luke Westphal (1-1, 2.25) @ Ryan Flores (1-1, 0.77 ERA)

Hayato Takagi (2-0, 2.60) @ Robert Garcia (0-1, 9.00)

Dushan Ruzic (1-0, 0.82) @ Conor Lourey (2-1, 2.45)

Jack Enciondo (2-0, 2.40) @ Nick Veale (2-0, 2.03)

 

Series schedule

G1: Friday, 7.05pm AWST at Perth-Harley Davidson Ballpark, Perth

G2: Saturday, 4.05pm AWST at Perth-Harley Davidson Ballpark, Perth

G3: Saturday, 7.05pm AWST at Perth-Harley Davidson Ballpark, Perth

G4: Sunday, 4.05pm AWST at Perth-Harley Davidson Ballpark, Perth

 

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