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History: first joint Helms Award winners
Tim Kennelly, Markus Solbach rewrite the record books
02/26/2019 9:26 PM ET
 

For the first time in the history of Australian baseball, two men have been awarded the Brut Australian Baseball League's most prestigious individual honour.

Markus Solbach has become the first pitcher since Wayne Lundgren in 2009/10 to win the Helms Award, while Tim Kennelly is the first player to win multiple Helms Awards*, following his 2011/12 honour.

Solbach put together one of the most memorable seasons in recent history, as the 27-year-old conceded eight earned runs in 65 1/3 innings of work. 

The big German was also named Pitcher of the Year, and had total confidence in his ability following an 11-strikeout performance against Brisbane in round one.

"It (my performances) all seemed a little bit surreal to be honest," Solbach said.

"At one point when I went out to pitch I just knew everything was going to be all right. I knew if I got ahead of the hitter that I was going to get him out. 

"I just shut my head off and more importantly, I had confidence in my own ability."

That ability saw Solbach become near untouchable in the first half of the season, allowing only one earned run in his first 34 2/3 innings on the mound.

Those performances helped Solbach secure the Helms Award, and a fourth chance at affiliated baseball with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"My one goal before the Bite season started was to get back into affiliated baseball," he said.

"I never doubted my ability despite being released three times, I never wanted to quit and always had that self-belief."

Speaking on fellow Helms Award winner Tim Kennelly, Solbach praised the ABL veteran's presence.

"He (Kennelly) had an unbelievable season," Solbach said.

"To be honest, I can't remember a season he didn't do well. Tim is super consistent, the fact he can produce year after year is incredible.

"He's definitely someone you want around in your locker room."

A lot has changed for Tim Kennelly since he won his first Helms Award in 2011/12.

He's no longer playing professional baseball in the USA, he works full-time as a firefighter and has begun a family.

A career .305 hitter in 277 games since 2010, Kennelly again proved himself as one of the best baseball players in the country, slashing .338/.419/.531 in 38 games this season. In his 2011/12 season, Kennelly slashed .374 /.438/.603.

"I probably had a better statistical year in 2012," Kennelly said.

"I played a slightly different role this season in the leadoff spot, trying to score runs rather than drive them in.

"Because I'm not playing affiliated baseball anymore, the ABL is what I play for."

"There were a number of other standout candidates this season, I'm very humbled to win it with the amount of talent in the league this season."

Kennelly was an integral part of the Heat's four titles since 2010, and believes the current crop of young affiliated talent such as Alex Hall, Jess Williams, Ulrich Bojarski and 2019 Rookie of the Year Robbie Glendinning can lead Perth back to the promised land. 

"We've got the kind of group we had 10 years ago," he said.

"We started our championship run with a very similar core group of local talent, and that's what I see now.

"Of course it hurts losing guys like de San (Allan de San Miguel) and Hughesy (Luke Hughes), but we're moving forward with those young guys.

"There's success on the horizon."

Kennelly has faced fellow Helms Award winner Markus Solbach in three different ABL seasons, and had nothing but praise for the Dodgers farmhand.

"We'd seen him a little bit in the past, but he was a totally different pitcher this year," Kennelly said.

"He (Solbach) pitched very well in both outings against us, and is one of those guys you never really have a comfortable at-bat against.

"Markus was exceptionally impressive week in, week out."

Helms Award Winners (modern-day ABL)
2010/11: James McOwen (Adelaide Bite)
2011/12: Tim Kennelly (Perth Heat)
2012/13: Adam Buschini (Canberra Cavalry)
2013/14: Ryan Casteel (Melbourne Aces)
2014/15: Aaron Miller (Adelaide Bite)
2015/16: Justin WIlliams (Brisbane Bandits)
2016/17: Aaron Whitefield (Brisbane Bandits)
2017/18: Jake Fraley (Perth Heat)
2018/19: Tim Kennelly (Perth Heat) & Markus Solbach (Adelaide Bite)

Click here for a full list of Helms Award winners.

All six of the ABL's 2018/19 Awards (Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove, Reliever of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, Brett Brothers Batting Champion and Helms Award) were determined by a 3-2-1 vote conducted by each of the 2018/19 ABL Managers.

*David Nilsson won the Helms Award in 1987 and also won an ABL Most Valuable Player Award in 1991. During 1990-1999, previous administrations did not recognise ABL MVP winners as Helms Award winners.

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