The Australian Baseball League Playoffs kick off on Friday with the first round series between the 2-time defending champion Perth Heat, who finished in 3rd place, and the 2nd place Sydney Blue Sox.
Both teams have made the playoffs each year of the new ABL with Perth winning the first two titles and Sydney finishing 3rd each time.
Sydney has done it with pitching, and pitching they have.
Starter Craig Anderson, who will start Game 1 of the series, led the league in ERA (2.10) and wins (8). Anderson isn’t a strikeout pitcher, but he gets outs. In 81.1 innings, Anderson has given up 81 hits. But he doesn’t walk anyone, giving up only 5 on the year. With a WHIP of just 1.06, he makes you earn your bases which is why he has been so successful.
However, it doesn’t end with Anderson. Also in the rotation is Chris Oxspring who has gone 4-2 in 12 starts. With an ERA of 2.71, Oxspring ranked 5th in the league. Where he differs from Anderson is that he is a strikeout pitcher. He led the league with 86 strikeouts in 79.2 innings.
Also on the league leading staff is Tim Atherton (2-1 / 2.44) and Matthew Williams (2.14) who led the league in saves with 15.
Sydney might not have the top offense in the league, but they have some really good hitters. Mitch Dening is 2nd in the league in hitting at .347, hit 5 home runs, and drove in 32 runs.
Trent D’Antonio led the team in home runs with 6 and hit .304.
The Blue Sox are right in the middle of the pack in the league in most major hitting categories.
On the other side of the field stand the 2-time defending ABL Champion Perth Heat. The Heat take a four game winning streak into the playoffs after having stumbled down the stretch.
Game 1 starter Anthony Claggett was second in the league in strikeouts with 77 in 73.1 innings. In 12 starts he went 4-5 with a 3.31 ERA. Claggett has pitched well in his last three starts and will look to continue that on Friday night.
Starter Daniel Schmidt finished 2nd in the league with 7 wins posting a 3.72 ERA. Schmidt has struggled of late posting a good start after a not so good start. He will look to return to his early season form when he was posting solid start after solid start.
In the bullpen is Brendan Wise who is 2nd on the team in saves with 3 after posting an ERA of 2.14 in 21.0 innings.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Heat is lead by outfielders David Amberson (.380), Corey Adamson (.321/1/18), catcher Allan de San Miguel (2.94/5/30), and first baseman Michael Ohlman (.317/6/27).
The two teams split their 8 games this year, but haven’t played each other since mid-December.
The two teams play a best-of-three series in Sydney with the winner advancing to face Canberra in the championship.
You can watch Game 1 online through Blue Sox TV.