Heat win four-game set vs. Bite in ABL action
Week two of the 2013 Australian Baseball League season saw the Perth Heat take three of four from the Adelaide Bite, with the Heat outscoring the Bite 22-5.
Setting the tone for Perth's series domination was reigning ABL Pitcher of the Week Mike Ekstrom. The 29-year-old turned in his second stellar outing of the season, holding the Bite to just one run on three hits over seven innings while striking out nine. Through two starts Ekstrom, is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA and leads the league with 18 strikeouts. The right-hander spent 2013 split between the Sacramento River Cats and Salt Lake City Bees, going a combined 3-3 in 38 relief appearances. All 51 of the right-hander's Major League outings to date have come out of the bullpen, but he is proving to be a deadly starter for the Heat.
Rockies prospect Joey Wong had a breakout series for Perth, going 9-for-17 with four RBIs, four runs scored and three stolen bases. Wong registered three multihit contests in the series, highlighted by a 4-for-5 performance in Game 2. In the series finale, the 25-year-old middle infielder went 3-for-4 with a pair of steals, and he currently ranks seventh in the ABL with a .394 batting average. A 24th-round pick in 2009, Wong is coming off his first season at the Triple-A level, having hit .240 in 92 games with the Tulsa Drillers.
Making his 2013 ABL debut in the series opener on Thursday, catcher Matt Kennelly went 2-for-4 with a home run and a double. Kennelly, who joins Perth for the fourth consecutive season, finished the series with four RBIs. After playing in the Braves' organization for six plus seasons, the East Fremantle, Australia, native signed a Minor League contract with the Cincinnati Reds in the summer of 2013, and went on to play for the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos and Triple-A Louisville Bats.
Orioles prospect Tucker Nathans turned in his second strong series for Perth, finishing the weekend with a pair of doubles, three RBIs and three stolen bases. He and Wong are currently tied for the league lead with 13 hits apiece.
Reigning ABL Player of the Week Brandon Tripp had another big weekend for the Heat, going 6-for-17 with three RBIs and two stolen bases. His average now rests at .400 and his OPS at 1.204 after seven games.
For Adelaide, Kyle Bruggemann held Perth to just two hits over seven innings in the Bite's lone series victory. The righty struck out three and did not walk a batter.
Joe Sclafani continued to lead the Adelaide offense, going 4-for-11 with three stolen bases and scoring three of the team's five runs. The Astros prospect has hit safely in seven of the first eight games this season and has reached base safely in eight of eight. He ranks among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category including steals (third with three), OPS (fourth, 1.093), RBIs (fifth with five) and average (eight, .393).
A well-balanced Canberra Cavalry became the first team to notch five wins this season after besting the Sydney Blue Sox two games to one in their series in Sydney.
Blue Jays prospect Jon Berti finished the weekend with four hits and five stolen bases, including three steals on Sunday to increase his league-leading total to seven. The Michigan native spent all of 2013 with the Class A Blue Jays, where he led the Florida State League in stolen bases (56) and runs scored (85). He is hitting .292 through seven games for the Cavalry.
Jeremy Barnes had another big weekend in the middle of the Canberra lineup, adding five more RBIs to increase his league-leading total to 10. The third-baseman is also tied for the league lead with four doubles, and he has reached base safely in all seven of his games played.
The Cavalry received stellar starting pitching all weekend, with Ethan Cole turning in an outstanding outing on Saturday (7 1/3 IP, five hits, one earned run, one walk and five strikeouts). After two starts, Cole is 1-0 with a 0.68 ERA having allowed just one earned run over 13 1/3 innings.
Sydney's Aaron Sookee did not allow an earned run for the second consecutive outing (10 2/3 IP), but he suffered the loss after being charged with five unearned runs in Saturday's 6-1 Blue Sox loss.
Trent Oeltjen again paced the Sydney offense, going 5-for-11 with a home run and three RBIs in week two. Oeltjen now has nine RBIs through seven games, a .400 batting average and a league-best 1.344 OPS. Seven of his 10 hits have gone for extra bases.
Week three will see Perth and Canberra off, Melbourne hosting Adelaide for a three-game weekend series and Sydney traveling to Brisbane for three games with the Bandits beginning Friday.