Perth just heating up for finals rally
PERTH utility Tim Kennelly believes his reigning-champion team still hasn't reached its peak, with three rounds left in the ABL season.
The Heat escaped from Brisbane with a 2-all series split last weekend, after losing the first two matches at Holloway Field.
Its next series could be a season-defining one, hosting league-leaders Adelaide, with Perth holding third place - the last finals spot and just one win behind the Bandits.
That series starts on Thursday night.
Kennelly made history last year, becoming the first player to hit a home run on the SCG, in Team Australia's massive 5-0 upset over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He was in good form against the Bandits over last weekend's series too, producing a hit in each of the four games.
The 28-year old believes his team - which he has been a part of in five championship-winning campaigns (including the former Claxton Shield) - should not be written off just yet.
"Tonight was a huge win after dropping the first two of this series. We still haven't played our best baseball yet," he said after Saturday night's 4-3 win over the Bandits.
"We're hanging around third and fourth spot knowing we haven't played our best baseball which is frustrating, but when it comes together I think we'll be fine."
The promising thing for the Heat from its series split against Brisbane was that Kennelly, his younger brothers Sam and Matt, Luke Hughes, Allan de San Miguel, Jordan McDonald and Jesse Barron all made valuable contributions with the bat.
All those players are local Western Australian products, and that has been a theme of Perth's success over the past decade.
"I think the home group talent we've had through those championships - eight or nine of those guys have been there all the way through," Kennelly said.
"I grew up with that core group and we've got good team camaraderie.
"All those guys contribute every year. We know what everyone's capable of. We've always got each others' backs which is handy out on the baseball field."
Perth also has a history of making strong off-shore recruits.
Along with returning US import and short stop Joey Wong, who won last season's Championship Series MVP, pitcher Jorge Marben has impressed this season.
He throws a mean fastball and can register speeds in the mid-140km/hr zone, while also possessing a dangerous slider and split finger.
Marben has four wins and one loss in his inaugural ABL season, with a 2.33 earned run average and 27 innings pitched over 18 games.
He has also come up with four saves from four save opportunities, including one against Brisbane.
"He (Marben) throws gas. He was with Texas and played indy ball this year and he wanted to give it another shot," Kennelly said.
"He got picked up by Boston this year which was deserved.
"He's got a good chance of making the Major Leagues if he keeps doing what he's shown out here.
"The front office does a good job in getting our imports, doing their research and getting those good starting pitchers."
Kennelly, who has played as high as Triple-A in the US, now wants to concentrate on finishing his career strongly at domestic level.
"I'm done playing in the States. I'm trying out to be a fire fighter," he said.
"The future depends on what happens with that. I'd love to play for as many years as I can.
"We've got qualifying for the World Baseball Classic at the end of 2015.
"I'd love to keep playing in the Australian team - 2020, they're talking about baseball being back in the Olympics.
"I'd love to be around for that. But I just want to continue with the Heat and win as many championships as we can."