AFTER championship heartbreak last season, Perth Heat batter Sam Kennelly says the team is using it to fuel their motivation for another title tilt.
With pre-season underway and players starting to trickle in, Perth will once again be among the favourites for silverware when the Australian Baseball League season starts in late November.
Kennelly said the Heat were desperate to avenge last year’s championship loss to Brisbane Bandits and win their first Claxton Shield since 2015.
“Expectations are always high for us and we always strive to win a championship at the end of the year,” he said.
“We were in the mix, in the top spot all year round and it was a tough one to swallow, losing in the playoffs.
“Winning the title is something we strive to do every year, that hunger gets into you and you want to get back there again.”
Despite being just 23 years-old, the Melville Braves product is entering his seventh season with the Heat and will suit up alongside brother Tim.
Last season was Kennelly’s first season back in action after Tommy John surgery on his elbow forced him to sit out an entire year.
Keen to make up for lost time, the 3rd baseman slogged four home runs in 36 games and he said consistency would be key to another successful campaign.
“Series by series, we were doing the same thing. We weren’t talking it too far ahead,” he said.
“The broad picture at the end was to win the championship, but taking it game-by-game, innings by innings, sets you up to be a playoff team.”
It will be a big year off the field for the Heat, who will celebrate their 30th anniversary and unveil upgrades to Perth Ballpark at the beginning of the season.
Kennelly said the playing group could not wait to get back into action in front of their adoring fans, especially given the ballpark’s recently expanded capacity.
“It’s super exciting, coming to a new atmosphere and we’re all excited to see what the finished product is,” he said.
“We all try and put on a show for our home crowd, it’s something all take pride in doing and it sets the team up for the end of the year.
“Trying to play for a home final is massive, and playing in front of a home crowd and not having to travel means our home games are massive.”
Perth Heat kick off their ABL campaign with a four-game series away to Auckland Tuatara from November 21-24.
Their first home fixtures will see them take on Canberra Cavalry in four games, running from November 29-December 1.