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FAI Cup Pitches new finals format and all star competition as baseball bats up for the summer of 1997/1998.

Defending champion Perth Heat will launch its season with some new firepower and major league manager when they take on the Adelaide Giants in the FAI Cup baseball opener at the WACA this Friday night.

All eight baseball teams hit the field this weekend (October 31 - Nov 2) for the FAI Cup season, which also introduces an Australian All Star weekend, a new condensed finals format and ABC television coverage.

This year's FAI Cup will feature the regular 16 rounds, but in a new move the ninth championship will be decided in Melbourne with a round robin play-off format from February, 10-12 and a best of three championship series February 14-15.

Another new edition for this summer's competition will be the FAI All Stars weekend, which pits an Australian All Star selection against the Japanese Industrial League Champions and the American All Stars. The Australians take on Japan's best at Carrara on Friday, December 12, lining up the following night against the American All Stars on December 13.

ROUND ONE ACTION

In first up FAI Cup action this weekend Perth Heat meets Adelaide and will be looking for some inspiration from their latest recruit, highly credentialled manager Tom Trebelhorn.

Trebelhorn joins the WA outfit having managed a number of major league teams including the Baltimore Orioles, Milwalkee Brewers and the 1988 American Allstars.

His inclusion and that of American shortstop Jesse Garcia has strengthened the Heat's infield defence against an unknown and potentially undervalued Adelaide attack.

Other first round match-ups pit the Melbourne Monarchs against their cross town rivals, the Melbourne Reds, at Moorabbin and the Gold Coast Cougars against the Brisbane Bandits at Carrara.

The Melbourne Reds start as underdogs to their fancied opposition in the all Victorian showdown (Friday night 7.15pm, Saturday 6.15pm and Sunday 1pm at Moorabbin).

The Reds, however, will welcome back strong hitter Adam Burton (ex Bandits), and pitcher Dave Simpson (ex Bandits) and will receive some added firepower from ex Giants batter Darren White. The monarchs biggest trump card for the four game showdown is batsman Clayton Byrne, who the Victorians poached from Perth in the off season.

In Queensland the Gold Coast Cougars start on equal footing with former titleholder, the Brisbane Bandits, who will field a side without any local major league players. The rivals face-off on Friday night at Carrara, meet again in Saturday’s doubleheader and round out the series on Wednesday (Nov 5).

The Bandits will be relying on their pitchers Jeff Williams and David Gooda to strike out the Cougars strong batting line up of Matt Buckely and ABL home run record holder, Ron Johnson.

The Cougars however have their own man on the mound capable of inflicting some damage, with the return of Brett Cederblad, who is on his way back from a shoulder injury.

On Saturday the Sydney Storm unveil their new purple, black and white stripe in the country vs city grudge match against the Hunter Eagles.

The young Eagles last year surprised the Sydneysiders with two wins in the penultimate series, and are looking for another upset in the Concord showdown (Saturday 2pm and Sunday 2pm).

ABL SEEK NEW CANBERRA FRANCHISE

The Australian Baseball League is seeking to expand the number of clubs in the FAI Cup competition to nine.

The League has called for expressions of interest for a Canberra franchise with a team expected to join the FAI Cup for the summer of 1998/1999.

An ACT team previously played in the national competition, before closing down in 1995.

For further information contact Stacey George or Toni Bush at IRPR on (02) 9360 1166. For weekend results and updates phone the FAI Cup results line on 1900 123 027.

FAI CUP ROUND 1
STORY IDEAS

Perth Heat have recruited arguably the most credentialled manager to join the FAI Cup series, with the Major League's Tom Trebelhorn taking the reins this season.

Perth Heat is looking to Rookie of the Year, Robbie Wells, to take the initiative on the mound with the team blooding new all round talent this season.

Sydney Storm is hoping two of its home grown pitchers will provide much needed balance in the baseball side for the opening round against the Hunter Eagles this weekend. Grant Balfour has added an extra 10 mile per hour to his pitch since playing in the US minor leagues over the winter, while John Stevens has racked up an unbelievable Earned Run Average (ERA) of 0.82 whilst playing with the Orioles.

Sydney Storm will be looking to Blue jays power hitter Will Skeet as it seeks revenge on the Hunter Eagles. The Eagles caught Sydney by surprise beating the Storm in their last two encounters last season.

Hunter Eagles Craig Anderson hopes to celebrate his 17th birthday with an upset win against Sydney. Anderson is one of the youngest starting pitchers in the FAI Cup.

Hunter Eagles Australian representative Chris Bradley (batter) will put an injured knee to the final test on Wednesday ahead of Friday’s first FAI Cup match against Sydney. Bradley had an arthroscope earlier in the week, but will wait until Wednesday for the final assessment.

Melbourne Reds will wait until the last moment to unveil their imports for this weekend's opening matches against cross town rivals the Melbourne Monarchs. The Reds four New York Yankees tourists do not arrive until Wednesday. The only familiar face will be Sloan Smith - but last year’s form will give little indication as the one-time Reds' hitter returns as a pitcher in 1997/1998.

Melbourne Reds welcome back Adam 'Hollywood' Burton and David Simpson to their line-up this season. The pair are back from Brisbane with the side's other big off season catch being Adelaide Big hitter Darren White.

Melbourne Monarchs unveil their biggest recruit of the season - Clayton Byrne. Byrne moves from Perth.

Gold Coast Cougars welcome back ace pitcher Brett Cederblad from injury.

Gold Coast Cougars have a formidable batting trio for their first encounter with Brisbane with powerhitters Olympian Stuart Thompson, ABL home run champion Ron Johnson and Redsox import Cory Jenkins likely to bat at positions 3-4-5.

Adelaide Giants pitcher Shane Bennett has signed a major league contract with Montreal Expos for next season. Bennett is the only major league player to line up for the FAI Cup this season.

The ABL is looking to expand the number of baseball franchises to nine in 1998/1999. The League is currently calling for expressions of interest in a Canberra franchise.

For further information contact Stacey George or Toni Bush at IRPR on (02) 9360 1166. For weekend results and updates phone the FAI Cup Results line on 1900 123 027.

For further information, please contact Hitaf Raheed, FAI Cup Madia Manager on 02 9437 4622 or 0418 257 327

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