Canberra Cavalry pitcher Steven Kent to start in Australia's game one of WBC against Philippines

Australia coach Jon Deeble says Steven Kent is "throwing the ball a lot better than he has in the past", which is why the Canberra Cavalry ace will start game one in the Southern Thunder's "grand final" - the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in Sydney.

Kent will start on the mound against the Philippines at Blacktown on Thursday as the Australians look to qualify for next year's WBC.

Strike out: Canberra Cavalry starting pitcher Steven Kent will start for Australia in game one of the World Baseball ...
Strike out: Canberra Cavalry starting pitcher Steven Kent will start for Australia in game one of the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in Sydney. Photo: Melissa Adams

The 26-year-old had a brilliant Australian Baseball League season after coming back from Tommy John (elbow) surgery, with an earned-run average of 3.04 and throwing 79 strikeouts (third in the ABL).

He also earned a potential return to the Major League Baseball system after signing a contract with the Atlanta Braves, who released him four years ago.

Deeble was hopeful the Canberran could one day get to the big leagues.

"He pitched well in the ABL. He struck out a lot of guys. He's a guy that we value. He was always in our view going to be a starter whether it was game one, two or three," he said.


"I thought it was fantastic that he was able to sign [with the Braves] again and hopefully he can get to the big leagues.

"He's throwing the ball a lot better than he has in the past, his [velocity] is up so you never know."

Fellow Canberran Robbie Perkins is the Southern Thunder back-up catcher and Deeble saw him as part of the future of Australian baseball.

Perkins, 21, was called into the squad as cover for Perth Heat catcher Matt Kennelly who has not recovered from a broken wrist he suffered last year.

"He might get the opportunity to go in there and catch for sure, we'll just play it as it comes," Deeble said.

"He's definitely one of our younger kids. He's a top prospect in the States and one of the kids we're looking for down the track."

With baseball currently not an Olympic sport, Deeble said qualifying for the WBC was massively important for Australia, but he added it would not be easy.

He said the Philippines had "15 imports from America" on their roster, who qualify on ancestral grounds, while New Zealand and South Africa had Major League players or players on the 40-man squad for Major League teams.

To qualify, Australia need to win three games before they lose two.

"It's the pinnacle, it's everything, we have to qualify. Funding, we have to qualify for all different reasons," Deeble said.

"This is our grand final so we've got to make sure that we do qualify."

Cavalry coach Michael Collins is working with the outfielders and is first-base coach, while Cavs first-base Boss Moanaroa and starting pitcher Scott Cone are part of the New Zealand roster.