Canberra Cavalry infielder Jeremy Barnes hit a home run in his first game back after more than a year out, which is why manager Michael Collins is confident he can return to form after missing seven weeks due to a toe injury.
The Cavalry needs one win from its four-game series against the Adelaide Bite at Norwood Oval, starting on Thursday night, in order to finish second on the Australian Baseball League ladder in what shapes to be a dress rehearsal for the preliminary final next weekend.
Collins made just one change to the roster that won the series against the Sydney Blue Sox 3-1 last week, with Barnes replacing Robbie Perkins.
Barnes hadn't played baseball for more than a year, missing last year's Australian Baseball League, but returned this season to the team he helped win the Claxton Shield and Asia Series.
The 28-year-old hardly missed a beat, hitting a solo home run in a 2-1 victory over the Brisbane Bandits on opening night.
"It's definitely not easy, but by the same token he hadn't played for over a year — at all — stepped in and hit a home run the first night here at home and had instant success," Collins said of Barnes.
"It's definitely tough for him, but hopefully these couple of games he's going to get his feet going again and hopefully he comes up feeling good.
"It's going to be a good problem to have if he's feeling healthy and looks good."
Barnes, who has been in Sydney coaching the ACT junior boys' sides at nationals, was excited about returning in time for the playoffs.
His last game was against the Perth Heat on December 6, but he'd struggled with turf toe for weeks before that. Canberra eventually opted to rest him and hoped he'd return in time for finals.
Barnes and several other Cavalry players visited Canberra Hospital on Wednesday.
"I haven't been able to do a whole lot except be in that [moon] boot, but we'll get out there today and pick up where we left off," Barnes said.
"I'll get a series under my belt, get some game time out there and get ready to go for the playoffs.
"I like where we're at at the moment, I like that I get a week in Adelaide to go out there and prepare for the playoffs so I feel good about it all."
ABL ROUND 14
Thursday: Canberra Cavalry v Adelaide Bite at Norwood Oval, 7.30pm. Friday 7.30pm, Saturday 7.30pm and Sunday 12.30pm.
Cavalry roster - pitchers: Michael Click, Louis Cohen, Scott Cone, James D'Arcy, Brian Grening, Jimmer Kennedy, Steven Kent, Phil Kish, Aaron Marshall Thompson, Colton Turner; Catchers: Ryan Miller, Jack Murphy; Infielders: Jeremy Barnes, Jason Leblebijian, Boss Moanaroa, Bryan Pounds, Aaron Sayers, Jason Sloan, River Stevens; Outfielders: David Harris, Cord Sandberg, Aaron Sloan.