Huddled around laptops and iPads at Brisbane Airport, the Canberra Cavalry have never been happier to see a Perth Heat grand slam.
And Canberra Cavalry coach Michael Collins feels the reigning Australian Baseball League champions have finally got their ''spark'' back after two late rallies let them sneak into the play-offs to defend their title at the 11th hour. Their equation was simple: beat the Brisbane Bandits then pray the Heat could sweep the Adelaide Bite.
The Asia Series champions took care of the first step, coming from behind to beat the Bandits 5-3 in Brisbane on Sunday.
It then looked like their dream was shot, as the Bite fired to a 5-3 lead in the top of the seventh. But Heat left-fielder Brandon Tripp hit a grand slam home run in the same frame to send Canberra into the finals at Adelaide's expense.
''Probably the first time the Canberra Cavalry have been really rooting and supporting the Perth Heat,'' Collins said. ''The opportunity is there now to go on and reach our goal of retaining the championship … [assistant coach Keith] Ward and I were, at one point in the game, talking that we've got a little bit of spark going, bit of attitude - and that was before we scored those runs.
''I think everybody understands now that it's a different ballgame, it's winner takes all.''
But it looked like the Cavs might never make it, having slumped from a 17-11 win-loss record to lose 13 of their final 18 games.
Michael Crouse put the Cavs in front early with a single driving in Canberra product Jason Sloan in the top of the third. But Canberra gave up three runs in the fourth and fifth frames to be staring the end of their season in the face.
Finally they produced a trademark rally in the top of the seventh. Robbie Perkins started it with a solo home run before back-to-back sacrifice flys by Casey Frawley and Jeremy Barnes sent two more orangemen across the plate.
Crouse gave the Cavs fans extra breathing space, driving in Ethan Cole, who was making a rare appearance as a pinch runner, to make it 5-3 in the top of the eighth.
Then it was time for Sean Toler, who started with a walk before getting the three needed outs.
Minor premiers Perth will have a week off, while the Cavs play Sydney in a three-game series. Game one will be at Narrabundah Ballpark on Friday, games two and three (if required) at Blacktown.
AT A GLANCE
Canberra 001 000 310 - 5r 10h 1e
Brisbane 000 120 000 - 3r 8h 1e
Cavalrys’ best: CF Crouse (3-5, 2RBI), LF R Perkins (1-3, 1HR, 1RBI), P Thompson (3.0I, 1H, 0R, 3K).