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Cavalry confident it can throw down the gauntlet

Former Major Leaguer Luke Hughes and a firing Perth Heat batting line-up hold no fears for the Canberra Cavalry pitching staff.

The former Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics infielder has returned from suspension and injury in time to boost the Heat for the play-offs, which culminate in the Australian Baseball League Championship Series at Narrabundah Ballpark this weekend.

But the Cavalry throwers were confident they were good enough to get the job done against the reigning back-to-back champion and win Canberra its first Claxton Shield.

Brian Grening and John Holdzkom will start on Friday and Saturday respectively, while Chris Motta will lead the team in Sunday's game three if required. Robert Dickmann will come out of the starting rotation to bolster the bullpen with his left arm.

Holdzkom had his troubles against the Heat when in Perth, only dismissing one hitter for eight runs, but he bounced back the following week against the reigning champ with an absolutely dominant display - seven innings, zero runs and two hits was all ''Big John'' conceded.

But Hughes didn't play in either of those games.


''It's fun to face guys that have been to the big leagues, you don't want to face some tomato can up there to use a boxing term,'' Holdzkom said.

Grening has been Canberra's No.1 hurler and will set the scene for the championships in game one.

''We've seen them before, we know what they're going to bring, there's no surprises, we'll just go right after them like we did before and I think we'll be fine,'' the Californian said.

The Cavalry pitching was almost all-conquering early in the season, but conceded a few runs in the lead-up to the play-offs.

Grening said it was just part of the ebb and flow of the game.

Dickmann was comfortable with his move to the bullpen where he'll be used through the middle innings and against left-handed hitters, in a similar role to Canberra product Steve Kent. He felt he'd help make a strong pen even stronger.

''I've done both [starting and relieving] so I'm pretty comfortable with it,'' Dickmann said.

''It doesn't bother me at all, I'll pitch when I'm asked to pitch.''

Motta has the toughest job of all - pitching in game three, which will either be the decider or not even played.

Obviously the 22-year-old wants to play, but the ideal situation for the team is to win it in two.

''That'd be great if we take the first two games then we'll be champions, but if not I'll be mentally and physically ready to pitch game three if it's called upon,'' Motta said.