Cavalry pitcher John Holdzkom held Adelaide scoreless in the first four innnings on Saturday. Photo: Colleen Petch
HAVING qualified for its first finals campaign, the Canberra Cavalry now wants to bring the Australian Baseball League championship series to the capital.
Saturday night's 12-2 win in Adelaide, and Brisbane's 4-2 upset in Sydney beforehand, means the Cavalry needs only to beat the Bite on Sunday in its final regular-season game to seal top spot.
Those results allowed the Cavalry to rejoin the Blue Sox on top of the ladder, and it boasts the tie-breaker over its rival after winning five of their nine meetings this season.
The reward for finishing first is direct entry into the championship series, and hosting rights for all three games in a fortnight's time.
Should the Cavalry finish second, it will still host the preliminary final series against either Perth or Brisbane, which begins on Friday night.
Having struggled in the league's first two seasons, Cavalry manager Michael Collins insisted he didn't feel the weight of expectation to guide the franchise to the play-offs for the first time.
''I definitely wasn't thinking about that, and with the imports [we have] from all over the place, I don't think it was a major concern,'' he said. ''But myself, I saw the hard work it took just to get a team in the league. The first couple of seasons we did some good things but weren't able to go on with it. I'm sure the buzz around Canberra and local baseball is pretty exciting right now.''
After losing the opening game of the Adelaide series 4-3 on Thursday, Canberra bounced back on Friday with a heart-stopping 8-7 victory. Last night's win means the side's destiny in once again in its own hands, having watched a four-game lead atop the ladder slip through its fingers in recent weeks.
The Cavalry was routed 5-0 by the Bandits in Brisbane a fortnight ago, but steadied the ship by splitting last week's home series against Sydney 2-2.
Collins dismissed any suggestion the Cavalry is vulnerable heading into the finals after winning just four of its past 10 games.
''I wouldn't call it a slump; we've had a lot of games where we've scored a lot of runs, and games where the pitchers have pitched exceptionally well,'' he said. ''During the hot streak we had, everything came together … maybe at the moment some of those things have been hit and miss.''
The Cavalry's milestone has been clouded in controversy after claims relief pitcher Brodie Downs allegedly spat on spectators during Saturday night's match. The Adelaide Bite confirmed to The Canberra Times on Saturday Downs, who did not play in the match, reacted after being heckled by a group of fans.
The offending spectators were ejected but it is believed the incident will be reviewed by Australian Baseball League officials.
''There's going to be discussions between numerous people and [establishing] versions of events, figuring out exactly what happened and how we best move forward,'' Collins said.