Cavalry closer Sean Toler kept his cool under extreme pressure in game one against Perth. Photo: Theron Kirkman (SMP Images)
IT WAS the belief more than the win that Michael Collins thought was the biggest gain for the Canberra Cavalry after beating Perth Heat on Friday night.
The Cavalry moved clear of the Heat at the top of the Australian Baseball League ladder with a come-from-behind, extra-innings 3-2 victory at Baseball Park in Perth.
It took 12 innings to separate the teams in a pitching duel that stretched well beyond midnight Canberra time, which meant the team had been up for nearly 24 hours after an early start in the ACT.
''[The belief] was huge. That was probably bigger than the actual win itself after a huge day's travel … definitely a big motivational game for us,'' Collins told The Canberra Times on Saturday.
''There's a lot of belief [in the team]. They've had it for a while now. They're pretty comfortable, pretty happy, coming out and going about their business.
''I think they've had that belief for a little while, but coming up against the best team and being able to win the first one is definitely a big step.''
Trailing 2-0 after home runs to Brenden Webb, who flew in from the US on game day, and David Amberson, the Cavalry bats exploded into life in the sixth inning with back-to-back homers of their own.
First utility Ryan Stovall, then second baseman Adam Buschini sent Heat starting pitcher and former Major Leaguer Virgil Vasquez over the fence.
It took another six innings to break the deadlock, with a throwing error, sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly all helping Buschini round the bases and score the winning run.
The win was not without a major scare, however.
With two outs in the bottom of the 12th, Cavalry closer Sean Toler faced loaded bases before striking out Heat slugger Allan de San Miguel for the save.
The Cavalry hasn't missed a beat since losing several key players - something Perth now faces.
Vasquez recently signed with the Minnesota Twins and will play one more game for the Heat - against the Cavalry in Canberra - before returning to the US to rest ahead of spring training.
Collins said his team just focused on its own game, but conceded it wouldn't hurt the Cavalry's chances.
''If he's their best pitcher and he's not here, that can't hurt us, right,'' he said.
Chris Motta will be Canberra's starting pitcher in game three against the Heat on Sunday.
CANBERRA CAVALRY 3 (Buschini 2, Stovall runs) bt PERTH HEAT 2 (Webb, Amberson runs) at Baseball Park, Perth on Friday night. Crowd: 1614.