Cavs take fast track
Canberra Cavalry's Kohei Shibata, right, slides safely into second base. Photo: Colleen Petch
Jets, wheels, speed, call it what you will, Canberra Cavalry manager Michael Collins is using it to boost the scoring power at the top of his batting line-up.
And it's already paid dividends in the current four-game series against the Sydney Blue Sox in Blacktown, which is a battle for second spot on the Australian Baseball League ladder.
The Cavalry won a thrilling first game 2-1 in a 13-inning pitching duel on Thursday night.
Collins hopes his speed demons will keep his side at the pointy end of the ladder for the club's first play-off berth.
The Canberra-born manager has a handful of pacy players at his disposal, with Japanese import Kohei Shibata, Ryan Stovall, Adam Buschini, Kody Hightower and Jonathan Jones all boasting the ability to burn up the diamond.
It was Shibata's turn of speed that proved the difference on Thursday.
After drawing the walk, he stole second base, dashed to third on a wild pitch before bolting home on a passed ball to score the winning run after four extra innings.
While Collins was unsure who was the quickest of his fast five, he said Shibata's baseball smarts put him in the position to score a run few players in in the league could have managed.
''We've shifted the line-up around to try and get as many of our quicker guys together at the top of the line-up and hopefully that can lead to more runs,'' he told The Canberra Times.
''Hopefully one of those guys gets on and can create a bit of havoc on the bases and good things tend to happen after that.''
But Collins will have to make hay while the sun shines. Japanese rules state Shibata and his two Hanshin Tigers teammates cannot play beyond Christmas.
This means the four-game series against the Brisbane Bandits at Narrabundah Ballpark, starting on December 20, will be Shibata's last.
Masanori Fujihara and Hirokazu Shiranita will also return home, having provided a massive boost to the Cavalry bullpen.
Both have become critical weapons on the pitching mound through the latter stages of games.
While the language of love will take Fujihara home a week earlier than his fellow Tigers - for his wedding - the language of baseball has helped them become an integral part of the team.
With little English between them - and even less Japanese among the rest of the team - they've relied on baseball terms to communicate.
''We don't have an interpreter on the road with us … [but] baseball is a bit of a universal language,'' Collins said. ''Most people that've been around the game seem to understand.''
The Cavalry plays the third game of the Blue Sox series on Saturday night and the final game on Sunday, both at Blacktown International Sportspark.