Hightower aims high on eve of Heat series
Canberra Cavalry star Kody Hightower. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
He's seen an Australian Baseball League championship ring up close; now Canberra Cavalry star Kody Hightower wants one of his own.
The hottest team in the competition will have its title credentials put to the test when the ladder-leading Cavalry (16-9) begins a stretch of eight games over 10 days against two-time defending champions the Perth Heat (16-10).
The Cavalry faces the Heat in Perth in the first of a four-game series starting on Friday night, before they resume hostilities at Narrabundah Ballpark from January 3-6.
Kody Hightower tries to turn a double play in the recent ABL All Star game. Photo: Scott Powick (SMP Images)
The Heat has been the benchmark since the ABL was reborn in 2010, claiming both titles and emerging as a force for a championship hat-trick.
But Hightower is eager to spoil the party after getting an up-close view of a championship ring on the hand of the Perth manager last year.
''I want that championship,'' Hightower said.
''It looks like a World Series ring, it lit my eyes up.
''I've got to get me one of those.
''These next two series are going to set the record straight.
''We're going into it with a lot of confidence knowing we're top of the ladder, but Perth is a tough team to beat.''
Hightower is having a major impact in the Cavalry's resurgence; the 27-year-old American is averaging a league-leading .410 at the top of the order in his second season.
The Cavalry has a half-game lead over the second-placed Heat after winning its past four series, the most recent a 3-1 triumph against the Brisbane Bandits last weekend.
That was despite dealing with the untimely mid-season losses of slugger K.C. Hobson and left-handed import Kohei Shibata, who was one of the Cavalry's three Hanshin Tigers recruits who returned to Japan.
Pitchers Bryan Herrera and Sean Guinard, signed from the ACT A-grade competition, joined the Cavalry at training on Thursday night and are in the mix to make their debuts this weekend.
In-form starter Brian Grening, who will take to the mound on Friday with an unbeaten 3-0 record, backed the Cavalry's hitters to continue their purple patch.
''We're on a roll, man, we've been crushing the ball and pitching it in all facets,'' Grening said.
''Our hitters have hit some of the best pitchers in the league over the past two weeks, and I'm pumped about that.
''It's fun to be part of a squad like that.''
Cavalry manager Michael Collins gave his squad three days off for the Christmas break.
''We've kind of seen this [the Perth series] on the draw after the first couple of weeks, this is our big one,'' Collins said.
In the rest of the round, the Bandits host the Melbourne Aces in a battle of the competition's cellar-dwellers, while the Sydney Blue Sox take on the Adelaide Bite at Blacktown.
Canberra Cavalry v Perth Heat: At Baseball Park, Perth. Game 1: Friday 10.20pm; Game 2: Saturday 10.20pm; Game 3: Sunday 10.20pm; Game 4: Monday 10.20pm.