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'Hungry' recruits lift Cavalry to top

A focus on ''hungry'' recruits ''playing for now'' is behind the Canberra Cavalry's meteoric rise to the best team in the Australian Baseball League.

After a 16-9 win over Perth Heat at Narrabundah Ballpark on Friday night, Canberra has a three-game gap at the top of the table.

Cavalry coach Michael Collins was a late appointment to Canberra's top job, following Steve Schrenk's decision not to return, and he credited both Schrenk and ACT Baseball Association general manager Tom Vincent for a bulk of the recruiting.

In the past, the Cavalry has largely relied on players affiliated with Major League clubs, such as Jack Murphy and Marcus Knecht from the Toronto Blue Jays, but this season most of the roster has no alignment to the majors.

Instead, it has a roster of young players who are desperate to catch the eye of a scout and get signed or re-signed.

Kody Hightower, Brian Grening, Jeremy Barnes, Adam Buschini, Sean Toler and Chris Motta have all been crucial to the Cavalry's climb up the ladder after finishing last in the first two seasons of the ABL.


Ryan Stovall had a similar plan and has since signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

With all those players firing, the rest of the roster has become infected with enthusiasm.

Murphy and Knecht are blitzing, as are Canberra products Michael Wells and Aaron Sloan.

''These unaffiliated guys, they're hungry,'' Collins said on Friday. ''They want to play, they want to win and some of them want to re-sign and get affiliated again and even if they can't they're still hungry and they still want it. I think they just love to play at the moment.''

The Cavalry brought in relief pitcher Brodie Downs to replace the returned Japanese pitchers, and the 33-year-old pitched his first inning for the club in Thursday night's win over the Heat.

At first glance he might not fit the profile of young and hungry, but he started late and his arm is relatively young and, having been on the books of the Seattle Mariners, he wants to get back.

The San Diego Padres - Collins coaches their Dominican League team - recommended Downs to the Cavs and were considering signing him themselves.

''[Downs] came out here and came up to me after the game yesterday and said, 'The best thing about being in this team is they all want to win for one another now because they know the best chance that each of them has as individuals to be seen is to be part of a successful organisation', and that's helping everybody,'' Cavalry general manager Peter Bishell said.

The Cavalry plays the Heat at Narrabundah Ballpark again at 7pm on Saturday night, before finishing the series on Sunday at noon.