Nick Pugliese's loss could not have come at a worse time for the Cavalry. Photo: SMP Images
Nick Pugliese's departure to take up a ''real job'' couldn't have come at a worse time for the Canberra Cavalry, which faces the distinct possibility of missing out on the Australian Baseball League play-offs.
The Cavs sit equal second on the ladder, but as they have poor records against Adelaide and Sydney - the two teams they're tied with - they are effectively fourth and outside the finals berths.
To make matters worse, they face ABL benchmark and clear league leader Perth Heat in a four-game series at Narrabundah Ballpark starting on Thursday.
One thing going in the Cavs' favour is their clean sweep of the Heat the last time it was in Canberra.
But that will only add fuel to Perth's determination to potentially put its arch-rival out of the ABL race.
Pugliese has been a rock coming in as the middle-innings reliever, with an earned-run average of 0.61 and 49 strike-outs from his 29.2 innings pitched.
The ''Pug'' also played in the Asia Series last year, but not with the Cavalry. He played with Fortitudo Baseball Bologna, the Italian champion, in the other group to the Cavs.
Canberra coach Michael Collins said he would leave a ''bit of a hole'', but said it was also an opportunity for someone else to step up.
With Clint Everts likely to move into the starting rotation, along with Brian Grening, Ethan Cole and Steven Chambers, Collins was hoping Jeff Lyman and Eric Massingham could cover the loss.
Pugliese is leaving to become the sports co-ordinator for a city in Florida.
''That'll be a bit of a hole for us, he did a great job of coming into a lot of those innings where we were in trouble and getting us out of a jam, but with his departure it opens up an opportunity for someone else and hopefully they will step up and take that role,'' Collins said.
''I spoke to Lyman about it a couple of weeks ago and hopefully that's something he can step up to.
''Of course, there's Massingham still, we've been using him a bit later and maybe in clean innings as opposed to tough innings with runners on base, but maybe that's something he's going to have to step up to.''
Collins was also looking at the positives of playing Perth - a team that has labelled the Cavalry ''Team USA'', because of its higher number of imports.
''This is a good one for us,'' Collins said.
''Obviously they're on top, they're the best team right now record-wise.
''If we want to be the champions, we're going to have to beat the best team and at the moment that would be them.
''We've matched up well against Perth … so I would expect a pretty good series.''
CANBERRA CAVALRY v PERTH HEAT
At Narrabundah Ballpark: Thursday 7pm, Friday 7pm, Saturday 7pm, Sunday 12pm.