A 39-year-old debutant helped lift the Canberra Cavalry to its third win of the Australian Baseball League season, despite knowing little more than half of his teammates' names.
Casey's Dean Stoka was shocked to find himself starting on the mound in Canberra's 4-2 win over the Melbourne Aces at Narrabundah Ballpark on Thursday night.
He'd only signed with the Cavalry the morning prior, so one could easily forgive Canberran for thinking the chance to pitch seven innings was far beyond his expectations.
But Stoka delivered on debut and proved why manager Keith Ward selected him to start, allowing just four hits, one run with five strikeouts.
"Getting the privilege to start was something I wasn't expecting Wardy to offer me. The fact he put me up to start was pretty shocking at first," Stoka said.
"For the first couple of pitches I was pretty nervous, there was a bit of a jump going from local club ball to ABL.
"We've got guys like Robbie [Perkins], Kenty [Steven Kent], [Taylor] Jockers and Lee Mills... all these local boys that play in the Cavs.
"I play with them throughout the season in club ball but they're like your higher-tier players. When you step up to the ABL, you have to envisage every player is that level or better.
"I was absolutely ecstatic to go seven [innings] and I thought I did a pretty decent job. Hopefully all the boys in the team were happy with how I went. You never know, I might get another start."
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Stoka has played with the ACT Bandits for almost two decades and trained with the Cavalry a few times in recent years.
His parents and two sons came out to watch his debut at The Fort, with the pitcher saying it was amazing to play in front of the Cavalry's home fans.
"I was pretty happy [to sign with the Cavalry]. Getting asked to play for the local high-level team is pretty ... well, it feels good to be wanted," he said.
"It was amazing to have my parents and two boys out there. If I didn't have my parents around, I wouldn't have gotten to where I am thus far in my career.
"When I was a kid, they dragged me out to training, drove me everywhere I needed to be, paid for my flights and whatever else. I couldn't have done it without them."
Stoka will likely be rested for the remainder of the Cavalry's third series against Melbourne, which continues with a double-header on Saturday.
He threw 99 pitches and struck out Delmon Young swinging in the second frame.
Robbie Perkins set a club record for doubles in the series-opener, finishing the match two-for-three, with two doubles, two runs and a walk.
Infielder Mikey Reynolds went two-for-four with an RBI and a walk, helping secure Cavalry victory against the reigning champions.
AT A GLANCE
ABL third series, match one - CANBERRA CAVALRY 4 (00020101) bt MELBOURNE ACES 2 (000100010) at Narrabundah Ballpark.