Canberra Cavalry one win from ABL championship after beating Brisbane Bandits
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Canberra Cavalry one win from ABL championship after beating Brisbane Bandits

The Canberra Cavalry are one win away from their second Claxton Shield - but acting manager Keith Ward knows it's the hardest one.

Canberra got off to the perfect start in the Australian Baseball League championships series with a 5-1 victory over the Brisbane Bandits at a soldout Narrabundah Ballpark on Friday night.

Starting pitcher Brian Grening was magnificent, pitching 6.2 scoreless innings for Canberra.

Starting pitcher Brian Grening was magnificent, pitching 6.2 scoreless innings for Canberra.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Cavalry starting pitcher Brian Grening set up the win with another brilliant display on the mound he's called his own for the last seven years.

The Cavalry now fly to Brisbane for game two, where Lake Bachar will start on Saturday night determined to wrap up the championship and add to their only other title when they swept the 2012-13 championship series.

Jay Baum in action.

Jay Baum in action.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos
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It was the biggest win of Ward's coaching career, having stepped in to fill Michael Collins' shoes after the Cavalry manager had to report to his new job with World Series champions Houston Astros.

"The hardest one's yet to come really. At the end of the day you've got to win two, they're a good ball club and there's a reason why they finished on top of the ladder," Ward said.

"Their ballpark brings new dynamics into it because it's relatively short, but in saying that our team and their team - there's not a lot of difference."

Grening's not like a fine wine, he doesn't get better with age - he's just always good.

Kyle Perkins at the plate.

Kyle Perkins at the plate.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

He put in another masterful display and was untroubled until the top of the seventh when he loaded the bases before taking a seat.

The 32-year-old's been a constant in the Cavalry's success, leading the charge in their one ABL championship and their Asia Series win.

Cavalry's Casey McElroy rounds the bases.

Cavalry's Casey McElroy rounds the bases.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Grening pitched 6⅔ innings for just five scattered hits and without giving up a run or a walk.

Tyler Herr came out of the bullpen to clean up the trouble and give Grening the blank sheet he deserved.

Bandits second-base TJ Bennett hit a consolation home run in the top of the ninth before Herr closed it out.

"Huge, huge. Greno's been great all year and especially against the top teams. Greno goes out there, he's going to grind away, he's going to keep throwing his game and he did a fantastic job again tonight," Ward said.

"I don't think he really got into any trouble whatsoever until that seventh inning."

Cavalry catcher Robbie Perkins put the home side on top early, his two-run homer in the bottom of the second set up a lead they would not relinquish.

Canberra shortstop Jay Baum drove in fellow infielder Casey McElroy to make it a three-run game an inning later, before outfielder David Kandilas smashed a two-run homer of his own.

Having been the best team all season, the Bandits started to wilt under the pressure as their defence made some uncharacteristic mistakes.

In contrast, the Cavalry looked sharp with everything they did. Now they just have to do it one more time.

AT A GLANCE

Brisbane 000 000 001 - 1R 6H 2E

Canberra 021 020 00x - 5R 13H 0E

Cavalry best: Brian Grening (6.2I, 0R, 5H, 0W, 3K), David Kandilas (2-4, 1HR, 2RBI), Robbie Perkins (2-4, 1HR, 2RBI), Tyler Herr (2.1I, 1H, 1R, 0W, 2K).

David Polkinghorne

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.

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