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SEASON IN REVIEW: Canberra Cavalry
Starters shine as Cavalry fall just short of Claxton Shield
02/26/2018 10:58 PM ET
David Kandilas was instrumental in Canberra's run to the Australian Baseball League Championship Series (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA
David Kandilas was instrumental in Canberra's run to the Australian Baseball League Championship Series (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA 

Canberra brushed aside pre-season concerns over its Aussie playing stocks to fall a win shy of a second Claxton Shield.

The Cavs finished the regular season in third spot, with a 24-15 record, as they booked a return to the playoffs after missing out on 2016/2017.

Canberra then took down Perth on the road in game three of their semi-final series, after falling in game one, before losing to Brisbane in the ABL Championship Series after taking the opener.

The Cavs had one of the league's best starting rotations in Brian Grening, Lake Bachar, Frank Gailey and Steven Kent.

Combined the rotation accounted for 16 of Canberra's 24 wins, finishing 16-7 with a 3.45 ERA.

The Cavs also had the league's best hitter, Jay Baum, who formed a lethal three-four punch in the line-up with David Kandilas.

Baum hit a league-high .439, homering nine times and driving in 41 runs.

Kandilas finished with a .380 batting average and tied with Sydney's Chiang Chih-hsien on a league-best 44 RBI.

Buddy Reed and Casey McElroy were others to hit above .300 for Canberra, which as a team hit .298 and averaged 7.4 runs per game.

The Cavs also unearthed some young talent, with Cameron Warner growing in stature as the season went on and Jake Amos given opportunity in the outfield.

 

What went right

Canberra put together one of the league's best starting rotations alongside Brisbane.

Recently retired Brian Grening, Lake Bachar and Frank Gailey ranked in the league's top four for ERA and combined went 13-2 with a 2.92 ERA in starts.

Gailey was the pick of the trio, going 4-0 with an ERA of 1.80 and 59 strikeouts.

Grening went 5-1 with a 3.53 ERA and Bachar was 5-1 with a 2.91 ERA.

The trio kept runners off the bases better than any other pitchers in the league.

Left-hander Steven Kent, who rounded out the rotation, compiled a 3-5 record during the regular season but led the team with 61 strikeouts.

 

What went wrong

The loss of Buddy Reed and Gabriel Arias may not have been the difference between Canberra winning and losing the ABLCS, but it certainly did not help.

The Cavs only enjoyed the services of Connor Panas (five homers in 19 games) for half of the season, while big-name signing Ryan Kalish failed to have an impact.

Canberra's bullpen was unreliable too.

After the All-Star Game break regular relief pitchers Tyler Herr (5.23 ERA), Tayler Saucedo (7.45), Michael Click (7.71), Sean Guinard (7.68) and Dan Lietz (15.43) all compiled ERA's above 5.00.

 

Most impressive win

Defeated Perth 3-1 at Perth Harley-Davidson Ballpark on February 4.

Canberra booked its spot in the ABLCS, coming from a game down to defeat Perth in their semi-final series in Perth.

The Cavs used a strong start by Frank Gailey, who finished with 12 strikeouts in 7 1/3 scoreless innings.

Gailey gave up three hits and no runs despite walking five hitters.

David Kandilas and Lee Mills drove in runs as Canberra wrapped up a 2-1 series win on the road.

 

Highlight of the season

David Kandilas crushed a walk-off home run to lift Canberra over Brisbane during the final round of the regular season at The Fort at MIT Ballpark.

 

theABL.com Player of the Season

Frank Gailey

Jay Baum was terrific for Canberra, but in a season where hitters dominated the ABL Frank Gailey was exceptional on the mound.

The left-handed 32-year-old finished with a 1.80 ERA, going 4-0 across nine games (eight starts).

Gailey struck out 59 hitters during the regular season, restricting opponents to a .155 batting average.

He suffered defeat in game three of the ABLCS against Brisbane but the Cavs would not even have been there in the first place if for his 12-strikeout performance in game three of their semi-final series against Perth a week earlier.

 

2017/2018 grade: A

Canberra had all the components of a championship calibre team aside from depth.

The Cavs' starters were able to go toe-to-toe with anyone but beyond that it was at times a lottery with the bullpen.

While Canberra's relievers showed glimpses of promise they failed to produce on a consistent basis.

The Cavs' offence was more consistent and aside from strong campaigns by Baum and Kandilas the late-season form of Cam Warner and Lee Mills was a positive.

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.