Dapto Chiefs coach Dom D'Antonio says injuries and the absence of up to five players means his side need a "miracle" to beat Kiama Braves in this afternoon's Illawarra baseball final at Hector Harvey Park.
Chiefs beat Braves in last year's premiership decider with today's winner to face Wests Cardinals in the best-of-three grand finals series beginning next Saturday at Fred Finch Park.
But Chiefs, who opened the door for Braves to finish fourth with a loss to Kiama two weeks ago, are now battling just to field a side today.
"We've two guys out and three needing cortisone injections," D'Antonio said.
"It'll take a miracle to get past Braves. Nothing's gone right. We really needed to win last week and have the week off. Now we're in a lot of strife and will be lucky to get out of it."
Chiefs will be without Ben Garvey, who is attending a wedding, while back-up catcher Dean Leighton is working in Townsville.
Regular catcher Troy Green is unlikely to overcome a knee injury with D'Antonio set to play relieving pitcher, Mitch Thompson - who has a broken thumb, behind the plate.
"I was hoping to get a few innings out of Mitch but I don't think Troy will play," D'Antonio said.
Meanwhile, Braves player/coach Jamie Simon, who threw 166 pitches in the extra innings win over Northern Pirates, believes his side have a "great chance" of making the grand final from fourth spot.
Braves will be without catcher Matt DuBois, who is holidaying in Fiji, but otherwise have their strongest possible side available.
"I'm not worried about Dom [D'Antonio], he's always got the hook out for players," Simon said.
"We've got a great chance to make it to the grand final and if Chiefs are struggling, so be it."
After two decades as the top pitcher in Illawarra baseball, Simon will likely retire if Braves lose today, but will likely play on in 2014 if they win the grand final.
MAJOR LEAGUE FINALS
First grade: Chiefs v Braves (1.30pm)
Second grade: Pirates v Chiefs (11.15am)
Third grade: Cardinals v Braves (9am)