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A walk-off comeback and a nail biter, as Panthers sweep double dip

The Kitchener Panthers clinched home field in the first round of the playoffs after sweeping a doubleheader against the Hamilton Cardinals Thursday night
kitchener panthers

If you had a ticket to Jack Couch Park Thursday night, you got a bit of everything.

A comeback, a walk-off, solid pitching heading into the postseason and all of it came together for not one, but two much-needed wins for the Kitchener Panthers.

Carter Arbuthnot was issued the always exciting walk-off walk in the seventh to give the Panthers a 6-5 win in Game 1.

It didn't start off that well for the home side, as Justin Gideon sent the second pitch of the game over the fence to give Hamilton the lead.

The Cardinals would take the 5-0 advantage by the end of the second, and spelled the end of the night for Panthers starter Luis Grisanti.  He gave up five runs (two earned) on five hits, struck out one and walked nobody.

Matt Stoddart pitched a gem in relief, going four innings of four hit shutout ball, striking out four and walking two.

"The guys stepped up, especially being down early," said Panthers manager Don Menard, "They just kept battling back.  Matt Stoddart came in and just shut the door."

"(The win) was big, cause it gives them confidence going in there.  That helps because we needed to win these two to stay within second or third place so that was huge once you get the first one."

The four innings for Stoddart was just what the doctor ordered, as the Panthers climbed to within one heading into the seventh inning.

After Blake Jacklin was retired to lead things off, the Panthers turned to their bread and butter: small ball, combined with a couple walks to load the bases and tie the game.

And with the bases juiced, Ryan Clark walked Arbuthnot to complete Kitchener's comeback bid.

Clay Miller went five innings in the first game for the Cardinals, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits.  He walked two and struck out four.

The momentum carried into the second game as the Panthers took an early 3-0 lead and never looked back to win 3-2, clinching home-field advantage for their first-round playoff series.

An interesting note on Game 2, as both teams went with an opener rather than a starter, as pitchers needed appearances and innings in order to be eligible to pitch in the playoffs.

Hamilton went back to Miller, who only saw the first batter before he was sent back into the dugout in favour of Chris Lazar, who went the rest of the way.

For Kitchener, Ryan Douglas went one inning of shutout ball before Geoff Moroz took over.

Moroz collected the win, going two and a third of two hit baseball.  He gave up the two Hamilton runs (one earned), while striking out three and walking one.

Jorden Carthy and Brady Schnarr followed Moroz and shut the door the rest of the way.

"That's playoff baseball," Menard said, "I'm very pleased with the gentlemen tonight."

Liam Wilson went three-for-four in the first game, including his seventh home-run of the season and collected three RBI.

Jacklin was a combined four-for-seven in the two games, including a three-for-three Game 2.

The two wins guarantee the Panthers will have home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

They're a game and a half up on third place Welland, who leapfrogged Toronto thanks to a 15-9 win over the Maple Leafs Thursday.

Kitchener is in Barrie Saturday night, before wrapping up the regular season schedule Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. at Jack Couch Park against London.


Mark Pare

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