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Five-run seventh inning propels Kitchener Panthers to win over Guelph

It was the third meeting between the Panthers and Royals in a six day stretch
Panthers Gade
Kitchener Panthers pitcher Stephen Gade hurls a pitch during an Intercounty Baseball League game. (Mark Pare/KitchenerToday)

Veterans and newcomers alike put up the offense for the top-ranked Kitchener Panthers (16-7) Sunday afternoon.

Keegan Marsden and Mike Gordner each had a pair of RBI, but Zack Johnson got the bat going in a 10-4 win over the Guelph Royals (8-16) at Jack Couch Park.

While Gordner stretched his hit streak to 10 games, Johnson was only playing in his fifth game in a Panthers uniform.

He did strike out his first two at bats, but Johnson came back with two straight RBI singles in the fifth and seventh.

Oh, and he capped off this three RBI performance with a solo home run in the eighth.

"I'm speaking from my perspective, but looks like he was trying to earn his spot and to try and show what he can do and taking big big hacks," Panthers Manager Luke Baker said of Johnson, "We had a little talk cause he was late on the pitches and I told him 'shorten up man, you're not making contact.  Just focus on making contact right now."

"Anyway, it worked out really good.  He took that advice and just shortened up and as you saw, he did a great job.  I don't know if it just took the pressure off or whatever it did but he capitalized and did amazing work."

And Baker said it had a trickle down effect on the team.

"Everybody wants to see people succeed when they're struggling," he commented, "We want everybody to do well, we want everybody to feel comfortable and have some fun while they're playing so it was nice for everybody.  Everybody's shoulders dropped a little bit on that one."

Christian Hauck got in six innings of work and recorded the win.

He struck out six, walked five and surrendered four earned runs on five hits.

Three of those runs came off one swing.

It was a three-run home run from Guelph's Josh Garton in the fifth inning to put the Royals up 4-3 at that point.

It was Hauck's only costly mistake of the afternoon.

"These are big, strong guys that can do that at any time," Baker said, "But Haucker, he's a gamer."

"He'll come back and he's there every day and working his butt off.  I love his approach.  He's a great kid and he's got a great head on his shoulders and I love the way he goes about the game, and he did (today).  He pitched a great game.  In his mind, he's always wanting to do better but I'd be telling him the same thing right now 'just keep at it bud, you're doing great.'"

Yomar Conception took the loss, giving up three earned runs on six hits, while striking out four and walking five batters in 5.2 innings of work.

Brendan Keys drove in the other run for the Royals.

It was the third time in six days that Kitchener and Guelph meet up.

Baker says it's always a good time when the two clubs play.

"We had a good chunk of players and (current Royals Manager Dave TeBoekhorst) coaching here last year, so just that in itself makes it interesting and fun to play these guys.  The games have all, literally, been tie games, close games right up to the end," he said, "It's fun playing against them and makes for a good game for the fans."

"It gives me a bit of a heart attack at times, but it's good," Baker quipped with a laugh.

The Panthers visit the Toronto Maple Leafs (13-10) Wednesday night.

Guelph will also be on the road Wednesday, taking on the London Majors (14-8).


Mark Pare

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