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Kitchener Panthers sweep Toronto; advance to IBL Final

The Panthers will play the Barrie Baycats in the IBL Championship series, a rematch of the 2017 Final
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Kitchener Panthers - Mike Gordner
Kitchener Panthers catcher Mike Gordner rounds the bases after a two-run home run against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, August 23. (Mark Pare/KitchenerToday.com)

The 100th season of Intercounty Baseball is down to two teams.

The Kitchener Panthers completed the sweep of the Toronto Maple Leafs at Jack Couch Park Thursday evening, a 4-3 victory in Game 4 of their best-of-seven.

Jonder Martinez went six innings, surrendering eight hits, three runs while striking out four and walking three.

It was a tough start for the Cuban hurler, loading the bases in the first inning with nobody out.

Luckily, the two runs surrendered were answered quickly with a two-run home run by Mike Gordner to make it 2-2.

After that, both Martinez and Leafs starter Justin Cicatello settled down a bit, keeping the game close throughout.

"It was a battle, it was a good game," said Panthers Manager Luke Baker, "Both pitchers pitched really well.  Jonder seemed to be a little bit slower between pitches and it slowed down the game a bit and I don't know if that was working out to our advantage but he is a professional.  (He) was able to stick with it and our guys did really well."

"Cicatello pitched really well, kept us off the board.  He had some mistake pitches where our guys capitalized and hit the ball well and hard."

After a Brian Burton solo shot in the fourth and an RBI single for Marcus Knecht in the top half of the fifth, it was a 3-3 tie and the game seemed to be headed to extras.

Enter Yorbis Borotto.

He led off the bottom of the eighth with a solo home run of his own --- right near the scoreboard, almost exactly where Burton launched his --- and the 4-3 score line held up.

Cicatello pitched a complete game for Toronto, giving up seven hits and four runs, striking out three and walking two.

But it was not meant to be.

"It's one thing I've really liked about the way we've played this year is the way we've been able to stay in games and stay focused on what we need to do," said Baker, "We come out on top the majority of the time, which is been awesome."

But with that, Baker knew he had to play this game carefully, not just because Game 4 was tight.

He also had the other potential games in this series on the mind, as with the delays earlier this series, Games 5-7 were scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"We had to keep that in mind for sure," he said, "There were certain guys we were holding back in case.  A tight game like this, the thought is it could go extras and if it goes extras, how long is it going to go and we wanted to be very smart about how we went about who we were putting in and how we were doing it and then thinking about tomorrow, and the next day and the next day potentially."

"You want to win today.  But at the same time too, you got to keep it in the back of your mind that that may not happen so we were really trying to keep focused on putting the right guy in and hoping that it all worked out and it did, thank goodness.  But yeah, we had a couple Plan B and C's so we were ready if it was to go there but it worked out good, we didn't have to get to that point."

So the victory sets up a rematch of the 2017 IBL Final against the Barrie Baycats, who like Kitchener, are a perfect 7-0 the 2018 postseason.

Baker says they have to keep playing their game and keep improving to give themselves a shot.

"We're doing really well so far, I wanna hope that we continue that and that's going to give us that shot to beat Barrie," he said, "They're a big team.  They're giant, they've been in the league for a long time and a lot of their guys are veterans and I don't think they have any guys that they're losing back to college."

"It's going to be a David and Goliath kind of fight but I like those fights.  So, I'm hoping that we can be that underdog that wins and takes it this time."

The 2018 Final is expected to start early next week, but a full schedule has not been announced.




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