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Panthers fall to Barrie in battle of IBL's top teams

The Panthers and Baycats are now separated by one game in the IBL standings
Panthers Keegan Marsden
Kitchener Panthers infielder Keegan Marsden rounds the bases on an inside-the-park HR vs Barrie on June 22, 2018 (Mark Pare/KitchenerToday)

It came down to the wire Thursday night in Kitchener.

The Panthers (12-5) had the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, but they couldn't get the job done as the Barrie Baycats (11-6) took the 4-2 decision at Jack Couch Park.

Panthers Manager Luke Baker says they expected a good battle to the end, and they got it.

"We had some chances, and we didn't capitalize on and it's just kind of the way it all fell tonight," he said, "Could've been them, could've been us, anybody can win on any given day so they definitely got the better of us today but good match, it was exciting."

"It was kind of like a playoff game.  The sense of it.  The feel of it."

Keegan Marsden got the offense started by hitting an inside-the-park home run in the second inning.

But that's all Frank Garces would give up in terms of earned runs, as he pitched seven innings of four hit ball --- striking out eight and walking nobody --- to get the win.

If you recognize the name, it's because Garces is just a few years removed from pitching for the San Diego Padres.

His last appearance in the bigs came October 2015.

On the opposite side, Jonder Martinez held his own in seven innings of work for the home side.

He gave up six hits and three earned runs, walked one and struck out five, but recorded the loss.

With the decision, the Baycats now trail the Panthers in the IBL standings by just one game.

And we're right near the halfway point of the season, so we asked Baker to assess his team so far.

He says he didn't come in with expectations, but what's impressed him most is the way his team can adapt.

"I'm very happy with how we've been doing," he said, "Even tonight, there's been some great defense.  We had guys jumping around in a few different positions that they haven't played all season and they look comfortable, which is really nice to see."

The Panthers will return to action Saturday night, when they visit the Guelph Royals (6-10).

First pitch goes at 7:30 p.m.

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