It looked like a carbon copy of their game in Barrie Saturday: a 3-0 Baycats lead, and the Kitchener Panthers initiated a comeback.
And they did.
But happened next had everyone on pins and needles in what turned out to be a Baycats win, 11-9 in the Panthers’ home opener at Jack Couch Park.
“It didn’t look very good, come the eighth and ninth inning, and the guys stuck with it,” says Panthers manager Luke Baker, “That’s been one thing that I’m really proud of the guys about. Last year and this year, we just never seem to quit. That’s huge. You can’t ask for much more than that.”
The Panthers held a 4-3 lead, and had two outs in the top half of the eighth.
But with a chance to close out the inning, an error by the Kitchener third baseman Jeff Hunt set into motion a devastating inning that saw the Baycats score eight runs, all unearned.
Jeff Cowan hit a one-run single to tie it, and chased Panthers reliever Austin Hassani from the game in favour of usual closer Mike Schnurr.
But Schnurr faced six batters before recording the final out.
A Branfy Infante steal of home, and a Jordan Castaldo grand slam home run over the centre field fence helped put the visitors up 11-4.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the ninth inning. And the Baycats subbed in Brad Bissell on the pitcher’s mound, after he spent the previous part of the game batting ninth in the DH spot.
Bissell hit two of the first three batters he faced to load the bases, and Mike Andrulis hit a bloop single through the infield to cash in a run.
And with the bases still juiced, Nick Parsons --- subbed in for an injured Tanner Nivins --- cleared them with a three-run double.
Brian Burton would get a one-out single, off a Baycats throwing error, to bring it to within two. That put the tying run at the plate, but that’s as close as the Panthers got.
Now, Baker says the month of May is essentially a month to get guys into the line up and see what he has.
So, there were many from the Kitchener Jr. Panthers program that got to see some field, including a switch on defense in the ninth, when he pulled the aforementioned Nivins after he was hit in the hand by a pitch in the eighth.
“(Nivins) seems to think that it feels okay,” Baker said, “It’s just obviously sore right now, so considering we had so many guys on the bench today, we figured why risk it.”
The loss forced a split of the two-game weekend between the two rivals who went to Game 6 of the Intercounty Baseball League Final last year.
“They’re always going to be a competitive team, no matter who they got,” Baker said of Barrie, “Even if they got 10 or 11 guys, like they did today.”
“You can tell, both of us aren’t at our mid-season form, but it’s still a good challenge and it’s still nice to be right there.”
Both starting pitchers got through six innings of work, but neither would earn a decision.
Jasvir Rakkar surrendered seven hits, three Barrie runs, walked two and struck out three. Santos Arias scattered six hits, four runs against, no walks and four strikeouts.
Adrian Salcedo got the win for Barrie, getting in two scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth.
Austin Hassani was tagged with the loss, getting through two outs in the eighth before giving up three unearned runs on two hits.
NEXT UP FOR KITCHENER: host the London Majors Thursday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m.