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Panthers settle for second, will face Maple Leafs in IBL playoffs

Game 1 of the first round goes Thursday night in Kitchener
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IBL Kitchener Panthers lose
A dejected Tanner Nivins of the Kitchener Panthers walks away, as the Barrie Baycats celebrate their 2018 IBL Championship win in the background. (Mark Pare/KitchenerToday)

Always the groomsmen, but never the groom.

For the Kitchener Panthers, they seem to get so close. But those pesky Barrie Baycats just seem to get in their way time and time again.

For the third straight year, Barrie took the Intercounty Baseball League pennant after a 4-2 victory in a forced one-game tiebreaker Tuesday night.

It also marks the third straight year Barrie and Kitchener finish first and second in the IBL.

Both teams finished 2019 with equal 25-11 records, but when two teams are tied for first place after the 36-game season, the teams have to play one game at the home of the team who holds the tiebreaker.

There wasn’t much scoring to start, but Barrie was able to get one on the board in the third, courtesy an RBI triple off the bat of Kevin Atkinson.

They’d add two more, thanks to a two-run double from Ryan Rijo before Kitchener starter Yoen Socarras was sent off the mound.

He went six innings overall, giving up three runs on eight hits, two walks and eight strikeouts. His counterpart, Adrian Salcedo pitched a shutout in seven innings of work for the Baycats.

He gave up just four hits, walking two and striking out four.

Another Barrie run came in on an error to the Kitchener shortstop in the eighth for good measure. The Panthers got an RBI triple from Andy Leader in the ninth (who would come into score with the next batter) to round out the scoring.

But in the end, the season just decides your path to the IBL Final, if you’re lucky enough to make it there.

For Barrie and Kitchener, both have a powerful motivator for themselves --- on top of their rivalry --- to reach their third straight Finals matchup, and fourth in the last five years.

Barrie is on the cusp of history, a chance to match the Brantford Red Sox of 2008-2013 and their IBL-record six straight championships.

Kitchener.

Well.

They’re sick of never walking down that aisle, and having to watch a celebration from the dugout again and again.

Kitchener hasn’t won the IBL Title since capturing two straight Jack and Lynne Dominico Trophies in 2000-2001. And the sting of a wild Game 6 loss on home field a year ago is still fresh for some Panthers vets.

Their road for the 2019 crown will begin at home Thursday night, for Game 1 of their best-of-seven series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

First pitch flies from Jack Couch Park at 7:30 p.m.

Times for the remaining games are still to be determined.




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