Panthers comeback falls short in extras

KITCHENER - A valiant comeback effort, but the Kitchener Panthers couldn't finish the job, losing 10-8 in 10 innings against the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday at Jack Couch Park.

After clawing back from a 7-3 deficit late, Kitchener had the tying run on second base and the bases loaded in the 10th.

"We battled hard, battled back from a deficit," said general manager Mike Boehmer. "We had a bad 10th inning."

Another piece to the Kitchener downfall was Toronto's four home runs on the game. Two came off the bat of Ryan Dos Santos, while Jordan Castaldo and Marcus Knecht each hit one deep.

Kitchener also hit the long ball, as Raul Gonzalez launched his first of the season, a three-run shot in the seventh as part of the comeback.

"He's swinging a better bat," Boehmer said of the Cuban shortstop. "(He) hit the ball hard in Brantford on Sunday and I think he's coming back and we need his big bat in the middle of the order."

Gonzalez finished two-for-five with the three RBI. Nick Parsons knocked in two runs, going one-for-four.

Eric Martin made his season debut for Kitchener. He went one-for-five.

Jett Jarvis also continues to swing a steady bat, going three-for-four with a double and a walk. The hit streak is up to three games. He has hits in eight of the 10 games he has appeared in.

Yadian Martinez had trouble keeping Toronto runs off the board, but he still went 6.2 innings.

He struck out 10 batters and now has a league-leading 40 Ks to his credit.

Jose Vasquez took the loss. He came on in the top of the ninth and went two innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on four hits. He struck out five and walked a single batter.

Vasquez has been a starter to begin the year, but it seems the bullpen is where he will reside for the time being.

"We sort of decided he's more comfortable out of the pen, but he's a guy who can go three or four innings," Boehmer said.

"Right now, we're going to use him in that role, maybe spot starting. But that's his new role, and he's happy with it."

So what does that do with the starting rotation? Boehmer said it will be Martinez, Pedro De Los Santos and Dakota Parsons for the time being. The hope is the fourth Cuban import is with the team by the end of the month.

"I was on top of that today, and we're hoping kind of toward the end of the month," he said. "He can start or close, and he'll be a nice addition to the team too. We're excited to have him on the way."

Kitchener will now play four straight on the road, beginning Friday in Hamilton at 7:35 p.m.. They'll finish the weekend Sunday in Chatham-Kent at 1:35 p.m.

The next home game is Sunday, June 23 at 5:15 p.m. against the Guelph Royals.