Panthers fall further from first place London
After losing two of three over the weekend, Kitchener is now four games back of the London Majors with eight games left in the IBL season
By: Mark Pare
The good news is the Kitchener Panthers showed they can hang with the best in the IBL.
The bad news is after losing two of three to the London Majors over the weekend, the focus for Kitchener now turns to holding onto second place than chasing top spot with eight games to go.
The latest game was Sunday afternoon, an 11-7 London victory at Jack Couch Park.
Keegan Marsden hit a three-run home run in the third to give the Panthers a 5-3 lead, but London responded in the sixth with seven runs to all but seal the win.
"A play here and there, a pitch here and there and maybe we're winning this game, same with a couple other games," Panthers manager Don Menard said of the three games, "It was nice to pick up the win against (Majors starter Pedro) De Los Santos (on Friday), and it would've been nice to get it against (Owen) Boon here (Sunday). We had a shot and it got away from us, but at least it shows the guys that we can play with London."
"But just like some teams, we have to be perfect at times (and) if you're not perfect, you get the loss."
Sunday didn't come without controversy though, with tensions flaring from the Panthers side of things.
Hayden Jaco was hit by a pitch in the sixth inning and was able to take first base, but the Panthers contend that Jaco leaned into the pitch.
Panthers starter Stephen Gade was not thrilled by the call, immediately leaving the mound to argue the call with the home plate umpire.
Menard came out soon after, and cooler heads would prevail but the Panthers skip wasn't pleased.
"It was tough to hit and pitch today, put it that way. It wasn't consistent enough, at times," he said, "We don't get one call, and then we give up the big home run and we're behind. I don't want to complain like that, but you can't lean into pitches and get hit by a pitch, plain and simple, you just can't do it."
"And it changes every game because the same thing happened to (Nick) Parsons, and they made him stay at home (plate). He got hit in the middle of the back, he didn't lean into it. The excuse was that it was a curve ball. Well, if you lean into a fastball, you're still leaning into a pitch."
Nonetheless, Menard said felt his team did okay by getting balls into play, but admits the pitching needs to be a bit better and a little more consistent.
"We'll be okay for the playoffs. We're still trying to get guys innings so that everybody's sharp, and hopefully by then, it'll be fine," he said, "We better correct the ship in a hurry, right?"
Gade went five innings Sunday, giving up eight hits and eight runs (six earned), striking out three and issuing no walks.
The Panthers are now four games back of London with eight games left, but did get some out-of-town help in the standings Sunday.
Brantford took down the third place Maple Leafs 7-5 in Toronto, so Toronto remains a half game behind Kitchener.
Welland stays a full game back of the Panthers, after squandering a 10-1 lead and losing 14-13 in a thriller in Hamilton.
The Kitchener Panthers begin a three game road trip in Toronto on Wednesday, in Barrie on Thursday, and in Welland on Saturday.
The next Kitchener Panthers Home Game is Sunday, August 29th vs. Welland Jackfish, 2:00pm start time at Jack Couch Park.