KITCHENER – The Panthers lost 5-4 in extra innings to the Brantford Red Sox Tuesday night, in a game that went so late it passed the city’s 11 p.m. bylaw cut-off for playing music at Jack Couch Park.
Lee Delfino struck the fatal blow in the twelfth, driving home Cambridge’s Jeff Hunt on a single off David Whiteside. The Panthers, now a half game behind the Red Sox with playoffs about to begin, had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the frame but Scott David was thrown out at the plate.
The back-and-forth battle began with a moment of silence for the late Harry Psutka, the former Panthers catcher who played for the team in the 1940s and 1950s.
For the Red Sox, it was their last chance to pass the Panthers in the standings. With the loss, Kitchener now needs to win their makeup game Thursday night in Burlington to reclaim third place.
Manager Steve Scagnetti said before the game he wasn’t concerned about a resurgent Red Sox, who had won seven of their last ten games coming into Kitchener. He pointed out his Panthers also had the same record in the past ten games.
“We’re getting hot, too,” he said. “We had a slow start, but we’re building some momentum now.”
Kitchener’s Matt McGovern, making just his second start of the season, looked good until the fifth inning, when Brantford sent eight men to the plate and scored three times. He was relieved by lefty Matt Vickers, and then Mike Schnurr, who held the Red Sox at bay over three strong innings.
Russell Luxton gave the Panthers a chance to win, after relieving Schnurr with two out in the ninth and getting Brandon Daily to ground out. He pitched a three-up, three-down tenth, and a scoreless eleventh.
The Red Sox scored first, when Will Richards got aboard on an error in the second inning and came home on an RBI by Mike Bonanno. Tanner Nivins evened it up with a solo home run to right in the bottom of the frame.
Nivins had an impact with his glove an inning later, when he made a flying catch against the wall in centre that probably saved two runs.
Tempers flared in the fourth, when Hunt, Brantford’s third baseman, took exception to a hard slide by Whiteside and appeared to knee the shortstop in the head, drawing some Panthers off the bench. The umpire intervened before things got out of hand and warned both sides.
Ricky Murray, sensing an opportunity, came to the plate and drove a double down the third base line right past a flustered Hunt, scoring two runs.
Brantford went ahead again in the top of the fifth, on a two-run shot by Daily. David, playing at third base, tied the game again a few minutes later with a blast over the right field fence, for his first home run of the season.
The Panthers flashed some defense in the six, when Bryon Bell and David helped turn a double play that caught Ben Bostick in a rundown at third, keeping the tie intact.
The Red Sox leaned on some flashy defense of their own in the seventh, when they turned a double play with the bases loaded to keep Panthers from scoring.
Second baseman Mike Andrulis got in on the defensive acrobatics in the eighth. He started a double play by diving for a hard shot, then flipped the ball from his stomach to Whiteside, who fired a strike to Bell to get the second runner at first.
The Panthers had a man on third with one out again in the eighth, but failed to score after Ricky Murray struck out and Bryon Bell had a long fly out to centre field.
Kitchener managed to get two more aboard in the tenth, but again stranded their runners. In the eleventh, the Red Sox doubled up the Panthers when Bostick made a sliding catch on a towering shot by Darnell Duckett and threw out a running Andrulis.
League playoffs could begin as soon as Friday night.