BRANTFORD – With the tying run just 90 feet away on third base, the Kitchener Panthers’ season ended in a nail-biting 5-4 loss to the Brantford Red Sox Tuesday night.
The Panthers, eliminated in five games in their semifinal series, put two men on in the top of the ninth on a double by Iggy Villalobos and came within a run of evening things up. But a groundout by Jeff Pietraszko ended the game and their season on a wet, humid night at Arnold Anderson Stadium.
Mike Glinka, who bounced a shot to first base that scored Darnell Duckett, making it 5-4, said the Panthers aren’t hanging their heads after losing to the Intercounty Baseball League’s five-time champions.
“It hurts. We fought hard today and that’s a damn good team we had a chance to beat,” Glinka said. “But we had a great season and I’m proud of the way we played.”
Manager Brian Bishop said his club came into Game 5 trying to stay relaxed, despite knowing their season was on the line.
“It’s disappointing. We had a pretty good team this year. We battled hard,” he said. “I told them to play like it could be their last game, and to leave it all out there. And they did.”
Two nights after Adam Echlin delivered the pitching performance of his season, limiting the Red Sox to one run over eight innings, the Panthers were once again fighting to stave off elimination.
Brantford, who jumped ahead in the third inning on a two-run home run by Josh McCurdy, fell behind two innings later when Villalobos smacked a first-pitch slider from Mike Meyers over the leftfield fence for a three-run homer that put Kitchener up 3-2.
McCurdy tied the game in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single off Shaun Hancock.
The Red Sox went ahead in the sixth when Cambridge’s Jeff Hunt hit an RBI single that scored Jason Gotwalt from second, who slide home safely ahead of the throw from Darnell Duckett.
That put a stop to Hancock’s night on the mound, having given up five hits and four runs over six innings. His reliever, Mike Gatchene, immediately ended the inning on a controversial play – throwing out Joe Colameco on an attempted steal at home.
Brantford’s manager Adam Clarke sprang from the dugout, arguing Gatchene balked before throwing home, but didn’t win the argument.
The Panthers had a chance to tie it up in the seventh, when Rick Murray was thrown out at home on a sacrifice fly attempt, after legging out a single, advancing on a bunt by Duckett and getting to third on a passed ball.
Brantford padded the lead to 5-3 when Lee Delfino struck a two-out double that scored McCurdy from second after a diving Tanner Nivins missed the ball in centre field.
Reliever Matt Vickers came on and loaded the bases, intentionally walking Scott Thorman and hitting Todd Betts by a pitch, but got out of the jam getting Gotwalt to fly out to right field.
Kitchener had another chance in the eighth with two men on and none out after Hunt misplayed a short dribbler by Pietraszko. Mitch Delaney laid down a bunt that pitcher Tom Boleska fired to third to get a sliding Glinka, and Tanner Nivins flew out to left field after a long battle with Boleska.
Bryon Bell drew a walk that loaded the bases, but Brian Burton struck out to end the inning. Afterward, Bell said the Panthers lost some momentum in the series when they let a 5-2 lead slip away in the seventh inning of Game 1, and had a hard time recovering.
“Bounces just didn’t go our way when we needed it,” Bell said, after the game. “But Brantford’s a good team. We’ll just keep out heads up, and come back next year hoping it’ll be different for us.”
With the win, Barrie will now go on to face the Barrie Baycats in the finals, after Barrie swept the London Majors in their semifinals.