KITCHENER – Adam Echlin delivered their stay of execution. Now it’s up to Shaun Hancock to keep the Kitchener Panthers playoff run alive.
The Panthers jolted themselves back to life Sunday night at Jack Couch Park after losing the first three games of their semifinal series to the Brantford Red Sox, winning 6-1 in Game 4 to fight off a second-round sweep.
Now the Intercounty Baseball League club travels to Brantford Tuesday night for Game 5, in another must-win situation. Hancock, who allowed four runs over six innings in the series opener, will likely match up against the Red Sox’s Mike Meyers – who gave up five runs in Game 1.
Hancock has been about as reliable as they come down the stretch for his club. After a shaky outing July 10, when he gave up ten runs to Toronto, he pitched four quality starts in a row, including two shutout appearances, and limited opponents to just four runs in more than 27 innings.
Manager Brian Bishop said the Panthers need to stay loose instead of playing like they’re on the edge of a cliff – in other words, more relaxed than they looked while booting the ball around in Game 2 and 3 – if they have any hope of extending the season.
“We’re going to be back to the top of their rotation, so it’s not going to be easy. But I think our attitude was a little bit loser tonight. We went out and made baseball fun again,” he said, after Sunday’s win.
“We’ll take it one pitch at a time, and hopefully come out with the same attitude… if we play the way we played tonight, we’ve got a way better chance.”
Echlin, who pitched seven shutout innings against Toronto in the first round, gave the Panthers exactly what they needed Sunday – pitching eight innings of one-run baseball against the league’s most dangerous lineup.
Afterward, he suggested this could be his last year on the mound.
“I’m the oldest pitcher in the league, so I pitch every game like it could be my last,” said the 38-year-old. “It feels amazing. I feel like I’m in a dream right now.”
Brantford's Terrell Alliman, who's hit three home runs in the series against Kitchener, said his team - which put up 32 runs in the first three games - hopes it can keep "chugging along" to its six straight league championship.
"We just try to take it game by game, and try to play a full nine innings and come out on top," he said. "We know it's playoff time, so we're bearing down as a team."
For a full story on Game 5, visit therecord.blogs.com/panthers. The game will also be broadcast live on Rogers TV channel 20 at 8 p.m.