Greg Mercer, Record staff
KITCHENER — If you don’t believe the old baseball wisdom that great pitching trumps great hitting, just ask the Kitchener Panthers.
The Panthers were finished off in a 10-0 shutout Tuesday night, as the Barrie Baycats completed their sweep in the Intercounty Baseball League finals. It was another dominating pitching performance by the Baycats, who kept the league’s most powerful offense off the scoreboard in the series’ final two games.
Once the final out was recorded, the Baycats mobbed the field and sprayed each other with champagne, celebrating their fourth straight league championship. All the Panthers could do was watch and lick their wounds.
“Their pitching is the best I’ve seen,” said Sean Reilly, the Panthers’ Triple Crown-winning designated hitter. “Hats off to them. Their guys were throwing bullets.”
The Panthers, who had their most winning season since 1993, cruised through two rounds of the playoffs before running into a wall against Barrie. They were hampered by defensive errors and struggled to find an answer at the plate, scoring just seven runs in four games, to the Baycats’ 42.
The Baycats, who opened the season with 26 straight wins, were led by playoff MVP Kyle DeGrace, who went 4-for-5 with a run and two RBI in Game 4. Pitcher Emilis Guerrero went the distance, scattering six hits while walking one and striking out five.
Tanner Nivins, who battled back from being hospitalized in May with ulcerative colitis, said getting shutout in the last two games is a tough pill to swallow. He suggested the Panthers might need to add another dimension to their offense next year, learning how to manufacture runs instead of always relying on the home run.
“We didn’t play our best baseball, and I think it showed on the scoreboard,” he said. “We said all year that in order to beat them we needed to play perfect baseball. We definitely did not. Every single mistake we made, offensively or defensively, they capitalized on.”
Dave teBoekhorst, the Panthers manager, said Barrie was simply the better team.
“Congratulations to the Baycats. They did a good job neutralizing our offense,” he said. “Their starting pitching kept us off balance for four games, we just couldn’t get anything going. And we made too many mistakes.”
He said this would be his last season with the Panthers, and that he wants to get back to coaching his two young sons and being around more for his daughter.
“I’ve got some parenting to do,” teBoekhorst said. “I gave myself three years here to try to bring a championship home, and I fell a little short… But I’m proud of these guys. They battled right until the end, and it was a pleasure being their coach.”
Angus Roy, the Baycats manager, said his players came into the series ready for a dogfight. No one thought they could declaw the Panthers hitters in such dominating fashion, he said.
“That’s a phenomenal lineup, and a fantastic baseball team. They had a fantastic regular season and some dominating playoff performances. For our pitchers to go out and do what they did, it’s completely unexpected,” he said.
Mike Andrulis, the Panthers’ second baseman, said the loss will sting for a while. Almost as much as saying goodbye for the off-season to teammates who have been like a second family all summer.
“It’s tough to swallow, after a good season and then pretty much laying four eggs in a row,” he said. “And it’s tough to say goodbye to these guys. I’ve gotta fight back the tears when I’m talking to them.”
Reilly, meanwhile, said it’s hard to keep watching other teams celebrate reaching the pinnacle of the IBL. He’ll take a few months to decide if he returns in 2018, but said the Panthers have some work to do before the next season starts.
“I’ve seen them celebrate a few times,” he said. “You just get hungry seeing it. You’ve just got to do the things you need to do in the off-season, analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and try to get better.”