Post-Game Majors Cleveland Brownlee
Before the first pitch from Labatt Memorial Park in London on Friday evening, the magnitude of a victory for either team should have been on the minds of all the fans around the IBL. The Majors began the night a perfect 10-0, but still 1 game behind the IBL leading Barrie Baycats at 12-0. Adding to the tension building in the ballpark, was the fact that hot on the heels of London, was their opponent for the night, the Kitchener Panthers. The Panthers entered the evening only a half game behind the Majors for 2nd place in the league, boasting an 11-2 record. The weather forecast was calling for thunderstorms, and as the black clouds rolled over the ballpark, fans cheering for the home team, surely were concerned about whether the weather was an omen being sent by Mother Nature for their beloved team. London sent Luis Sanchez to the mound to start the game and Kitchener countered with Sean Ratcliffe as their starting pitcher for the marquee matchup.
The Panthers started the game as if they knew exactly what was at stake Friday night, as Kitchener managed to squeeze out 2 hits from the Majors starter Luis Sanchez right out of the gate. Sanchez, however, was able to settle down and end the threat from the Panthers without giving up a run. Mother Nature did not waste anytime in imposing her will on this game, as their was a 10-minute rain delay before London could take their first swing. When the brief interruption in the action was over, the Majors’ Keith Kandel was hit by a pitch in the first at bat for London. With Kandel at 1st, enter the slumping slugger, the designated hitter Cleveland Brownlee. Brownlee entered the batter's’ box to a tremendous ovation from the adoring spectators at Labatt Memorial Park. Brownlee did not disappoint his fans, crushing a fastball over the fence, shrubs, and trees in left field, for a 2 run homer, giving the home team a 2-0 by the end of a long 1st inning.
The only noteworthy drama of the 2nd inning was a sharp comeback hit at pitcher London’s pitcher Luis Sanchez. The well hit ball came straight at Sanchez, giving him no time to get out of the way and struck him in the arm. Unfazed at the time, Sanchez fielded the ball himself and threw the ball to first for the out. After a quick conference on the mound with manager Roop Chanderdat, Sanchez assured his skipper and the team trainer that he was fine to remain in the game. Everything seemed to go back to normal after Sanchez induced a groundout by the next batter that he faced. However later the team trainer came back out of the dugout and began to approach the mound, as it appeared that Sanchez’s arm was still bothering him, but the trainer never made it past the chalk line, as Sanchez signaled that he was good to continue and that she should return to the dugout. Sanchez would go one to strike out Kitchener’s Andy Leader to end the 2nd inning without a hit or a run against him.
The Panthers’ Sean Reilly sauntered into the box for his at bat in the top of the 3rd inning, to a chorus of boos and taunts. Reilly most certainly heard the chirping fans at him as he stood awaiting each pitch from Sanchez. In baseball, revenge is a dish served as either a homerun or a strikeout, usually. Reilly got his revenge in the form of a 2 run bomb over the left field wall. That blast left the park in hurry and the infamously obnoxious Reilly, crossed home, celebrated with teammates, and went into the dugout without returning any taunts toward the London faithful. Good on him. The gravity of the game was probably ingrained in his mind, as well as his teammates. 2nd place was on the line, and with a shortened bench, Reilly was not interested in being the cause of a loss, or an unnecessary distraction. While there was a heightened buzz in the crowd, it more likely was due to the score being tied 2-2 with one shot. The bottom of the 3rd inning, saw the Majors’ Chris Mc Queen walk, and then an intentional walk by Kitchener’s Sean Ratcliffe to the DH Cleveland Brownlee. With 2nd place in the IBL on the line Friday night, perhaps Panthers’ Manager Dave TeBoekhorst did not want to risk giving up another home run to Brownlee. LeJon Baker stepped up next to bat for London. With 2 outs and runners on 1st and 2nd base, Baker singled to score Mc Queen and restore a Majors lead. Flexing their power on offense with a series of shots dispersed throughout the field, Mike Ambrose would follow Baker by smacking a single to score the 2nd run of the inning for the Majors, and also adding to his RBI totals for the season. After 3 innings, London led Kitchener 4-2.
The Panthers took over the game with a barrage of hits in the 4th inning. Doubles by Mike Gordner and Andy Leader, had the biggest impact on the bases. Kitchener dinged Majors’ Luis Sanchez to the tune of 4 hits, for 3 runs, and obtained a 5-3 Panthers lead in the process. London gave their usually reliable ace, no support in the 4th inning, which ended with a rare no change in the score.
A wild pitch by Kitchener’s Sean Ratcliffe, began a long inning for the starter in the bottom of the 5th. A single, walks, and errors in the field, snowballed from Ratcliffe’s wild pitch, leading to 4 more runs for the Majors. With London leading 7-5, forcing the dugout boss of the Panthers, Dave TeBoekhorst, to call it a night for his starter, and bring in Mike Schnurr. Schnurr brought no immediate relief to the woes of Kitchener, surrendering another run, making the score 8-5 for the Majors. While the 6th inning was unfruitful for the Panthers, London piled up some insurance for themselves and their fans. Cleveland Brownlee singled in another RBI, and LeJon Baker doubled to score Brownlee, making the total 10-5 for the Majors before the 7th inning.
The 7th inning was an unusual lull in a wild, action-filled game, for both teams. London had the only hit of the inning, a single which was sandwiched in between 3 flyouts. The crowd in attendance at Labatt Memorial Park in London was having a blast, and why not? Their Majors were in the driver’s seat, with a commanding 10-5 lead, and only 2 innings left in the game. What could possibly go wrong? Funny you should ask. Kitchener’s Mike Gordner led off the top of the 8th getting on base facing Todd Leavitt, relieving 7 solid innings for starter Luis Sanchez. Sanchez’s night ended with the pitcher giving up 5 earned runs and 10 hits, but most importantly in line for the victory with a 10-5 lead. London looked as if they were in complete control, and Leavitt was set up well to close out the game. Somebody forgot to tell the Kitchener Panthers that the game was over. Gordner would score on a Mike Andrulis putout, narrowing the gap to 10-6. Later an RBI single by Yorbis Borroto brought home Andy Leader, and suddenly the score was 10-7.
Majors’ Manager Roop Chanderdat wasted no time substituting Chris Boatho into the game in relief of Todd Leavitt after Borroto was brought home with a hit. Now the thunderstorms had long since passed, but there was a new danger lurking over the World’s Oldest Baseball Grounds. The once safe lead and outcome of the game, had now withered away to only a 10-8 lead for London. Boatho would end the 8th for Kitchener unscathed. The Majors’ powerful bats did not respond for their battered pitchers in the bottom of the 8th, but Boatho’s quick work of the Panthers in the 9th secured the victory for London, and dried the palms of everyone cheering for the Majors. The Majors won 10-8 on a wild night of baseball. London gets the victory despite giving up 8 runs on 15 hits. Kitchener’s 3 errors may have come back to haunt the team and cost them a very attainable victory on the road.
The Majors finished Friday night the same way that they started: undefeated. London is in 2nd place, however, with a record of 11-0, they remain one win behind the IBL leading Barrie Baycats. The win does provide London some much needed breathing room, putting 1 and a half games between them and Kitchener. The Majors will have no time for rest, London squares off against the Burlington Herd at Nelson Park in Burlington at 1:05pm Saturday. The Majors had better not take the 4-8 Herd lightly if they wish to make up ground on the idle Barrie Baycats, and tie the Baycats for the overall lead in the IBL standings at 12-0.