Archive for August, 2011

Ottawa downed by Stephens & Company, trail in Championship Final 0-2

The Brantford Red Sox would certainly like to erase their last 9 games of the 2011 regular season. They lost all of them. However, when the playoffs started the Sox definitely made the world know that they’ve put those endeavours behind them.

They shoved aside the Kitchener Panthers in 5 games, a team that was one of the highest scoring teams in the league. In the second round, they faced a more difficult challenge, as they took on Toronto. The Leafs would take Brantford to the brink, leading the series 3-2 at one point, however, the 3-time defending champs would beat the odds, and the 2nd-seed Leafs to advance to the championship final.

In my previous post on this blog, I said that I would rather face the Red Sox than the Leafs. Now, I have to congratulate the Sox for making me eat my words.  Ottawa did OK against Brantford this season, even managing to win a couple games at Cockshutt Park toward the end of the season. Keeping the unbelievable ride that the Fat Cats were on going into this final series in mind, there seemed to be a pretty good chance that Ottawa would at least have a split going home.

Game 1 was anybody’s game from the first pitch. It was 0-0 for the entire time, with Matt McGovern pitching yet another gem. In extras, the Fat Cats started to get into some trouble. For some reason, the Fat Cats pitchers kept walking batters. I understand that there are some heavy hitters in this league, but if I had to choose between walking a guy to load the bases and taking a chance on him, i’d take the chance every day.

Relief Pitcher Danny Desclouds walked Tyler Patzalek to load the bases in the bottom of the 11th. Up to the plate came Al Stephens, who cranked a Grand Slam over LaDale Hayes and the “silver monster” to end the game.

Losing a scoreless game in the 11th inning takes a lot out of you, so I’m not surprised that we lost game 2, however what I was surprised about was the way that we played. It was brutal. The dropped pop-up behind home plate was terrible. Sorry, Rick, but that should have been caught. There were also a bunch of thrown away balls that could’ve translated into outs. All in all, the first 8 innings were very hard to watch. I’m glad that the 9th inning went the way that it did, and that we didn’t go down without a fight. If the final score was 8-3, and we went 3 up, 3 down in the 9th, I would be a lot more worried about the rest of the series right now.

I, for one, hope the game 2 performance from our D was a one-time thing, but I’m not losing faith just yet. I think that it was just a result of the draining loss the night before. Now that we’ll have 5 days to recover and get back on track, I think that game 3 will be a victory.

That being said; if we want to win the rest of the games in this series, plus game 3 isn’t a lock as it is; some changes need to be made. The most prominent one for me is a change in the starting rotation for the home stand. Tim Nelson may have mixed it up already, but I think that it should be McGovern starting game 3 and William Sebastian or Josh Soffer starting game 4, instead of Brett Sabourin.

Brett is a good pitcher, but he hasn’t been on the ball lately. I found this in the Barrie series as well. I think that a change in scenery is needed for game 4. Nelson, in my opinion, should start someone else. Give Brett a rest, and then go back to him later in the series. Mitch Goldenberg, host of Fat Chat, also brought this up in his show, and showed his support for the move.

This weekend the Fat Cats will be playing the Red Sox on Saturday at 7 and Sunday at 2, before headed back to Brantford for game 5.

Fans, just because we are down in this series does not mean that we are out of it. I want to see us top the  record-setting 4,108 tickets sold from game 3 of the Barrie series. There are plenty of reasons to head out to the park on a beautiful Labour Day weekend and cheer on our team… you better be there!

Cinderella Run Continues: Fat Cats sweep Barrie!

The Crowd stands during the top of the 9th (Game 3)

Many Fat Cats fans, including myself, are still in shock over the first round win that the Fat Cats pulled off against London. Now, the Fat Cats are going to the IBL final after not only defeating the pennant-winning Barrie Baycats, but sweeping them. If you told me that the Fat Cats would accomplish all of this in May, I’d laugh.

I’m really having a lot of trouble putting this into perspective. Ever since I started paying attention to the baseball scene in Ottawa, our teams have been terrible. If they didn’t finished last, then they finished close to that. I remember once when I was at a Lynx game in 2007, they won 5-0. At the end of the game, the crowd of about 900 people gave their team a standing ovation. Not because the win really meant anything special, but because they won.

Now, it’s much different. The standing ovations that the Fat Cats are earning are from the 4,000+ fans here in Ottawa aren’t just from one or two wins in a row, but from seven of them.

This team is an efficient unit. They’ve come such a long way from that loss on Opening Day 2010 in Mississauga. The usual errors in shallow outfield have turned into diving catches from the likes of Kevin Dietrich, Joe Stone and Kyle Barclay. The pick-off attempts have gone from being incomplete, to being right on the dot. It’s fun to watch.

For the first few games of the series, I think that Barrie underestimated Ottawa, which allowed the Fat Cats to take control of the series. Game 3 was a must win for Barrie and they got off to a fast start, but unfortunately for them so did Ottawa. Barrie’s 3 runs that they put up on the scoreboard (or that they would’ve put up on the scoreboard if it was working properly..) in the 1st inning were the only runs that came in for them all game.

Going into game 4 on Sunday, I could just tell that series was going to end that afternoon. The Baycats were sapped of all their energy and were just frustrated at this point. My assumptions were proved right in the bottom of the 2nd inning, when Barrie’s frustration boiled over.  Right after the Chris Latimer double RBI to make it 2-0 Fat Cats, the entire Barrie team charged the Ottawa dugout, including team manager Angus Roy.

There was much pushing, shoving, yelling and a few players even got spit on. I’m not sure what initiated the incident, but something was likely said by an Ottawa player. This, however, is no reason to start a brawl. The entire incident was completely uncalled for.

Until the end of the game, it was smooth sailing from the Fat Cats. They took an 8-1 lead into the 7th. This was when Brett Sabourin got stuck in a hole, and let barrie back in the game.

Josh Soffer came in for relief.  He didn’t pitch horrendously, but with Barrie getting their grove on, Ottawa needed somebody who pitched lights out. Soffer was exchanged for Danny Desclouds, who did the job and finished off Barrie.

LaDale Hayes putout Matt LOOOGAAAN in the top of the 9th for the 3rd out of the inning and the final out of the series. The Ottawa crowd of 3,330 was sent into a frenzy. If Ottawa Stadium had a roof, it would have been blown off.

For the first time in 16 years, an Ottawa baseball team is moving on to the finals of their league. This time, we’ll be competing for the Dominico Trophy. In this championship series, we’ll be competing against either the Brantford Red Sox: 3-time defending champions, or the Toronto Maple Leafs. Their series is currently led by Toronto 3 games to 2, headed back to Brantford.

If it was up to me, I’d want to play Brantford. This may seem a bit crazy, because of their experience and our sub-.500 record against them, however, the last thing that I want is to play in that nightmare of a park, Christie Pits. With outfield dimensions that only go up to 350 feet, this park should not be in the IBL. Outfield fly balls are home runs, for crying out loud. If the Fat Cats has played at the Pits, the final putout from LaDale Hayes this past series would’ve been a home run. The Leafs know how to use their park to their advantage and definitely will in the final series (if they get there).

For Brantford, they obviously can be a lethal team, but the Fat Cats performed better against them during the regular season than they did against the Leafs. Ottawa also won games in Brantford at Arnold Anderson Stadium, which they didn’t do this year in Toronto.

Regardless of who they play, the Fat Cats will need help. They’ll be playing some of the IBL’s finest in the final series, and to beat them they’ll have to play some very good baseball. They beat the 1st-place Baycats in 4 games, so we know that Ottawa is able to win this championship if they please. However, the question that every0ne is asking is..

Will they?

RE: “I’m tired of living in the land of dismal scoreboards”

Ottawa Stadium's spectacular scoreboard

I came across an article in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday. It was written by Bruce Ward, and the topic was the Ottawa Senators’ gigantic Jumbotron that casts a shadow over the ice surface at Scotiabank Place. This post is my reply to that article.

Here is a bit of what he had to say:

The scoreboard at Scotiabank Place is outdated and boring. Every time I look up, I expect to see flashing light bulbs that spell out “Nothing to Look At Here.” It reminds me of a giant hot-water tank that runs on kerosene…

…I want a scoreboard that shows Alfie’s latest X-rays and MRI results. A scoreboard that displays photos of who the players are dating, with helpful captions like “Dresses kind of slutty,” “Only after his money” and “Wonder why such a beauty is going out with a forward who is a total numpty.”

I realize that the Senators are a top-tier pro hockey team, and that the Scotiabank Place is a world-class 20,000 seat arena. However, Mr. Ward, you should take a look at some of the other sports scoreboards around the City of Ottawa before you complain about SBP’s Jumbotron again. You will then see just how fortunate Sens fans are.

Imagine if  the Senators’s scoreboard was so bad, that you couldn’t see the score, the shots on goal, or any penalties until the end of the period. That’s basically what Ottawa Fat Cats fans have to deal with every single time they enter Ottawa Stadium to catch a baseball game. The analog part of the scoreboard which usually displays the count, the score, the batter’s average, the hits and the errors is completely broken, as you can see in the picture.

You’re begging for a brand spankin’ new, 10 Gajillion pixel, blue line-to-blue line, HD Jumbotron. Let’s face it, you’ll get that. The all-star game is coming to Ottawa, and Melnyk already confirmed it on the radio for next season. In the mean time, OSG hasn’t even made an announcement yet on fixing Ottawa Stadium’s scoreboard.

At least your concerns are being dealt with.

Cat Fight One-Sided: Ottawa leads series 2-0

The Ottawa Fat Cats beat the London Majors in the first round of the IBL playoffs. They did it with a combination of good pitching, fielding and hitting. The Cats found out who that they would be playing the Barrie Baycats in the next round, after the Toronto Maple Leafs held off the Burlington Twins in their series.

In order for the Fat Cats to beat the Baycats, they would have to take their play to an even higher level than they did vs. London. Barrie is a deeper team than London, so the pitching would have to be fantastic. If it wasn’t, than the batters would have to step up broadly.

Going into the series, the Fat Cats were well aware of who they were up against. They knew that Barrie was the IBL’s shining star from the beginning of the season. Whenever the Fat Cats played the Baycats, they brought everything that they had. This series would have to be be no different. The Fat Cats were looking to jump on the opportunity that they had. London underestimated them and payed the ultimate price. Ottawa thought that the Baycats would make that same mistake, according to an interview in the Ottawa Citizen.

I’m not exactly sure how, but the Baycats underestimated Ottawa to an unimaginable degree in the first 2 games of this series. After Game 1’s 2nd inning , it was 5-0 for the good guys. Adam Reynolds definitely couldn’t find his good arm, as he struggled to find the strike zone, or Lundberg’s glove behind the plate. Reynolds allowed 7 runs on 6 hits in 2 and a half innings. After Manager Roy finally went to his bullpen in the 3rd, it was 7-0.

Barrie battled back into the game, making it 7-6 into later stages. At this point, William Sebastian had been pulled and Josh Soffer had also been taken out in favor of Danny Desclouds. Fortunately, Desclouds was on his game. He picked up the save, as Ottawa managed to score 4 more times before the end of the game.

Once Reynolds was taken out of the game, the Baycats got on a bit of a roll. Ryan Dillabough didn’t allow more than one Fat Cat to get on base at a time, while Barrie’s bats got hot. We were lucky that Roy stupidly took Dillabough out of the game. Unless he was injured, I didn’t see the logic of taking him out, when he was the one who got his team back in the game.

Anyways, Dillabough left the game and soon after that, Danny Desclouds came in for Ottawa. After that and a few clutch plays from Ottawa offence to extend the lead to 4 runs; it was bye-bye, Barrie.

Baseball is a game of momentum. I think that this imaginary force caries more weight in this sport than it does in any other and this was pretty evident in Game 1. Ottawa had everything go their way in the first 2 innings and Barrie caught up a bit after that. Whatever Barrie had juiced up obviously wasn’t enough, though.

Barrie looked to start off much better for the second game. They had Frank Hare back in their lineup (he was at a wedding during game 1), and they started Brad Bissell, who is no slouch on the mound. Barrie wasn’t fooling around this time.

Or so we thought…

The start of Game 2 went the same way that Game 1’s did. Ottawa flew out of the gates, taking a 3-0 lead into Barrie’s half of the second. The Baycats got on the board in the bottom of the 2nd, and that managed to level things out. However, after another Barrie run scored in the 4th, their bats suddenly turned off. In the end, the Fat Cats took control of this series, winning the second game 7-2.

Brett Sabourin started for the Fat Cats. He played well for the first couple of innings, but once Barrie got on the board, his pitching became quite sporadic. I would find myself pulling my hair out watching the ball counter fill up on Pointstreak. At almost every at bat, Brett would pitch 3 or more balls. He walked 7 men in 7 innings, and only struck out 2 during that time. Ottawa’s D-men were having a great game, which lets Brett off the hook a little bit. Nelson finally went to the pen and found Josh Soffer to finish off the game from the 7th on.

Personally, I think that it took so long for Nelson to get Sabourin out of the game, because of the fact that we’re riding just 5 pitchers and one of them is not completely healthy. Soffer had also pitched the night before, so he couldn’t play for more than a quarter of the game. If you add the fact that Sabourin wasn’t really costing his team runs, then leaving him in wasn’t the end of the world.

On a positive note, I will give Brett credit for battling back into counts many times. Once you’ve got a 3-0 or 3-1 count to deal with, it’s hard to get back into it. Props to Mr. Sabourin for battling back on more than one occasion.

On the offensive end of the game, Barrie was not sharp at all at the plate. They only had 5 hits compared to Ottawa’s 11, and they couldn’t seem to pounce on opportunities given to them by the Fat Cats. Matt Logan had a good day, racking up 60% of Barrie’s offence, but other than that the Baycats were at bay (pun intended) on the sacks. Their last run was scored in the 4th, with 3 of their hits coming after the 4th.

Ottawa’s story was much different of the offensive side. LaDale Hayes was spectacular behind the plate, batting in 3 runs and scoring one of his own as well. I continue to be mesmerized by the timing of some of the Fat Cats players. Both of Hayes’ doubles came with men in scoring position, and Kevin Dietrich had a clutch bomb to the outfield as well. If this keeps up, and other familiar faces like Ricky Howroyd and Mark Charrette get in on this act, then the Fat Cats could have an easy time in these last few games of the series. Those men along with others on this team aren’t new to the clutch factor either. There has been many occasions where players like Charrette and Mombo had big hits/plays at the right time.

This weekend, the Fat Cats could finish off the Baycats, and advance to the finals in their first ever playoff run. To do so, they’ll have to be sharp and play like they’re the ones that are down 2 games to none. It won’t be easy, but the Baycats are missing the John Bell Memorial Trophy winner, Sean Reilly for game 3. They are also missing Frank Hare for the 3rd game of this series, another key asset of Barrie’s line-up.

Game 3 goes tonight at Ottawa Stadium at 7:05, while Game 4 is scheduled to take place tomorrow afternoon at 4 from the same place. I’ll have my derrière parked in an blue seat this weekend… will you?

Fat Cats beat Majors, WIN SERIES 4-1!!

Game 2 - Chris Latimer slides into home, Tyler Graham leaps into the air to make a catch (Courtesy: Browns Photos)

My plan was to come home from Toronto this morning, and write a mid-series update on the Ottawa Fat Cats’ quarterfinal series against the London Majors. I expected to be writing about how the Fat Cats were one win away from tying it all up, or how we could most definitely make a comeback and overcome the odds.

I won’t be talking about any of that today, because we don’t need to overcome the odds. We don’t need to make a comeback, or win any more games at Labatt Park.

We don’t need to, because the Fat Cats upset the London Majors in 5 games. Even though Ottawa was the lower seed in their playoff quarterfinal, the Cats still finished off the the Majors very quickly. We’ve shocked the IBL world and proved all critics wrong.

The final game of this series paints a fairly accurate picture of how the Fat Cats won this series. Ottawa won the game by a score of 1-0. It was a game where we didn’t provide much offence, but our pitching bailed us out.

If this series is any indication, Manager Nelson is using a 4-man starting rotation for the playoffs, that consists of (in order): Matt McGovern, Josh Soffer, William Sebastian and Brett Sabourin. Out of these arms, Matt McGovern leads them in almost every category. 18 innings pitched, 2 wins in 2 games, 17 strikeouts and an unheard of 1.00 ERA. Josh Soffer is second in strikeouts (9) and in innings pitched (9), however his ERA is quite high (6.00) due to an off-day in game 2.

Brett Sabourin was very impressive in his only start, and Sebastian definitely passed the test in his as well. Danny Desclouds has been the only reliever to appear so far, and he has done OK.

The issue with Desclouds–and many other Fat Cat pitchers–is consistency. Desclouds is obviously an amazing talent on the mound, but his pitching can be erratic at times. When he can’t find his arm, it gets pretty ugly, but when he gets on a roll you better watch out. This is the case for other pitchers on the Fat Cats as well. We have some great, talented pitchers, but the majority of them can be fairly unpredictable.

Josh Soffer’s performance this series was a good example. He got himself in trouble in game 2, but came back 2 days later gave up a whopping 0 runs in 3 innings pitched. He seemed like a new pitcher in game 3.

Fortunately, there wasn’t much more inconsistency on the mound during this series. Ultimately, our pitching was one of the main reasons that we won this series. Our boys in the bullpen couldn’t have stepped up at a better time.

It has been said that our pitching is the reason that we performed the way that we did during the regular season. In the playoffs, our hitting had to be better, and our boys at the plate didn’t disappoint.  (Author’s note: I shied from making a really stupid, really teenager-ish rhyme in this paragraph. You’re welcome.)

In their only loss, the Fat Cats still scored 7 runs on 10 hits. We scored at least 5 runs in every game with the exception of game 5. LaDale Hayes had his batting average above .500 until game 5, and his base-running was spectacular. Mombo raised his play at the plate (4 RBIs, led the team in hits with 7), and even Chris Latimer (.333) got in on the act, and was a lead contributor in the offensive department. Our hitters didn’t only stepped up, but they exceeded my expectations.

In my mind, the third reason that the Fat Cats disposed of London so quickly is because of the home field advantage that they received. Last week, IBL Commissioner Joe O’Neill was on /A\ London to talk IBL with Norman James. When Norm asked Mr. O’Neill about home-field advantages, he said that the hardest fields to play at for a visiting team were in Toronto, London and Brantford. While those are great choices, he left out one park in particular. I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.

I have no doubts that the Fat Cats have one of–if not the–hardest stadiums to play in. For most teams it’s a long, gruelling 7 hour drive to Ottawa; they have to face a Fat Cats team that knows how to play in it’s park and utilize it’s quirks to their full potential; and there’s big boisterous crowds to work against. If you want to know how hard it is to play at Ottawa Stadium, just ask Cleveland Brownlee. I couldn’t be at any of the games this weekend, but the stories that I heard about fans running onto the field in jubilation after the Fat Cats won the series proves again that we have some of the best fans in baseball, no matter what other people say.

The combination of consistent pitching, improved hitting and a true home field advantage has propelled the Cats second round of the playoffs. They still await their opponent, however who ever it turns out to be, the Fat Cats will be in tough. If Burlington comes back to upset Toronto, we’ll play the Brantford Red Sox; and if they can’t pull off the dramatic upset, we’ll face off against the Barrie Baycats.

Ottawa went 2-3 against both of our potential opponents. Against Brantford, our wins have come while our arms were hot. If we can get McGovern in more than 2 games, and our other pitchers are still game, then we have a good chance against the Sox. Of course, our bats need to be alive as well.

Currently, I’d rather play Barrie, because of the way that Ottawa played against them during the 3-game series at Ottawa Stadium earlier this summer. The Cats played their hearts out against the Baycats, and almost swept them. However, my opinion may change if the Kitchener Panthers can come back against the Red Sox in their series, and make it go the distance. They certainly have the potential to do so.

This is the first time that an Ottawa baseball team has made it past the quarterfinals since the Lynx did it in 2003. Ottawa sports fans and media have been put on notice. Everybody that I’ve talked to–baseball fan or not–knows that the Fat Cats are moving on. The Fat Cats made the front page of the Ottawa Citizen’s sports section this morning, and the TEAM 1200 has said on air that they will be tracking the Cats for the remainder of their playoff run. Baseball fever has hit the capital, and the Tylenol isn’t helping.

Once the 2nd round schedule is out, I’ll post it here. Buckle your seat belts, folks!