On the Brink: Fat Cats split Homestand

Hyung Cho, Lee Delfino and the 50 or so Brantford fans celebrate a double RBI from Terrell Alliman during Game 4

Being down 2-0 in a series isn’t something that the Fat Cats had experienced up until now. The Brantford Red Sox took their home field advantage and used it to their…. advantage. Now, the Fat Cats would have to win both games in order to tie the series and save their management from giving away a substantial amount of season tickets.

The Ottawa media has joined the Fat Cats bandwagon. With the TEAM and CBC Radio bringing players in studio and the Citizen saving a spot in the paper for them every day, the Cats’ stock has gone up. That being said, huge crowds were expected this weekend.

When I arrived at game 3 about 40 minutes before opening pitch, there looked to be about 3,000 people in the stadium already. Usually, I arrive around that same time to any other game and there is scarcely a thousand people in the building. I knew this was going to a massive crowd.

Turns out, I was right.

The crowd of 7,355 broke an Intercounty Baseball League record for the most fans attending one game. This was also the most attended Ottawa baseball game that I has ever been to. There were more people at this ball game than there were at the final Ottawa Lynx game just over 4 years before game 3 (7,268 people attended that game).

Brantford had their home field advantage, and now it was Ottawa’s turn. There are many players on the Sox that have played professionally before, but it’s likely been a very long time since any of them played in front of a crowd like this one.

Game 3 started off in an eerily similar fashion to the first game of this championship series. Teams went 3 up, 3 down on more than one occasion and the game was scoreless going into the 7th inning. Cody Mombourquette played the hero, driving home Kyle Barclay to score the game’s only run and send Ottawa Stadium into an electric frenzy. Matty McGovern did the rest of the work, shutting out the Red Sox.

While me, my party and the rest of the packed Ottawa Stadium were sent home happy, there was still a part of me that was worried about game 4, and the challenge that awaited the Cats. With Gov not pitching, the game was a toss-up. It’s not really the fault of the other pitchers on the Fat Cats either. The team just seems to experience a confidence boost with Matt on the mound. When he’s at first or playing DH, there are a lot more fielding errors and baserunning mistakes.

While we’re on the topic of pitchers, I noticed that Jordan Kritsch was on the Fat Cats bench for game 4. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I recall him quitting the team earlier in the year, so I’m wondering if the Cats asked him to come back or if he made himself available. If it wasn’t him, it was somebody else with a build similar to his, and wearing the number 24 was in the dugout on Sunday.

Onto game 4…

Unlike the day before, this game was much slower, with more offense. Mike Myers started for Brantford, with Brett Sabourin on the other side of the picture. Tim Nelson was apparently undecided going into the weekend on who he was going to start for game 4. I know I would have given someone else a shot, since Sabourin has been inconsistent lately.

Once everyone got settled in, the Sox took control. This game was a potential momentum shifter and the biggest game of the season for both teams. With Brantford being the 3-time defending champions in this league, they’ve been in this situation before. In fact, many players on the Sox have AAA experience. They haven’t only played big games in the IBL. The Fat Cats are a young team in their second season together. Brantford had a considerable experience advantage here, which explains why they seemed more comfortable.

Late in the game, much like game 2, the Cats started to wake up. After Kevin Dietrich cashed in Mark Charrete in the bottom of the 8th, Clark went to his bullpen and pulled out Tim Linec- I mean, Stefan Strecker. Strecker is the Sox’s star closer. He got McGovern to ground out and halt the comeback, until the 9th.

The 9th inning presented a similar situation, with the Fat Cats getting Strecker in a rare hole. Kyle Barclay stepped up and grounded one to the second baseman. Barclay is speedy, and the fielder took time tagging out Joe Stone going from 1st to 2nd for the first out of the inning. The throw to first was a close one but you could see that Barclay was safe. First base umpire Eric Topolinsky apparently didn’t see it that way and called Barclay out. The entire stadium was up in arms, including myself.

A terrible call to kill the rally… it makes you wonder if the umps are on Brantford’s payroll.

The easy 3rd out was made after that, and the game was over.

The way that this game ended definitely left a sour taste in my mouth and I’m sure the same thing can be said for the Fat Cats team, however, we can’t get down on ourselves. We may not be in the best position headed back to Brantford, but now that we’re facing elimination, it’s time to look down deep inside and find the team that swept the Barrie Baycats. If we can sweep the pennant winners, we can win this series.

Game 5 goes Thursday night in Brantford, before the series returns to Ottawa–and it will return –on Saturday at 7:05. Let’s pack the park!!

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