Scratching Post (Guest post by Carlos Verde)

[Carlos is the play-by-play man for Ottawa Fat Cats broadcasts on internet radio. He’s gladly accepted my invite to write up a couple posts this season for the blog. He’s a great writer, and I’m glad to have him aboard. Enjoy!]

The Ottawa FatCats have definitely shown they belong with the big boys of the Intercounty Baseball League in their first three games of the year.  The FatCats (1-2), have battled hard and stayed close with three of the IBL’s best teams.  They earned a respectable split last weekend against the likes of Guelph and Toronto, and competed hard against a Barrie squad which is expected to challenge for the league title this afternoon.

Last weekend, the FatCats spoiled the party on Opening Night for the reborn Guelph Royals with a 5-4 victory.  Imports Jason Coker (SS), Brandon Huffman (DH/P), and Kevin Dietrich (CF) combined for four hits and drove in 3 of the FatCats’ five runs on the afternoon.  Coker was especially impressive, going 1-for-3, driving in two runs, scoring twice, and showing a good eye at the plate in working two walks off of the Royals pitchers.  Kyle Barclay provided the only two hits from the bottom four of the order, including a cracking double in the 5th inning which drew the FatCats level.  Marc-Andre Major was unspectacular in his 5 innings of work, scattering 4 hits and allowing 4 earned runs.  He also surrendered three walks, which continued on the trend of his control issues which were first seen in the FatCats exhibition game against Gatineau.  Brett Sabourin picked up the well-deserved win for the FatCats, as he gave up just one hit over three innings.  The Niagara University right-hander allowed two walks while striking out one.  Kevin Dietrich drove in the winning run in the top of the 9th.  A tightly contested, opening night-worthy game of baseball.  Glad it went to the ‘Cats.

The FatCats then traveled to Christie Pitts on Sunday to take on the powerhouse Toronto Maple Leafs, who boast arguably the best offense in the entire IBL.  Kevin Dietrich had another big day at the plate, as he went 3-for-5 with two runs driven in.  FatCats starter Brandon Huffman was virtually unhittable in his 6+ innings of work, giving up just one hit while striking out seven.  However, he did walk four Maple Leafs hitters and surrendered two runs.  It was still a dominant performance from the UNC Pembroke righty.  The game fell out of the FatCats hands in the bottom of the 7th, when Eric Boisvert came on in relief of Huffman.  Boisvert gave up a double and a home run to the two batters he faced, handing Toronto the lead.  The Leafs also received some key relief work from Brett Lawson, who kept the score close for three innings (1H, 3K).  The lack of production from the bottom of the order hurt the FatCats again, as the the bottom 3 hitters ended up 1-for-11 on the day.  The relief simply wasn’t good enough, and the bottom of the order failed to really produce.  ‘Cats had this one, but Toronto is an excellent ballclub.

Earlier this evening, in Barrie, the ‘Cats dropped a tight 3-1 decision against the all-around solid BayCats.  Marc-Andre Major’s command again failed him, as he gave up just four hits over five innings, but walked six and took the loss.  The control problem being said, he did a great job stranding runners on the bases, otherwise the score could’ve been more lopsided.  He limited the BayCats to two earned runs, but still took the loss.  His counterpart, lefty Brad Bissell, was dominant on the mound, striking out 10 ‘Cats batters over 5IP while giving up just one hit.  A silver lining for the FatCats in this one was the continued production of the top of their order, with their 1 through 5 batters each getting hits, including doubles from LaDale Hayes and Cody Mombourquette.  The ‘Cats got to Barrie closer Chris England, who gave up four hits over two innings of work, but only mustered one run.  Barrie’s a very solid team, and I think the rematch between these two June 9-10th could be a great one.

The FatCats 1-2 record could just as easily be 3-0 (or, more realistically, 2-1), but fans have to remember that they’ve been playing amongst the league’s best.  I think when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, they should beat teams like the Majors, Hamilton, and Burlington, who all have fewer imports than the ‘Cats, and in this writer’s opinion, less overall talent.  The relief has been a bit of a question mark, and the control hasn’t neccessarily been there for the entirety of the three games, but the ‘Cats have a lot of positives (and a win) to take away from their first three games of the year!

The FatCats travel to Kitchener tonight ahead of a big game in Kitchener tomorrow against the Panthers.  It will be Kitchener’s first game of the year, and they might play inspired in front of their home fans.  On paper, the FatCats are a better team and I’ve got the Panthers pegged anywhere from 5th to 8th, but anything can happen on any given night.  I’m assuming either Matt McGovern or Brandon Huffman will get the start tomorrow night.

Surprise : Kyle Barclay 3-for-9 (.333) so far at the plate this year, coming off a .250 average last season.  He looks more confident at the plate this year, and if he continues to hit like this, he may move up to that six spot in the order.

Disappointment :  While Marc-Andre Major is a proven IBL vet, his control has been shoddy so far this year.  While he has shown an uncanny knack for stranding runners, I’d feel a lot better if those runners weren’t on base to begin with.  That being said, he has the ability to be a dominant IBL pitcher for the ‘Cats, and Tim Nelson obviously believes in him.

Prediction :  The ‘Cats should pick up the W in Kitchener tomorrow night, and the course of events in that game could set the tone for the ‘Cats Home Opening series next weekend, where they’ll take on the very same Panthers.

[I’d like to thank Carlos for writing this up. Once again, he’s a great writer and will be a good addition to the site.]

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