Archive for June, 2012

IBL Expansion: What happens next?

Welland Stadium – One of the more spectacular unused ballparks in North America (Photo courtesy Charlie O’Reilly)

The expansion of the Intercounty League is a touchy subject. Very touchy in fact, because there’s so many issues surrounding a new team entering the league.

There are many cities in Ontario that would be able to host the IBL based solely on population – Kingston, Peterborough, Windsor, Cornwall – all suitable for IBL baseball.

However, as I said, this is solely based on population. Many other factors play in to the placement of an IBL team and unless some changes are made, the majority of those factors take the majority of the cities that I just listed out of the equation for the IBL.

Travel is obviously going to be an issue. We have to keep in mind that this is a semi-pro baseball league, so teams don’t have the budget of a pro team. Things have to be kept realistic and travelling to Sudbury or North Bay for a game is not, so you can rule them completely out of the equation.

It starts to get tough when you get into the topic of ballparks. Especially since most of the IBL feasible parks are already in use by the league, aside from a couple.

However, while it does take places like Peterborough out of the equation, it brings other, smaller towns that house larger parks into the equation.

St Catharines is a good example. Community Park, with a capacity of 2,500, had hosted the Blue Jays’ single A affiliate for a total of 14 seasons. Take a gander at these attendance numbers from the St Catharines affiliated baseball franchise.

Year

Team

Attendance Avg

1986

St Catharines Blue Jays

554

1987

St Catharines Blue Jays

624

1988

St Catharines Blue Jays

477

1989

St Catharines Blue Jays

416

1990

St Catharines Blue Jays

391

1991

St Catharines Blue Jays

462

1992

St Catharines Blue Jays

480

1993

St Catharines Blue Jays

596

1994

St Catharines Blue Jays

423

1995

St Catharines Blue Jays

673

1996

St Catharines Stompers

744

1997

St Catharines Stompers

713

1998

St Catharines Stompers

784

1999

St Catharines Stompers

617

These numbers obviously wouldn’t sustain a single A team today, as times have changed.  However, it would do a lot for an IBL team, in my opinion.

I don’t have any attendance numbers for IBL teams; since for some reason the only team that releases them is Guelph, but going off of Guelph I could assume that most teams get between 100 and 300 people per game.

The lowest attendance average from St Catharines in their Jays era was 391. I would think that an IBL team could draw crowds like that in St Catharines if they are marketed correctly.

Now, I don’t know how Community Park looks these days, as the vast percentage of the pictures online come from their days of hosting single A, so it’s impossible to know what kind of shape the stadium is in today. Considering that it’s only a free-standing grandstand park, I would take a guess that the place would need some renovations in order to host the IBL.

Keeping with Niagara, there are a couple different options, such as the stadium in Welland. Welland Stadium, as quoted from ballparkreviews.com, “is more than suitable for a Class A or Independent level team, but because of attendance woes, it seems unlikely that the city will ever get another team.”  To elaborate on that, let’s look at some attendance numbers.

Year

Team

Attendance Avg

1989

Welland Pirates

542

1990

Welland Pirates

491

1991

Welland Pirates

493

1992

Welland Pirates

509

1993

Welland Pirates

457

1994

Welland Pirates

469

1995

Welland Aqua Ducks

45

1996

Welland Aqua Ducks

89

2003

Niagara Stars

181

It goes without saying that the 1995 and 1996 season stand out.  You’ve gotta cut the Welland fans a little slack here, those were the Welland Aqua Ducks of the North Atlantic League, which was probably the least successful independent ball league in history.

Even then, I would like to see an indy team that’s drawn worse than 45 people per game.

Those numbers are alarming, and going by these numbers, Welland is an “affiliated ball or bust” type of place, as the Pittsburgh-affiliated Pirates were the only team that did well at Welland Stadium.

Of course, the NY-Penn League was also the only truly organized league to play in Welland. The Aqua Ducks and then the Niagara Stars of the CBL were never really given a fair shot.

If the league is to expand to Niagara, it has to be into one of those 2 parks. At that point it’s choosing between supposed better fan support in St Catharines, or a 4,000-seat Welland stadium that’s in great condition in Welland (I’ve been there recently in the past few years, so I can vouch for it). You don’t really know which of the 2 markets is a better fit without finer details, such as the price of a lease, but it’s almost a toss-up without taking those things into consideration.

Southern Ontario has many other suitable places for the IBL as well, such as Windsor. In fact, Windsor has been rumored to be the most likely place for the IBL to expand to. They’ve got a great little park in Mic Mac Park that looks similar to Jack Couch Park in Kitchener from Satellite. Add in the population base, and it seems like a good market to try and break in to.

Aurora-Newmarket is another interesting option. I’ve heard that there is a brand new stadium going up out there for the PAN-AM baseball games in 2015 and possibly to house an IBL team afterwards. Not sure what the stadium will look like, but if the IBL can get into a stadium with 3,000-5,000 seats it would definitely be good for business. That same logic works with Welland Stadium.

Moving to another part of the geographic spectrum, here’s an interview (expansion talk starts at 6:53) conducted by Norman James on ATV London last year with former commissioner Joe O’Neill. Obviously, Stuart Smith is now the commissioner of the league, but since he isn’t responding to my email inquiring about expansion, I’m going to assume that he has the same vision as O’Neill.

If that is the case, then I’m assuming that the IBL has the intentions of expanding to the rest of Eastern Ontario. There is already a grassroots campaign to bring IBL baseball to Kingston. In my opinion, Kingston is the best suited place in Ontario for an IBL team.

If you watched the O’Neill interview, you would’ve heard him talking about avoiding the GTA in expansion because of how much of a pain it is to find your way around the area with all the traffic, construction, etc. I agree with him, not only because of navigation around the area, but because of the availability of players.

Toronto does have a population of close to 5 Million, but there are only so many quality ball players in the area. It’s showing that the talent pool in the area is being strained when you look at where the 3 GTA teams (Toronto, Burlington, Hamilton) are in the standings.

This is why I think that the IBL should attempt to tap in to those wide open Eastern Ontario markets and Kingston is a great starting point. There is a lot to build off of out there. I don’t believe that baseball has ever been tried out there and with a population of 200,000 people to work with, they could be very successful if marketed correctly.

There’s also going to be players that could make the jump to the IBL level in Kingston. The Kingston Ponies of the NCBL—a competitive men’s league where many Fat Cats players played previously—are currently leading the tier 1 division standings of that league with a 9-4 record.

They seem like a very capable group, and while you likely couldn’t get a full team out of those guys, there are likely 7-10 guys that could compete at the IBL level. Add in some other import talent and some guys from the seaway valley and you’re set.

Now, I realize that this all is just wishful thinking without a committed ownership group, but why not dream, right?

Either way, I hope that the league is able to expand its product to other areas of Ontario soon, because there are definitely markets that are able to host IBL baseball, it’s just a question of ownership.

Home run drought broken as Ottawa sweeps Burlington

Kevin Miller warming up for his Fat Cats debut

It appears that the Fat Cats are on a roll.

The Burlington Twins came to town this weekend looking to solidify their spot in the IBL playoffs by taking advantage of the recent struggles from Hamilton. Unfortunately for them, things didn’t go as planned.

Matt St Kitts was the man who one-hit the Fat Cats a couple weeks ago. The Twins showed that they weren’t fooling around by starting him for the first game of this series on Saturday night, but things didn’t go quite as St Kitts and manager Jeff Lounsbury had planned.

The Ottawa offense lit him up for 7 hits in 4 innings before Jordell Farquharson (new favorite name) came in to the game in relief.

It looked as though the first game of the series was going to be a pitcher’s duel with Ottawa starting Brandon Huffman, but Huffman was definitely the better of the two, no contest. He added 9 more Ks to his total strikeout count, which now totals 73, and shut out the Twins before being taken out in favor of Danny Desclouds.

At the dish, the Fat Cats were just as efficacious, driving in 11 runs on 15 hits. The stolen base total was very high for Ottawa as well, as Nelson and the Fat Cats coaches are doing a good job recognizing how easy it is to steal in this league (if Huffman can do it, anyone can).

Matt McGovern went 3/4—his average continues to climb as the season goes on and Jason Coker exploded for 3 RBIs.

Eitan Maoz had 2 RBIs on 2 hits as well. There was a commenter on my last post who was wondering where the Eitan love was. I suppose his play just slipped under my radar as some things do when I’m writing. There’s no question that him and his .394 batting average are among the best in the league. Maoz even showed a side of him that we haven’t seen during the Sunday DH, as he came about a foot away from a home run when his double hit the top of the wall.

Hopefully his great defense and his progression offensively continue to go in a positive direction. If they do, you better look out for this guy in the future.

However, it’s looking like the Fat Cats won’t have to turn to Maoz when looking for power. A few minutes before Saturday’s batting practice, the Fat Cats signed OF Kevin Miller. This guy is a giant—he towers over all other IBL players at 6’6” and 255 pounds.

His only at bat on Saturday proved to be a pivotal one, as he drove in 2 runs late in the game with a laser beam off the right field wall. I get the feeling that Miller is the power guy that we’ve been looking for. We’ll see how things turn out with him, but if this weekend is any indication, he will be.

He seems very mobile for a big guy as well. I saw him track down a couple fly balls in the outfield with impressive speed.

With all the hype over the new Kevin on the Fat Cats roster, the other Kevin must have felt left out. Kevin Dietrich took matters into his own hands during game 2 of the doubleheader. While the game was tied at 2 going into the Ottawa half of the 6th, Dietrich sent one flying to the outfield over the head of leftfielder Jamie Lekas and over the wall for a solo homer.

The play marks the first time that a Fat Cat has gone deep inside Ottawa Stadium in 400 days on the dot. How’s that for a streak breaker?

Taking all of these things into consideration, I likely don’t have to tell you that Ottawa had a very successful weekend. Including the results from yesterday’s games, the Fat Cats are 6 games back of the Brantford Red Sox for 1st place in the IBL and just 2 games back of the London Majors for 2nd.

Next weekend, the Fat Cats will have another marathon series to deal with, including 2 more games in one day as they travel to both Burlington and Guelph on Saturday. The Friday in Brantford will be a tough one as well, as the Sox have only lost one game as home all season.

 

Fat Cats take 3 of 5, impress during lengthy road trip

Chris Chambers can’t believe that he was called out at home during the London-Ottawa game on Saturday. (Photo courtesy Lori and Wayne Brown)

Road trips are usually the toughest part of the season for any sports team. However, no team in the IBL experiences the adversity thrown at them through the schedule like the Fat Cats do.

Last week, they traveled to—deep breath—Toronto, Barrie, Brantford, Burlington and London in a span of 4 days. It supposed to be even worse, as their Sunday game against Kitchener was cancelled due to rain.

Obviously this is due to the Cats being situated so far from the other teams in the IBL. If you look at a map of the teams in the league you see how far we really are, and it’s a lot further than you would think.  It’s unfortunate, but until the league does expand east, we’ll have to deal with it. That’s just how the cookie crumbles.

It seemed as though the Fat Cats knew that they had to deal with it as well, because there was no downgrade in the quality of baseball from the players even though some of them were playing out of their natural positions for the week and to top it off, were completely gassed.

Brett Sabourin, for example, played first base for 2 of the 5 games filling in the absence left by Matt McGovern. McGovern would return, but not before Sabourin put up 3 hits on 6 at bats, plus a walk, making it a solid week at the plate for the pitcher.

Speaking of Gov, he’s slowly regaining his form. All year he has been nursing a shoulder injury, but you can see that he’s starting to get his groove back. His batting average—while still bad—is improving and he’s almost back in the .200s. Hopefully the positive strides continue for him and that we’ll see him back in his element soon.

On the downside, it appears that Wade Wilson is sliding his way back down to reality at the plate. He went .143, mustering just 3 hits through all 5 games. He struck out numerous times as well (12 times in the 5 games) and visibly showed his frustrations at the plate.

I personally think that Wilson is feeling the pressure of having his role in the Fat Cats offense being advanced. He’s been moved up from the 9slot in the order all the way up to the 5th. Is it just a slump? Hopefully, but maybe he just doesn’t feel comfortable in this slot and would rather be back at the bottom of the order.

I’m likely thinking a little too much into this, but I would still be very interested in seeing him in the 8 or 9 slot again to see how he reacts and if we see the WW from a few weeks ago once again. It’s not out of the question either, as Nelson likes to shake things up in the batting order every now and then.

Despite Wilson’s recent unfortunate struggles, there were obviously other guys in the Cats lineup that got the job done this week. If not for guys like Mombo, Hayes and Coker—he made an AMAZING play on Saturday night to help kill the London rally—we definitely wouldn’t have come out of the weekend with a 10-11 record.

Power was another curious thing that I noticed from the road trip. The Cats mustered up 2 HRs against the Baycats, one from Hayes and one from Coker.

It’s one thing to see jacks from the Fat Cats at a park like Christie Pits, whose furthest dimensions are barely 350, but Schmidt and Shaw Stadium is not a small ballpark. The dimensions are 325-400-325, which are very similar to Ottawa Stadium’s dimensions of 325-404-325. Considering that we saw 2 Fat Cats go deep in Barrie, could we see an end to the Cats home run drought at home? To refresh the ticker, we’re now at 395 days without a homer at the old Jetform Park.

There were obviously some other obstacles that Ottawa failed to climb over, as there always is in a lengthy road trip, like the surprising Burlington Twins. I’m sure many fans were wondering what the hell happened at Nelson Park on the eventful Saturday. A 5-0 loss to the Twins isn’t something you see very often, but you also don’t often see a pitcher as hot as Matt St. Kitts was very often. He limited the Fat Cats to just 1 hit all game. Not much you can do when a pitcher catches that much fire.

Ottawa recognized that in a big way and they were able to regroup for the evening game, snatching a win from London in an offensive explosion 11-4, including a 6-spot 9th.

Says a lot about a team and the way that it can deal with adversity when you can bounce back from getting shut out with an 11-4 win on the same day in a different city. Oh man, I could go on and on about how awesome that London game was.

One of the only things that wasn’t right about the game was that for the entire time that Josh Soffer was in, the RTV London crew kept mistaking him for Marc-Andre Major.

I mean, this is in no way Rogers’ fault, but you would think that Soffer’s number change for the road trip would have been noted in on the roster. Anyways, I’m just nitpicking at this point. Should probably just shut up.

Ottawa hosts Burlington this weekend in the first games of the summer. Should be a very interesting series considering what transpired between the Fat Cats and Twins on that Saturday afternoon. Game times are as follows: Saturday night at 7:05, Sunday DH at 1:05. Hope to see you at the park.

In the next few days/weeks (I really don’t have a schedule in the summer), I’ll be working on a few other posts not directly related to Fat Cats game results… stay tuned to the blog for those.

Why the Fat Cats’ road trip was as successful as possible

BY CARLOS VERDE

The Ottawa Fat Cats’ game scheduled for today against the Kitchener Panthers at Jack Couch Park has been postponed, effectively ending the team’s five-game road trip down south against some of the IBL’s best.  The Fat Cats went 3-2, with two victories over 2nd and 3rd place London and Barrie, huge victories.

Standings-wise, the 3-2 road trip vaults the Fat Cats into 5th place in the IBL, albeit with 6 more games played than 6th place Kitchener.  The Fat Cats record now sits at 10-11, with the most games played in the IBL, 3 more than anyone else.  While the startling inequality in the scheduling is a bit alarming, the Fat Cats do still sit close to .500, which is a respectable winning percentage and would place them anywhere from 5th to 7th at the end of the year.

From a team morale standpoint, this trip was huge.  The players showed me a lot on Saturday, bouncing back from a 5-0 loss at the hands of the Burlington Twins (a game which was dominated by Burlington starter Matthew St. Kitts) to beat the London Majors 11-4 in a great team effort (every single Fat Cats hitter notched a base hit) against a 2nd-place Majors squad.  Another rallying point occurred earlier in the trip when the Fat Cats, in Barrie, managed to win 5-4 in extra innings after blowing a lead in the bottom of the 8th inning.  This really showed something about the character of the Fat Cats, who didn’t curl up and die, rather came on strong in the extra frame to steal one at Schmidt and Shaw Stadium.

The Intercounty Baseball League is a circuit with a lot of parity, and the strains of travel allow for anything to happen on any given night in any given IBL stadium.  Realistically, the Fat Cats were not going to sweep the trip with games against the top 3 teams in the league.  I would have honestly been happy with a 2-3 split on the trip, but every game closer to .500 that the Cats got was a bonus for me.  They played tight with the league’s best in Brantford, and BEAT the #2 and #3 teams!  All in all, a very successful trip, in many ways.

Thrilling finale caps off a split weekend

Ottawa celebrates LaDale Hayes’ game-winning run in the Sunday rubber match of the Barrie series

There were a couple things that I wanted to see improved on going into this weekend, but I knew that it would be a challenge. The Barrie Baycats are, in my opinion, the best team in the IBL and I figured Toronto would give the Fat Cats a challenge as well considering that they’re battling for a playoff spot with Burlington and Hamilton and are a better team than their record would indicate. Tack on that there were 4 games in one weekend for this Fat Cats team and one could make a case for this being the toughest weekend of the season so far.

The split that the Cats would earn is one that I’m very happy with, considering the circumstances. It’s also tough to win just one game against the Barrie Baycats, as they have crafty and experienced hitters along with defense with a lot of upside.

Now, it’s not like we completely blew out the Baycats. It came down to the final play of the game—bottom 9, 2 outs— when LaDale Hayes slid between the legs of Barrie catcher Mike Reeves (Reeves played that terribly) and safely into home to win the game 3-2 walk-off style. If there was a roof on Ottawa Stadium, it would still be in the stratosphere.

In fact, while there weren’t many runs scored, the Ottawa Stadium crowd of about 4,000 had a lot to cheer about during the rubber match of this series, including some heroics in the outfield.

LaDale Hayes had the play of the year with an acrobatic diving catch to thwart the Baycats efforts in the 4th inning. It wasn’t looking good for the Fat Cats at that point as there was just 1 man away and Barrie had 2 on, but Hayes came up with that dandy in left-centre to kill the Baycats’ momentum.

However, it was only the play of the year for a few minutes. Wade Wilson ended the 8th inning with an unbelievable diving grab of his own. I classify this catch as a bigger one, because of the implications that a double to right would’ve had at that point. It was 2-0 Barrie and there were men on the corners. Had the ball landed, the game would’ve potentially been put out of reach.

It was those kinds of defensive efforts that won the game for the Fat Cats, along with good relief pitching from James Amelotte (welcome to Ottawa) who earned his first IBL win. Matt Hummel also had a respectable outing for Ottawa, posting 6 Ks and keeping the explosive Baycats offense to just 2 runs.

It was the same story for the Fat Cats two nights earlier vs Toronto. Aside from one hiccup from Jason Coker in the 8th, there were no fielding errors which made for some great defense by the Fat Cats. Huffman was the starting pitcher, which pretty much explains itself.  He did get himself in a jam during the 5th inning, but alas, nobody’s perfect. MacDonald-Wilson and Soffer did a great job in relief regardless.

Another pleasing thing I found from the Toronto game was the hitting. Mark Charrette absolutely exploded going 4/4, Coker had 3 hits and many others had 2 (Maoz, Hayes, McGovern, Stone). Ironically, Mombo and Dietrich were the only ones without a hit from the game. Funny how those things work.

Going back to the topic of Mark Charrette, he has been outstanding as of late. His stats are already succeeding his numbers from last year’s playoffs, despite playing 3 less games so far than in last year’s championship run.

He’s on pace to almost double his amount of walks, his batting average is at .317 as opposed to his career average of .274 and his on-base percentage is a whopping .500. If he keeps trending upwards like this, it spells good things for the Fat Cats.

Both losses this weekend came from the 2 Saturday games. It’s what I expected, especially in game number 2 of the day. However, we got blown out by the Maple Leafs in the matinee game.

Reasoning behind this is pitching. The Leafs only managed 9 hits to our 8, so the play at the dish was pretty much even. The difference is that Sebastian, Amelotte and Boisvert combined walked 9 batters. That simply can’t happen against any team in the IBL, because they’ll make you pay.

Aside from that, I liked the play from the Fat Cats this weekend. Flashes of last year’s playoff run from guys like McGovern and Hayes shone through, and the defense appears to be getting better by the game.

Hopefully the positive strides can continue, as the Fat Cats will need it going into a lengthy 6-game road trip before coming home to the Burlington Twins on the weekend of the 23rd for a 3-game series at Ottawa Stadium.

Ups and Downs: Fat Cats sweep Guelph, shockingly drop series to Cardinals

Guelph’s trainer tends to Jason Coker, who hurt himself in the Sunday game of the Guelph series. He would return vs. Hamilton.

Firstly, I’d like to apologize for the lack of posts lately due to high school exams coming up soon.  Don’t worry though, you guys will get to experience the full effect of my blogging powers (sorry, that was extremely lame) after the 6-game road trip in mid-June.

Back to baseball, we have a lot to talk about today! The Fat Cats proved that they can hang with the big boys when they beat Guelph 2 weekends ago. Ottawa has beat Guelph more than any other team in the league at this point. We’ve handed Guelph 3 of their 5 losses.

However, the very next weekend (this past one), we managed to eek out a couple losses to the Hamilton Cardinals and lose that series. I guess that goes to show you how close the teams in this league are, but I think that both losses to Hamilton could’ve been easily avoided. I’ll get to that in a bit.

The Guelph series provided the Fat Cats faithful with some great baseball. I just have to say it again; Brandon Huffman is simply amazing on the mound. He pitched another 10 Ks in game one of this series and now leads the league with 44 of them. It says something when the man who’s second in strikeouts, Marek Deska of Toronto, only has 22. Huffman also leads the league in ERA (1.67). The guy is easily the best pitcher in the league. I’ve got more on him later as well.

Josh Soffer also had a good showing and earned a well-deserved save for game one. I must say that the pitching has really improved from the weeks prior. Guys, like Soffer, are getting back in the groove of things and pitching some great ball games. For the first time of the season, the pitching won a game for the Fat Cats.

Completing the sweep the next day was something that I was very content with. It feels great to watch your team win a series against a very capable team in the Guelph Royals.

These two games were actually the first 2 games that I saw this season and things went great.  Once again, it was a great atmosphere at the park and the stadium had around 3,000 fans by the looks of it for both games.

The Hamilton series didn’t go the way I wanted it to, as I was hoping for a sweep which at the time seemed fairly realistic. The Cats were hot going in to the series, so I was hoping for a sweep so that our record was padded for the tough Toronto-Barrie series which is coming up soon.

Hamilton came out in the first game of the series with some fine pitching from Tim Black. Black, along with fairly solid relief did the job for Hamilton in game 1. It was definitely a much more deserved win than their second one.

Surprisingly, we didn’t see the best performance from Huffman. For the most part he’s dynamite, but something tells me he gets rattled easily. I’ve seen him slam his bat after striking or flying out at the plate. He’s been cool on the mound up until now, however we haven’t really seen him off his game. If he ever gets in a slump, I’m afraid he won’t be able to get out of it or have a tough time with it.

Ottawa had a couple chances to win the game late, loading the bases on 2 different occasions, but Mike Fortuna was able to shut down the Cats and conserve the win for Hamilton.

The problem here is finish. There have been a couple episodes now where the Fat Cats get the sacks packed or force extras but can’t get the job done. We need more patience at the plate in situations like that. I’m getting pretty tired of seeing Hayes or Maoz take a hack at the first pitch they see and fly out to the 2nd basemen to end an inning and leave guys stranded.

Game 2 of this series was a good one. I got home earlier than I expected from Quebec this weekend and almost made my way out to the game. Decided to lay low instead, but aside from the rain it seemed to be the most fun game of the season based on the vibes I got from my radio dial (by the way, Howard Bloom and Jason Ilacqua do a great job in the booth). I should’ve headed over.. I’ll know for next time, I guess!

Anyways, things really clicked for the team on Sunday. Wade Wilson had an absolutely unheard of 5 RBIs and every other batter had at least 1 RBI aside from Cody Mombourquette, and even Mombo managed to go 2-5. It was definitely an offensive afternoon with a total of 13 runs being put up.

Pitching didn’t really help Hamilton’s cause, as VanPelt and Swartz were brutal for them. They combined for 10 earned runs against and just 1 strikeout. Even if they did play into Ottawa’s offense, it’s good to see our roster explode for some hits. Hopefully that can help build some confidence.

Onto today’s game..

I have to give the Fat Cats a bit of credit; at least they built up a 6-1 lead.

Huffman, Mombo and Coker had a good day at the plate and Hummel held Hamilton off by putting up 5 Ks and keeping a goose egg on the stat sheet under the earned runs category. A lot of positives to go forward with from this game and I hope we can build off of it.

On the other hand, you will see that Hamilton managed to put up 5 runs in the 8th inning, tie the game and win it in 13.

Finish.

While Zach Pearson was great on the mound and got the win for the Cardinals, we can’t keep letting teams back into games. This time around it was because of bad relief pitching from Tyler Durward.

Durward rarely sees action for the Fat Cats, so up 6-1 late in the game vs one of the worst teams in the league, Nelson decided to give him a shot at closing it out. I get that, and while I wouldn’t have tried it, I can see why he did.

However when you look at the box score, you will see Josh Soffer’s name in for the loss. Soffer was in the game for the unfortunate game-winning RBI from Chris Redfern, but it wasn’t him that let the Cardinals back into the game, that was Durward.

I am blasting Durward pretty badly for someone who’s only pitched once 5 years ago (I got pulled quickly too), but if you’re playing in the IBL, you’ve gotta do some good for your team and I haven’t seen him do that yet.

So, with the series loss to the Cardinals the Fat Cats are now 5-7 on the season and 4 games behind going into next weekend, where we’ll take on Toronto and then Barrie. It should be a good weekend with both Toronto and Ottawa fighting for a playoff spot. Expect the Fat Cats to give Barrie a run for their money as well, as the Baycats seem to have a tough time with Ottawa. Also, you never know what could happen to Barrie’s infield.. as we saw in the playoffs last year (Loooooogaaaaaan).

Cats blow lead late, drop series to lowly Cardinals

[Carlos is back with another addition to the site. I’m actually going to be adding him as a contributor to the Litter Box in a couple of weeks.. stay tuned for that.]

It was an eventful game at Ottawa Stadium today, as the Fat Cats took on the visiting (yet playing as the home team) Hamilton Cardinals in the rubber match of this weekend’s three-game set. The two teams split the first two games, with Hamilton winning the opener and Ottawa winning yesterday’s contest in a rain-shortened blow out.

Despite Cardinals starter Martinow’s struggles, reliever Zach Pearson was excellent, going 5 complete, giving up just one hit while walking one and striking out two. Fat Cats flamethrower Matt Hummel started for the Fat Cats, and put in another solid performance over 7 complete, giving up just one solitary run on three hits while fanning 5 Cardinal hitters.

The Fat Cats opened the scoring in the top of third, as DH Brandon Huffman scored 3B Cody Mombourquette and C Pat Gagnon on a long double to left field. The Cards would respond in the bottom half, as 3B Anthony Rizquez scored an unearned run on an error by Fat Cats third basemen Cody Mombourquette, and the score was 2-1 through 3 innings.

The Fat Cats would put up two runs in both the 5th and 6th to take a commanding 6-1 lead into the bottom of the 8th. With Hamilton down to their final six outs, manager Tim Nelson called on inconsistent left-hander Tyler Durward to pitch the eighth. Durward promptly walked the first two batters of the inning, who both scored on a single by Chike Springer and a double by Colin Porter respectively. The floodgates opened up with a Ryan Taylor double which plated Zack Ranta and Colin Porter, cutting the FatCats lead to 6-5. Ryan Taylor would also score in the inning on a fielder’s choice, tying the game at 6.

The game would settle down as it went into extras, with relievers Josh Soffer (Fat Cats) and Zach Pearson (Cardinals) working very effectively into the extra frames.

Finally, in the bottom of the 13th, after 3 and a half hours of baseball, Cards’ SS Chris Redfern drove in the winning run with a single to center field, scoring C Tim Black.

My Take

Bringing in Durward and leaving him in for that long was a bad move by Tim Nelson and I think highlights this team’s biggest hole, its pen. The Fat Cats had this game and gave it away with six outs left. Kudos to the Hamilton Cardinals for coming up here and winning the series, taking the rubber match today. After seeing their scores early in the year, I thought they would be cellar-dwellars, but they certainly had more resolve than a cellar-dwellar this weekend. I was impressed by how their hitters dragged out ABs, really made the Fat Cats pitchers work for outs on Saturday and today.

Fat Cats

Brutal series loss against a team sitting near the basement. Fully expected a series win. With a hungry Maple Leafs team looking to climb the standings, and a BayCats team which is a perennial contender, rolling into town next weekend, the ‘Cats will really need to get things together. They now sit at 5-7, and sit dangerously close to the bottom of the league, with more Games Played than anyone else, with the exception of the Cardinals. They’ve got to bounce back next weekend.

Cardinals

A surprise series victory. The Cards are 4-8, and will definitely be in a dogfight for those last few playoff spots in the next month or so. I’m expecting them to make it based on what I saw at Ottawa Stadium this weekend, but their starting pitching was unspectacular to say the least. Their ABs were nose-to-the-grindstone if you know what I mean, and I think that they should be able to win at least two of their four games next weekend (@ Kitchener will be a close one with evenly matched teams, they should win v. London though the Majors have overachieved this year, @ Burlington is the type of game they have to win to make the playoffs, and v. Brantford will be tough as always).