Amelotte stars as Fat Cats split Brantford series

Stellar pitching from James Amelotte secured a 4-3 Ottawa win on July 22nd (photo courtesy Freedom Photography)

Another weekend at Ottawa Stadium has come and gone, and the Fat Cats once again sent the fans home happy, with a win to wrap up the series over the defending champs from Brantford.

I always try to be optimistic/encouraging, but I wasn’t feeling that way going into the weekend. Ottawa had been playing some iffy baseball as of late, getting swept by London a few weeks ago, plus a pounding in Barrie. We were also trailing the Leafs when that game at Christie Pits was rained out (albeit with the tying run at the plate). Aside from the rout in Kitchener, our record from the past few weeks didn’t exactly look stellar.

Tack on that we were facing a team that had lost just 5 times all season and things looked pretty bleak.

However, the Cats took the little shot that they had at stealing a win from the Red Sox and did just that, walking away with a 4-3 victory after the Sunday afternoon rubber match of the 2-game series.

Let’s take a second to have a look at this Sox lineup. The Brantford Red Sox sent 13 former professional baseball players up for the trip, including former major leaguers Scott Thorman and Brian Sikorski. While Sikorski didn’t play this weekend, it’s pretty crazy to think that a team of mostly local Ottawa ball players beat a team of guys that were mostly playing AAA 5 years ago.

Thorman was absolutely spectacular, pounding 2 jacks over the Ottawa Stadium wall and showing his smarts at the dish and on the base pads. It was a treat to watch him play. He really doesn’t belong in the IBL.

One of the big reasons that we pulled off the win was the performance of 19-year-old James Amelotte, who came away with the complete game win while allowing 10 hits and only 3 earned runs. He got himself out of tough situations a couple times and didn’t let it rattle him when—guess who—Thorman took the first pitch of his at bat to Coventry Road in the 3rd inning.

It goes to show you that Amelotte is the real deal. At 19, if you’ve got the mental composure to pitch a complete game against a team like the Red Sox and win it, you’re likely not staying in semi-pro for very long.

I was actually surprised that Amelotte stayed in the game for the 9th inning. When McGovern stepped into the bullpen during the 8th, I was under the impression that Nelson was slotting him in for the save attempt. It didn’t end up happening, which is a bit of a bummer considering McGovern’s history vs the Sox and how sweet it would’ve been to see him post a save against them, but Amelotte finishing off the complete game is just as big of a feel-good moment.

We’ll see how things turn out with Amelotte come playoff time, but I’m sure that he’ll be making an appearance in the starting rotation come playoff time alongside Huffman and hopefully McGovern.

I’ve heard rumblings around the IBL grapevine that Huffman is battling an injury right now. This is complete speculation since I don’t have conformation of it, but seeing him come out of the game in Barrie early and not get a start in a weekend series for the first time in a long time is worrying.

The homer that he hit on Saturday while playing DH was reassuring (considering the injury looked to be lower back according to Barrie GM Doug Dimma), as it was the hardest hit ball that I’ve seen so far this season.

Injury or not, some rest is a good thing for Huffman because of the workload that he’s likely to carry these playoffs.

Back to this weekend, I’ve got to give some credit to Kevin Dietrich for his play in the outfield. He made a couple catches at the track that weren’t easy nabs and had to work to get to many outs. His highlight pack from the weekend included an unbelievable diving catch to preserve the Ottawa lead on Sunday. Major props to him and LaDale Hayes as well, who saw a big workload in deep left.

Ottawa was close to having a similar outcome on Saturday. It was a 6-5 lead for Brantford headed to the top of the 9th with the momentum seemingly in the Cats’ favour, when a string of early hits and an error from Joe Stone put the Sox up by 3. Another one from Coker put the game out of reach.

On that 2nd error, Coker’s throw from short didn’t help, but Gagnon let the ball get away from him at home. He had a good opportunity to put Gotwalt away at the plate for out number 2, which is why the play made me groan. An 8-5 lead seems a lot less insurmountable than a 9-5 lead when you’ve got 1 half-inning left.

If there weren’t any fielding troubles in the dying moments of game 1, we could’ve swept the Sox. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic that we split the series, but imagine what a sweep would’ve done to this team’s confidence going into the playoffs.

Speaking of the playoffs, the Fat Cats sit tied with the Panthers, who have finished their season, for 6th place. Two wins this week would put us in 5th and set up a series vs Guelph and possibly Barrie. Where we currently sit would match us up against the London Majors, because Kitchener wins the tiebreaker. I get the feeling that we won’t be the complete underdogs if we’ve got a healthy starting rotation consisting of Huffman, Amelotte and McGovern.

My personal choice for a playoff series would be the Majors, so that we can—to put in nicely—send them back where they came from. Can’t stand London.

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