Baycats Ready for 'Extremely Competitive Series' Against Panthers

by Ryan Eakin

BARRIE - For the third year in a row -- and for the fourth time in five years -- the Barrie Baycats and Kitchener Panthers will face off in the Dominico Cup Final.

That has upset some fans across the Intercounty Baseball League [IBL] who wish to see a different championship series for a change, but I am not sure why.

The Baycats -- led by president David Mills and general and field manager Angus Roy, and the Panthers -- led by president Bill Pegg, director of player recruitment Scott Ballantyne, general manager Mike Boehmer and field manager Luke Baker -- are the two most well ran organizations in the IBL, while the players on the field last year delivered one of the more thrilling Dominico Cup Finals in recent memory, capped off with one of the more iconic moments in IBL history when Baycats shortstop Starlin Rodriguez hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the seventh inning to give the Baycats a 5-3 lead.

He, of course, admired his home run, flipped his bat and slowly trotted the bases, leading to the IBL receiving more attention than ever before both home and abroad.

Never get tired of excellence.

From a semi-professional standpoint, it would be impossible to watch more exciting baseball in this province than what fans will witness over the course of the next twelve or so days, starting tomorrow night in Midhurst for game one.

Wanting to watch two lesser teams face off in the league championship series just because it would be a change of scenery is bizarre

Roy said he expects this series to go the distance.

"Yeah, I don’t think there is any chance this isn’t an extremely competitive series," said Roy. "These are two really good baseball teams. 

"Top to bottom you can argue that neither team has holes in their roster. I would be shocked if this didn’t go six or seven games."

No holes in both rosters, indeed.

On the mound, the Baycats have a starting rotation of Matthew St. Kitts, Emilis Guerrero and Adrian Salcedo, while the Panthers have a rotation of Yoennis Yera, Jasvir Rakkar and Yoen Socarras.

The two best starting rotations in the league.

Their bullpens are also the two best bullpens in the league, as the Baycats have Santos Arias, Adam Hawes and Darren Shred -- among others -- in theirs, while the Panthers have Miguel Lahera, Mike Schnurr, Brady Schnarr and Matt Vickers -- among others -- in theirs.

This is as close to equal both teams have been from a pitching perspective yet.

And offensively, the Baycats are so talented and deep that last year's postseason most valuable player Glenn Jackson is on the bench, as are outfielders Stevie Lewis and Jeff Cowan.

The Panthers are right there with them, being so deep that infielders Jeff Hunt and Keegan Marsden are on the bench, as is outfielder Zach Johnson.

All of those players would be in the starting lineups for the six other teams in this league.

Roy said that this year's Panthers remind him of his own team.

"... They don’t beat themselves. They throw strikes on the mound, make all the defensive plays, and capitalize on scoring opportunities.  

"You have to beat them for all nine innings. If by chance they open the door for you, you must take advantage of it or you’re not going to beat them. I think this is the best all-around team that they have had."

Roy, however, said he will not change his gameplan that he has gone with since the start of their semifinals series against the Welland Jackfish.

That means you will be seeing a Jordan Castaldo-Ryan Spataro-Jon Waltenbury outfield in the final.

"We will start the same way with the same game plan," said Roy. "Offence early and defence late, especially if we have a lead.

 "In terms of when the decision was made, it just happened organically over the course of the year.  We had various things happen throughout the year which has led to that lineup happening. It wasn’t planned at all, it is just what we arrived at with the various events.  

"The key is being flexible and we won’t be afraid to make switches if we feel it is necessary. "

As stated, game one of this series takes place tomorrow night from Coates Stadium in Midhurst.

St. Kitts will take the mound, and will be followed by Guerrero when the series heads to Kitchener for game two on Thursday evening.

Salcedo will take the mound in game three when the series returns to Midhurst on Saturday evening.

For more information, follow the Baycats on Facebook and Twitter at @iblbaycats and on Instagram at @barriebaycats.

And remember that you can buy tickets for all of our home games online HERE.

Photo: Brian Backland/Brian Backland Photography