The Barrie Baycats overcame a four-run deficit to strike first in the opening game of the IBL championship, rallying to beat the Kitchener Panthers, 7-4, Tuesday night at Coates Stadium.
The five-time defending champion Baycats, who have yet to lose a game in the postseason, will look to make it 10-straight wins and take control of the best-of-seven final when the series returns to Kitchener’s Jack Couch Stadium for Game 2 on Thursday night. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
The Panthers broke open a scoreless game in the top of the fourth inning with four runs off Barrie ace Emilis Guerrero, with the big blast coming off the bat of Brian Burton on a three-run homer. Mike Gordner followed up with a solo shot to put Kitchener in control.
Barrie’s offence, which managed just three hits off Panthers starter Jasvir Rakkar through the opening four innings, came to life in the fifth. Branfy Infante walked and stole second to lead off the inning and then came around to score on a single by Ryan Spataro. Starlin Rodriquez would then cut the lead in half when he singled and stole second and then advanced to third, before scoring on a wild pitch by Rakkar.
The Baycats exploded for another four runs the next inning to take the lead for good. Ryan Rijo doubled home Kyle DeGrace to make it a one-run game and Connor Morro tied it on a fielder’s choice. Jordan Castalo then slapped a two-run single to make it 6-4.
DeGrace doubled home Jeff Cowan off Kitchener reliever Christian Hauck in the bottom of the seventh inning and it was more than enough offence for Guerrero and three Barrie relievers.
Guerrero (4-0) would go six innings in the win, giving up four runs, three earned on just three hits and a walk. He struck out four. Santos Arias and Darren Shred tossed a scoreless inning of relief each, before Adam Hawes slammed the door in the ninth to pick up his first save.
Rakkar (2-1) would get tagged for six runs on eight hits and five walks over 5.2 innings, while striking out five.
Spataro would led the Barrie hit parade, going 3-for-4 at the plate with an RBI and run scored. Jon Waltenbury and Castaldo had a pair of hits each.
Burton led the way for Kitchener with his league-leading fifth long ball of the playoffs, to go along with a pair of hits and three RBIs.
Game 3 of the series is back in Barrie on Saturday night. Game time is 7 p.m.