Baycats Onto the Finals with Guest Blogger Ryan Eakin
Just over a week ago, the Barrie Baycats defeated the Kitchener Panthers 3-0 in game four to advance to the Intercounty Baseball League championship series.
— IBLBaycats (@IBLBaycats) August 29, 2016
They knew that they would be in for a long wait to determine their championship series opponent, as at the time, the London Majors and Toronto Maple Leafs had only completed one game of their semi-final series.
It has been a long wait, to say the least, but an opponent has been set, at long last.
And their opponent? The Maple Leafs.
How did it become the Maple Leafs, one may ask.
Well, that is a story for itself, but here is a quick rundown.
Last night in game seven, the Majors led the Maple Leafs by a run heading into the top of the ninth inning.
The Maple Leafs bats then exploded, while the Majors pitching imploded.
A one out double by Connor Lewis scored Dan Marra from second base, tying the game at five.
That chased Majors starter Elis Jimenez from the game.
In came Majors starter-turned-reliever Cory Hammond.
He allowed a two-run home run to Grant Tamane, and the rest is history.
Baycats general and field manager Angus Roy said the Maple Leafs will be a very tough opponent.
He said their postseason success can be contributed to many things, but said one thing stands above the rest.
“Their experience and competitive nature,” said Roy.
“They have a lot of really good baseball players and we know how good they are,” Roy added. “They are a tremendous offensive group so the challenge will be similar to that of facing (the) Kitchener (Panthers).
“(Jon) Waltenbury and (Justin) Marra are as good of a tandem as there is in the league, so limiting their RBI (runs batted in) opportunities will be vital to our success.
“They have also shown that they are never out of a game so maintaining our focus for all nine innings will be extremely important.”
The Maple Leafs, clearly, are coming off an instant classic of a series.
The Baycats, meanwhile, as already stated, are coming off a long break.
Roy said he is not all that concerned though.
“If we were a less experienced group the concern for the layoff would be larger,” said Roy. “But we are a very experienced group and know how to handle time off and prepare to play.
“We are also heading to the finals so there is a lot to play for,” Roy added. “If the layoff happened during the regular season I would expect us to be a little flat, but that will not happen in the finals.
“We will not use the layoff as an excuse. We know the task at hand and are prepared to do what we need too in order to get this done.”
While following the Leafs-Majors game seven on Pointstreak, it was hard not to notice the tweets that were flowing in from many of the Baycats players.
They wanted to play the Maple Leafs.
There are many reasons for that.
One, there are some lifelong friendships on both sides, while a majority of Baycats players live in Toronto, so the drive to the ballpark will be a tad bit easier than traveling to London.
Roy said a rivalry that dates back years also played a factor, though he admitted that the rivalry is not as heated as it was a long time ago.
“The rivalry is still there but it is a healthy respect,” said the likely field manager of the year. “Both teams know how good each other are and we have a tremendous amount of respect for them as a team and organization.
“There are guys that have played on both teams, so I think that builds a competitive nature that other rivalries may not have.”
Roy said it will not take much of a rivalry to get the juices flowing though.
“It is the finals man, so the stage itself will bring out the best in all the players.”
The Maple Leafs can hit.
There is no denying that.
Their bullpen, however, leaves a lot to be desired.
Their starters have been fantastic, but their bullpen is extremely thin due to lack of men in their bullpen.
Roy said they will not change their game plan to try and get to the Leafs thin bullpen though.
“The game plan is to have good at bats and get quality pitches to hit,” Roy said.
“We do not discuss anything related to trying to see more pitches to get into the bullpen, as we do not want to be defensive at the plate because we are trying to see extra pitches.
“Our approach will be the same and it will not change,” Roy added. “Their starting pitching has been outstanding and that is why they are in the finals.
“We will have to have quality at bats up and down the order in order to be successful.”
To be successful, and cement themselves as a modern day dynasty, this team still needs four more wins.
In 2014, the team used the slogan of “unfinished business” to get themselves to the finish line.
Last year, it was “do it for Glenny.”
This year? “Business trip.”
Just take care of business and collect another ring.
“The motivating factor is winning, it always is,” Roy said.
“We have a group of guys that are extremely competitive and want to win every game. We do not discuss anything other than our approach to each and every game. We focus on the next, whether it be the next pitch, play, or game, and whatever happens, happens.
“We have been through a lot together, and the bond that we have is like no other I have ever seen, and I think that is as big of a factor as anything.”
Game one of the Baycats best-of-seven championship postseason series against the Maple Leafs will take place Tuesday evening from Coates Stadium in Midhurst.
Baycats ace Emilis Guerrero will take the ball in game one on Tuesday evening, while Roy is still deciding which games Adam Rowe and Matthew St. Kitts will start in.