By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
This year’s playoff plague for the London Majors of getting runners on base, but unable to cash them in for points persisted in Friday’s game five (Aug. 3) to put an end to the Majors’ season and push their Intercounty Baseball League championship drought to 37 years.
The game stayed 1-1 until the ninth inning when the Kitchener Panthers completed the upset by picking up three runs in the final inning to finish a 4-1 game—matching the best-of-seven quarter-final series result.
“It comes down to opportunities and we didn’t capitalize and they capitalized,” said Majors’ co-owner/field manager Roop Chanderdat. “If you had to pick one thing, yeah that’s definitely it. They hit with runners in scoring position and we didn’t.”
Getting runners home from second base or closer was a problem for London all series, collecting runs 33 per cent of the time when players were in scoring position compared to Kitchener’s 46 per cent success.
Game five’s stat of London only being able to get four runners in scoring position might be the most indicative as to why the Majors had trouble picking up points for most of the series against a seventh place team that gave up the second most runs in the league in the regular season.
In all five games, London was only able to get 30 runners in scoring position. An abysmal number next to Kitchener’s 50 chances and the Panthers were able to score all four of their runs in Friday’s game forcing Majors’ pitchers Eric Cordova and Josh Palmer to keep an eye on second and third bases.
It wasn’t all clutch hitting from the Panthers, though. The Majors didn’t seem to get the best breaks defensively either and paid for it for most of the postseason matchup.
In their last game of the year, the tying base runner for the Panthers managed to get on base when third baseman Derrik Strzalkowski short hopped his throw to his first baseman in the fourth inning.
“There’s some credit due there, they played great defence,” Chanderdat said in a series where his team made nine errors compared to Kitchener’s two mistakes.
The Majors last won the Jack and Lynne Dominico Trophy in 1975 and since then, seven of the nine other teams currently in the league have won the IBL championship (except for Ottawa Fat Cats who were founded in 2010 and the newest team to the league in the Burlington Twins joining in 2011).
A few hundred people came out to Labatt Park to watch the Majors last game, but the most noise fans made wasn’t at the announcement of a home town hero being called to the batter box. Instead, Panthers catcher Ben Kangas heard the most from the crowd, getting heckled relentlessly and unsympathetically.
Allegations have been reported of the Panthers player using the racial slur, “Smile Cleve, so I can see you,” after Majors’ power hitter Cleveland Brownlee crushed a home run in the seventh inning during Thursday’s 12-1 blowout in London’s lone victory of the series.
Brownlee is an African American from Atlanta, GA and the alleged insult cleared both benches with plenty more heated words exchanged between the teams—not racially.
“Coming where I’m from I’ve been through much worse. Words can’t hurt me,” Brownlee said, hitting .316 in the postseason. “I spoke with (Kangas), we’re both grown men. We can forgive and forget things, but you never forget certain things.”
The Majors wasted little time addressing the issue, sending an email to the IBL’s commissioner, deputy commissioner, league secretary and carbon copied (CC’d) the letter to the Kitchener Panthers while game four was still being played.
“What we did was we turned it over to the league and I’ve got full faith that they’re going to due their due diligence to find out what took place… I trust they’re going to do what’s right and they’ll get to the bottom of it,” said Majors’ co-owner Scott Dart. “I just think it was conduct that was not associated with baseball and it’s not something that should be within the game itself or outside.”
Panthers field manager Brian Bishop said he has seen several emails regarding the accusation, but is standing by his player that the issue is just an allegation and is false.
“(Kanga) told me that he didn’t say it and I believe him and that’s where I stand on it,” Bishop said, adding league officials haven’t contacted him about the issue. “I know (Kangas) and he isn’t that kind of guy…I guess the truth will come out eventually.”
If there’s any positive from Friday’s game, with the Majors’ ending their season and a bad aftertaste from the previous matchup, it’s maybe the fact they were even able to play a game at Labatt Park on Friday—a day originally scheduled for a London Rippers home game.
The Majors were forced to concede several of their fan popular Friday games at Labatt Park this past season to the now-defunct Frontier League team after the Rippers signed on as the primary tenant at the address and had priority scheduling privileges.
“From 1925 to now, we’re still here. We’ve outlasted numerous teams that have been here and I think that goes to the testament of what I’ve always said,” Dart pointed out after his team’s final game. “As long as we can help it, this team will be here in Labatt Park and we will continue that tradition.”
The Majors may have lost their 2012 season, but the organization picked up a win elsewhere—maybe where it matters most. At home.