Bats stay asleep as rested Majors open IBL semifinal

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It took a while but the offence eventually arrived.

When it did, it broke open a pitchers duel.

The London Majors and Kitchener Panthers opened their best-of-seven Intercounty Baseball League semifinal at the Jack Couch launching pad in Kitchener on Sunday night. The Majors failed to launch but the Panthers finally unloaded in the seventh inning.

The park with short dimensions has been known to give up a lot of runs, but it was the pitching that took over the show until the seventh. An error opened the door to a four-run fourth inning, capped by a two-run home run by Justin Interisano as the Panthers won 5-0 to take a 1-0 lead in the series, with Game 2 Tuesday in London.

Panther starter Jasvir Rakkar and Majors’ Chris Hammond were battling in a 1-0 game before the big bottom of the seventh.

Hammond went 6⅔ innings, giving up five runs, only two earned, on nine hits, although he did walk five. Rakkar went the distance, giving up three hits and walking two, striking out eight.

The Majors and Panthers didn’t waste any time starting the series. The echo from the final out after the Panthers’ six-game first-round playoff win over the Hamilton Cardinals on Saturday night had barely died away when the Panthers and Majors called “Play ball!”

The Majors managed four days off after their five-game series win over the Burlington Herd.

“I kind of expected it,” Majors manager Roop Chanderdat said. “Sunday night is their usual home night and you want to get your usual night at least once in the playoffs from an ownership standpoint, so you get the big crowd. It’s kind of quick, but it’s how the playoff goes.”

The Majors went through a deadly stretch of games late in the season and the playoffs, playing 10 games in less than two weeks.

“It’s good to have a little rest,” Chanderdat said. “It was crazy. We had a light practice on Friday and we’re ready to go.”

The Majors need to be. The Panthers have had their number this year, winning four of five, including 20-0 and 15-5 late in the season.

“They are a really good team. Any time you have the (most valuable player) in Sean Reilly and other good hitters, you are going to be tough,” Chanderdat said. “They are tough in their park; the strategy’s different playing in that park and their lineup is suited for that park. 

“They’re a top team and we’re going to have to play well to beat them.”

Jack Couch Field is small and a hitter’s dream.

“They are used to hitting that way; rather then ground balls, they hit it in the air and it might go out,” he said. “You have to build your team for your park and they are a good team.”

It took seven innings but when the Majors gave them an opening the Panthers blew the door off the hinges for the win.

IBL playoffs

Majors vs. Panthers

Game 3: Thursday at Kitchener, 7 p.m.
Game 5: Sunday at Kitchener, 2 p.m., if nec.

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