London Majors stellar start stalled by series of setbacks

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On Sunday July 9, the London Majors led the Barrie Baycats 4-3 late in the first game of an Intercounty Baseball League doubleheader.

The Majors, who were 19-2, were looking to defeat the 21-0 Baycats. It didn’t happen. The Baycats came back to win and then won the second game.

Barely two weeks have gone by and whatever the doubleheader loss kicked off for the Majors, it was ugly.

The Majors went from IBL contenders along with the Baycats to a team sucking the exhaust fumes of the three-time IBL champs.

The Majors are now 22-9 and suffered through a six-game losing streak, including losses of 18-2 and 20-0. They managed to right the ship somewhat having won their last two games, but there may be some choppy seas to still be negotiated.

“It was a tough couple of weeks,” manager Roop Chanderdat said.

What happens next depends on how well the Majors can adjust to changes they didn’t believe they would have to deal with this season.

The list of things gone wrong has been impressive.

In the two-game set against Barrie, catcher Mike Ambrose, a fireplug for the Majors, sustained a head and chest injury. He’s only played sporadically since. Ambrose is still not 100 per cent.

Just after that the Majors lost their best pitcher and one of the best in the IBL as Murilo Gouvea signed with the Can-Am team in Quebec. The Majors had to wave goodbye to a guy that could extend win streaks and stop losing streaks and who could go straight up against the other team’s No. 1 guy.

To add insult to injury the Majors were deprived of their best all-round player, Byron Reichstein. His real job, what he does to make a living, changed his shifts. He is now only available to the Majors on Friday or Saturday.

Then their second baseman Chris McQueen sustained a hamstring injury.

“Not to make excuses but that’s a lot,” Chanderdat said.

“We’re trying to figure it out. There’s nothing you can do now. You can’t add players because the rosters are set. The past couple of weeks we’ve been trying to figure out who can be a starting pitcher; who can play where to maximize it.”

In one word, the situation is a nightmare.

“From a coaching standpoint yeah, it’s a nightmare,” he said. “We had a team we thought could have competed for a championship, you get an unexpected three to five personal changes, it really affects you. In our league you need three good starters and we had that in Gouvea, (Luis) Sanchez) and Cory Hammond. That matches up with anyone.”

The suddenly sour Majors’ run is reflected in the standings. They’ve dropped to third and Sanchez who at one time was 7-3 is now 7-0.

It’s also difficult psychologically for the Majors’ pitching staff because the Majors aren’t the kind of team that puts up a lot of runs on a regular basis. With Reichstein, Ambrose and McQueen unavailable for periods of time, the pitching staff can’t give up a lot of runs.

The IBL also isn’t kind to teams with thin lineups. The teams already play a lot of games in a short period of time but with the lousy summer weather and plenty of rescheduled games, the strain on pitching staffs and regulars is enormous.

Beginning Friday at Labatt Park, the Majors have to complete a suspended game with Burlington. That game will be picking up a tied game in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on base. The two will then play a regularly scheduled game.

On Saturday the Majors head to Kitchener for an afternoon game before travelling to Toronto on Sunday for another afternoon game.

Monday night it’s off to Brantford to face the Red Sox.

That’s a murderous schedule.

“We’re going to compete,” Chanderdat said. “Those are the cards we’ve been dealt. I’ve been dealt worse cards previous years. We’re going to make it work.”

No doubt though he’s going to need to play the cards like he’s never played before or he may wind up busted. 

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