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The Inter-County Baseball League Championship Series starts today with London facing Guelph. Here’s a quick overview look at the two teams involved.

Inter-County Baseball League Championship Series: London Majors v. Guelph Royals

The Inter-County Baseball League Championship Series starts today with London facing Guelph. Here’s a quick overview look at the two teams involved.

Inter-County Baseball League Championship Series: London Majors v. Guelph Royals

While most of us have our attention on trying to find any bright light in the Season for Hell or on the Canadian Olympic men’s baseball team, there is another event in Canadian baseball that starts tonight that is worth keeping an eye on. The strong tradition of the Inter-County Baseball League (IBL) continues in its 86th season with another great championship series approaching.

The defending champion Guelph Royals who finished in fifth place with a 19-17 record reached the finals with a 4-0 series sweep of the second-place Brantford Red Sox. They’ll meet the sixth-place London Majors who finished with a record of 14-21, yet defeated the regular season champion Toronto Maple Leafs (28-8) with a 4-1 series victory. The Leafs were suffering as they were without the 2003 IBL MVP Paul Spoljaric, who is, of course, in Athens hoping to win a medal with the Canadian Olympic team. The third-place Kitchener Panthers lost to London in a 7 game quarterfinal series where the deciding game went into extra innings and the fourth-place Barrie Baycats fell to Guelph in 6 games. The seventh-place Oshawa Dodgers were swept Brantford in the quarters, despite three of the games going to extra innings. The Stratford Storm, who were the only team not to make the IBL playoffs, finished in 9th place in the IBL, 5.5 games back of the Hamilton Cardinals who were dispatched by Toronto in the quarters.

Guelph is led offensively by outfielder Kyle Leon, who was the MVP of the 2004 IBL all-star game. Leon hit .353/.500/.622, with an outstanding 34 walks to 14 strikeouts. Leon led the IBL in walks, and tied for the lead in home runs with Rich Butler, at 9 apiece. Jamie Pogue is another key to the Royals offence. The only catcher in the IBL not to make an error or allow a passed ball all year, Pogue also contributes with the bat. In the regular season Pogue hit .333/.444/.632 with 23 walks to 6 strikeouts. Pogue led the IBL in RBIs, was 5th in doubles and was tied for third with Rob Butler and Danny Gibbons in round-trippers with 8, behind only Leon and Butler. Sean Reilly led the Royals in hitting with a .355 average. The outfielder doesn’t show the eye of Pogue or Leon, and his overall line of .355/.406/.553 isn’t as impressive as either of theirs. Guelph’s third outfielder, Jason Borghese, adds to their offensive attack with a very good eye and solid power. He sported a line of .271/.418/.492. over the season, while their fourth outfielder, Ted Drew-Smith, puts up good numbers for a reserve, showing a good eye but no power; .311/.427/.366. Borghese is barely hitting over .200 in the playoffs, but Leon and Pogue are both hitting over .400 to anchor Guelph’s offence.

In the regular season Guelph relied heavily upon staff ace Meleti Melehes. He started 10 of Guelph’s 36 games, finishing with a 1.82 ERA in 64.1 innings. Melehes had 67 strikeouts to 13 balls, and only allowed 1 homerun out of the 58 hits he gave up. Mark Tourangeau (3.51 ERA despite more walks than strikeouts), Kris Dabrowiecki (4.88) and Ryan Armstrong (6.26) each made 5 starts for the Royals. The other starts came from a variety of sources, as effective reliever Aaron Little made a couple, Brian Barr made two in his three appearances, Brian Dikdan made one in his three appearances, and various others pitched in with a start or two. The total number of games started doesn’t quite add up to the number of games Guelph played, but these are the latest stats I have.

In the playoffs Melehes has only made one start, although it was an 8-strikeout performance where he allowed 2 runs in seven innings. After that he went to the Olympics himself, to pitch for the Greek baseball team. That left the playoff hopes on an untested rotation, but they have responded well. Dikdan and Barr have made three starts each, going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA respectively. Dabrowiecki has made the other start. Dikdan is surviving by not allowing many hits (13 in 18 innings) or walks (1), while Barr has struck out 13 in 20 innings, but walked six. The rotation looks to consist of Dikdan, Barr and Dabrowiecki, and neither Armstrong nor Tourangeau have pitched in the playoffs. Aaron Little has struggled with his control in the playoffs with 7 walks in 10 innings, and his 0.87 ERA is deceptive. As the regular season proved, unless Dikdan and Barr continue to turn in some very solid performances, Leon, Pogue and Reilly can only carry the team so far on their bats.

London doesn’t have the offensive firepower the Royals do. Third baseman Pete Babcock is one of their main offensive weapons. Babcock came third in the IBL in doubles and put up .295/.355/.429 line. Simon “The Small Cat” Galarraga made 7 errors at first base, so he isn’t Andres’ brother in spirit. However, his .287/.379/.426 line was another key component of the Majors offence. Outfielder Steve Charles hit .286/.387/.419. Second baseman Alex Blackburn and catcher Kevin MacDonald aren’t great offensive weapons, but if they continue to walk in over 11% of their plate appearances they are serviceable for the bottom of the order.

London’s two main starters are Tom VanKasteren and Mike Mitro, who started 16 of the Majors’ games. The duo finished with similar ERAs of 4.60 and 4.68, neither one ending up with a winning record. Rob Robinson had a 2-2 record with a 3.44 ERA in 5 starts, but his 14 walks in 34 innings is not a promising sign. Adam Gautreau, Kevin Virtue and Jeremy Middleton combined for 12 starts, with a combined 60 strikeouts to 54 walks in a combined 95.1 innings pitched. While Guelph’s pitching thins out behind Melehes, London’s is thin to begin with.

In the playoffs VanKasteren, Mitro and Middleton have got 11 of the 12 starts, with predictable results. None of the three has been very effective. Middleton has the lowest ERA at 4.91, but he has 13 walks to 12 strikeouts, while VanKasteren’s ERA is over 5 and he has a pedestrian 8 strikeouts to 46 hits allowed in 30.1 innings. Mitro’s ERA is 5.64, and his peripherals aren’t that great, either. The only real bright spot for London’s staff has been Kevin Virtue, who has found unexpected success as a two-inning reliever. He has 1 win and 3 saves in four appearances, and has only allowed 1 hit in 8 innings.

London’s offence has come alive in the playoffs. Babcock is hitting .468 with a .545 OBP and four homers. Alex Blackburn has provided some power from an unexpected source as he has four homers in the playoffs already, despite having less than half as many at-bats as he had in the regular season, where he cooled only amass one. Kevin Virtue, the new ace closer of the IBL, is something of a Brooks Kieschnick and hit .333 in 86 plate appearances as an outfielder in the regular season. Brian Blackburn hit .316 in 26 plate appearances as a reserve outfielder. Both Virtue and B. Blackburn are getting regular playing time in the playoffs and they’re hitting .347 and .378 respectively. Babcock is getting some help from unlikely places to help the London offence overcome their weak pitching staff.

Prediction: Guelph’s pitching staff is doing well, even without Melehes. While none of their numbers really stand out, Barr and Dikdan are doing a solid job in the rotation. Guelph’s offence is something to be reckoned with, and going through Pogue, Leon, Reilly and Borghese three times a game must be tough. London’s getting some help from some previously under-utilised players to spark their offence, but I’m not sure these players can sustain these numbers. Plus, Guelph’s offence will get to have their way with the London pitching staff. Guelph in 5.

IBL Notes: The Fairy Tale Didn’t Come True
Bob Elliot often gets criticised in these circles for his always negative, anti-JP articles. However, he does bring up some interesting news in some of his pieces. Over a year ago he did just that, writing a fine piece on Angus Roy. In 2002 Roy made history becoming the first Ontario college player signed by a professional baseball team. After not being drafted when he was one of the top high school pitchers in the province, and following his baseball career at Valparaiso, Roy returned to the University of Toronto’s teacher college to prepare for a career in teaching.

However, a change in his workout routine added about 5 MPH to his fastball, and after putting up some impressive numbers in CIS baseball while winning the 2002 OUA Pitcher of the Year award, several teams came calling. Roy signed with the Red Sox and was to report to spring training in 2003.

Roy spent 2003 with the Augusta Greenjackets of South Atlantic League, finishing with a 5.53 ERA. In 66.2 innings he allowed 77 hits to 37 strikeouts and 33 walks. A K/BB rate of 1.12, a K/9 rate of 4.99 and a H/9 rate of 10.39 aren’t good signs in A ball for a college graduate. I can’t find a record of it, but I believe Roy was released in the offseason, as he pitched 12 games for the Barrie Baycats this year. He finished with a 2.77 ERA, which was good for second in IBL, and his 57 strikeouts ranked third behind Spoljaric and Melehes. It's a shame Roy didn’t have more success and his story result in something that all Canadian baseball players, even in Canadian post-secondary institutes, could look up to. However, at least Roy got a shot and I’m sure its something he’ll remember for the rest of his life.

IBL Championship Series Schedule
Game 1 - Tues. August 17 at Guelph, 7:45 p.m.
Game 2 - Thurs. August 19 at London, 7:30 p.m.
Game 3 - Sat. August 21 at Guelph, 7:45 p.m.
Game 4 - Sun. August 22 at London, 1:00 p.m.
Game 5 - Tues. August 24 at Guelph, 7:45 p.m. *
Game 6 - Wed. August 25 at London, 7:30 p.m. *
Game 7 - Thurs. August 26 at Guelph, 7:45 p.m. *
*If necessary

If you live in either of these two cities, or fairly close to either of them, I encourage you to go out and support your local team, and the IBL. You’ll get a chance to see some fine baseball, to support a local Canadian product and to take your mind off the Jays season.
IBL Championship Series: London Majors v. Guelph Royals | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Kevin - Tuesday, August 17 2004 @ 06:29 PM EDT (#39731) #
Hey for all who are interested Rob Neyer from ESPN is teaching an online course for anybody interested in learning the skills that front office and scouting positions for professional teams look for. Rob is obviously the man when it comes to all around baseball knowledge and he is teaching it with a man named Dr. Lynn Lashbrook who has over 30 years of sports management and agent experience. You all should check it out because it is too cool not to!

_Danny - Wednesday, August 18 2004 @ 01:10 AM EDT (#39732) #
The Guelph park is down my street. I can hear the game from my room :)

Thomas - Wednesday, August 18 2004 @ 09:31 AM EDT (#39733) #
Guelph won Game 1 10-2 over London.

Brian Barr pitched a complete game six-hitter for the victory, striking out nine. Mike Mitro gave up seven runs (one unearned) to take the loss. Third baseman Joel Lynch had a 3 hits and drove in 2 in the victory. The entire Guelph infield was productive as first baseman Trevor Churchill, second baseman Chris Becker, and shortstop Sean Travers all had two hits, as did Kyle Leon. Babcock got two hits for the Majors, in the loss.
Thomas - Friday, August 20 2004 @ 12:24 PM EDT (#39734) #
London ties up the series 1 game apiece with a 5-4 win in 11 innings. Kevin Virtue picks up the win with 3.1 innings of scoreless relief for the Majors, and he also singled and drove in two runners. Virtue releived VanKarsten who allowed 4 runs in 7.2 innings. You really can't say enough about a pitcher who drives in two runs to tie the game in the bottom of the eigth inning. Jeremy Hudson was the other offensive star for London as he rapped four hits, including two doubles, scored two runs and drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 11th with two out.

Guelph got a solid start from Brian Dikdan who allowed four runs (thee earned) in 7.1 innings. Aaron Little was Guelph's only reliever, and he allowed four hits. The key one was to Hudson with two out in the 11th, of course. Kyle Leon hit a homer for the Royals in the 8th to give them a 4-2 lead, before Virtue tied it back up. Pogue and Reilly both doubled, the former driving in a run and the latter scoring.
Thomas - Monday, August 23 2004 @ 12:40 PM EDT (#39735) #
Saturday's game was a very sloppy affair, with the teams combining for 8 errors. London took a 9-7 lead into the eight inning and handed the ball to Kevin Virtue. Then the roof caved in. Virtue allowed eight runs and six hits in his one inning and Guelph took an insurmountable 15-9 lead, and that will likely be the turning point of the series right there.

Trevor Churchill and Sean Reilly had 3 hits for Guelph, while the Little Cat had two for London, including a solo homer.
Thomas - Monday, August 23 2004 @ 12:44 PM EDT (#39736) #
Despite being outhit 13 to 8 by London Guelph took a commanding 3 games to 1 lead in the ICBL Championship Series. Little-used John Chadwick got the start for Guelph and pitched 5.2 innings, allowing 9 hits and 5 runs before giving way to Aaron Little who then pitched 3.1 scoreless innings of relief for the win.

Mike Mitro went 8.1 innings, allowing 8 hits and 4 runs to take the loss for London. The game was tied at 3 all after Simon Gallaragga's two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning. The game remained tied into the eigth, when Jamie Pogue doubled and then Sean Reilly doubled him home. Kyle Leon also hit a solo homer.
Thomas - Wednesday, August 25 2004 @ 11:24 AM EDT (#39737) #
Guelph Royals Repeat as IBL Champions

Brian Barr threw a one-hitter as Guelph beat London 1-0 in an outstanding fifth game to claim the IBL Championship and Jack and Lynne Dominico Trophy for a second straight year.

Tom VanKarsten was effective for London, scattering eight hits and one run over his eight innings. Sean Riley drove in the winning run with one of his two doubles.

Brian Barr was the hero of the game as he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning for Guelph. He gave up a leadoff double to put the tying run on second base, but London could get no more. Barr pitched likely his best game of the season at the most opportune time, striking out nine although he did allow five walks.

It was a great series with 3 one-run games which included an extra-innings game, a near no-hitter, and a game that was tied in the eight inning. Of the other two games, only was a true blowout while the other had an eight run comeback in the eigth inning for a six run victory. Sadly, writing this reminds me all too much of yesterday's Canada-Cuba game.
Mike Green - Wednesday, August 25 2004 @ 11:33 AM EDT (#39738) #
Thanks, Thomas, for the entertaining reports.
_Ron - Wednesday, August 25 2004 @ 07:21 PM EDT (#39739) #
Thanks for the great information. The InterCounty League is very poorly covered. I live in Hamilton and have often looked in The Spectator for game coverage or even information about upcoming games and have always been disappointed to find nothing. So, thanks Thomas and I hope you will be able to continue to update us next season.
IBL Championship Series: London Majors v. Guelph Royals | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.