In a baseball game that meant nothing and potentially everything, the PECI Panthers came out swinging in the first inning and toppled the St. Theresa Titans 11-5 at the Melrose Ballyard Thursday afternoon.
With the clubs 1 and 2 respectively in the Bay of Quinte standings, the contest decided which school would host the Bay of Quinte (BOQ) Semi-Finals and Finals on Wednesday. With the Panther win, the 2023 playoff to decide the local championship as well as the two teams to represent the Bay of Quinte at the Central Ontario championships next week will be played at Wellington’s Field of Dreams.
Both sides were without some key veteran players on Thursday, which allowed some up-and-coming players to shine. Freshman Ethan Thompson was on the hill for PECI.
The Grade 9 pitcher was excellent. He found the strike zone through three innings and kept the Titan’s lumber company quiet. PECI skipper Kyle Gould called Thompson’s outing “outstanding.”
“It was a tough spot to put a Grade 9 as a starter in a game that has such implications but the moment never got to him and it just showed the depth and character our team has,” Gould told the Gazette.
In a game slated to go seven innings, the Cats got to the Titans early and put up a five spot in the first. Thompson was solid from the opening pitch and cruised through two complete innings. The Titans started to figure out the rookie midway through the third, however. Ben Smith, who socked a pair of hits, came on to extinguish the fire and keep the Panthers ahead 5-4.
The Titans grabbed a run off reliever Kaden Insley in the fourth inning to square the affair at 5-5, but the Cats bats came back to life in the home half of the fifth as the locals pounded out another handful of runs to push the lead to 10-5.
Nathan Steen keyed the rally while Liam Rice also came up clutch with their second hits of the game.
“We had a lull in the middle innings that was uncharacteristic, but we have the ability to get back to our game and continue to score when we run into trouble,” Gould said. “It was obviously great to see how we stacked up against St.T’s as they always have a strong program.”
The Titans were missing a few key bodies on Thursday while the Panthers had to do without senior fireballer Jack Martin.
Both sides are expected to be back at full strength on Wednesday in Wellington. “We get to host BOQ in Wellington on Wednesday and that’s one goal that we set out to achieve in 2023 but obviously not our end goal,” the skipper said.