A bountiful sixth inning propelled the Cats ahead of the Halifax Pelham Molson Canadians on the scoreboard and in the league standings, with a 9-6 victory moving them ahead of the Canadians by a half-game.
“This is definitely what we’ve been practicing for all year,” said coach Scott Baillie. “This is the way we want to play. We’re 5-1 in our last six, and we just feel like we can keep it going now.”
It was the Canadians who took charge early in the Canada Day matchup, racking up four runs in the first two innings off Cats’ pitcher Dan Bates. Rookie Kyle Pickrem took to the mound in the third, and pitched a trio of scoreless innings to pick up his first win of the season.
The sixth run saw the gates fly open for the Bearcats and the wheels fall off for the Canadians. Down 4-2 heading into the inning, the Cats rallied for six runs to take a commanding lead.
John Chapman came on in the sixth and shut the door on the Canadians for the remainder of the game. Chapman picked up a second save this season, to go with his three wins.
On top of closing the game, Chapman also helped offensively with three singles and an RBI. Darson Murphy also posted three hits and knocked in a run, while Nick Best picked up two RBI and Adam Lombard tallied another.
Despite the high octane sixth inning, it was the play of Pickrem leading up to the decisive frame that impressed the coach the most.
“(Pickrem) did a great job in there tonight,” Baillie said. “It’s great to see our young guys getting in there, getting involved and winning some games for us.”
After winning three straight games, the Cats will have to wait a while to try for number four. The Bearcats will be out of action until July 13 when they head to Annapolis Valley to face the Kentville Wildcats. In the meantime, the Canadians will have three chances to regain the lead in the standings with a pair of games against league-leading Dartmouth and one against Kentville.
For now, the Bearcats will continue to work on playing their game – a style that’s made them a league contender, having overtaken Halifax and handing Dartmouth its only loss this season.
“Second place feels good,” Baillie said. “In the past we’ve been striving just to reach a playoff spot. Now we’re battling near the top of the league.”