With seven games scheduled over a four-day stretch later in the week, the Thunder Bay Border Cats need all the help they can get from their already decimated rotation.
Instead on Sunday starter Gunnar Kay (L, 2-2) could only manage to stick around for two innings, pounded for five runs on seven hits before hitting the showers as the Cats dropped a second-straight to the visiting Waterloo Bucks, falling 11-4 at Port Arthur Stadium.
The loss was Thunder Bay’s 14th straight against Waterloo, a slide that dates back to July 13, 2012. The Cats (4-17) have lost all four meetings between the two teams this summer and were winless in eight tries a year ago.
Reliever Devin McLemore, who enjoyed a rare 1-2-3 eighth before the Bucks got to him for a pair in the ninth, agreed the staff is starting to wear a little thin.
Losing the likes of Ryan Powers, Tyler Lequire and Zack Speer, all of whom chose to leave early for various reasons, hasn’t helped.
“We lost three quality starters and a couple guys out of the pen. With the doubleheaders coming up, what we really need is our starters to go deep in games and try to save some of the bullpen. If we do that, we’ll be fine,” he said.
“If not we’ll just have to try to scratch people together and figure it out.”
It’s not for a lack of effort on the pitchers’ part. Or anyone on the team for that matter, the High Point, N.C. native said.
“The talent is obviously there. We win quality games. Sometimes I think that maybe if we go down early in a game we start to panic a little bit,” said McLemore, who surrendered two hits and two walks in his outing.
“We’re not having the greatest second half. I think that we just need to continue to push and focus and just trust in our abilities and we’ll be fine.”
Thunder Bay first baseman Nick Studer, one of the Cats’ few bright lights on Sunday, was 3-for-4, driving in a pair of eighth-inning runs that at the time cut an eight-run deficit by three.
But it’s hard to overcome giving up 19 hits to an opponent, especially a first-place team like Waterloo.
“We just got behind early in the game. It’s always tough to come from behind, but we ended up putting up 13 hits on the board and scored four runs. We did our best to come back. Hopefully we can put up runs early and put pressure on the other team early tomorrow,” the Toronto native said.
A four-run second, powered by a two-run blast off the bat of No. 9 hitter Ryan Nagle, was enough to chase Kay.
Tyler McKee took over and allowed one run over three innings, the Bucks adding two more in the sixth off Ben Allison.
Meanwhile Waterloo was sailing along behind starter Cody Sedlock (W, 5-2), who departed after seven innings of seven-hit, one-run ball.
“It’s really easy to pitch when you go ahead and get a five-run lead like we did today. I just went out there and was trying to get ahead of hitters and they were hitting the balls in the right place. And my defence played really well tonight,” said Sedlock, a freshman at the University of Illinois.
The Cats finally broke through in the sixth, Jacob Robson scoring on a Robb Paller groundout. Studer was gunned down trying to score from second to end the seventh, but Thunder Bay responded in the eighth after McLemore set the side down in order.
All-star Christian Correa plated Robson with a single then Paller and Tyler Rolland scored on Studer’s second hit of the night.
But the Waterloo reliever found his groove, recording the final two outs to end the threat.
Cat tracks: The Border Cats and Bucks will play the third of four on Monday night, when it’s Bring Your Pooch to the Park night at Port Arthur Stadium … Tuesday’s start is a rare weekday matinee ... Attendance was 512 ... Waterloo's Jon McAllister had four hits in five trips to the plate while teammate Pat MacKenzie, the Northwoods League's second-leading hitter, saw his average dip to .385 with a 2-for-6 performance.
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