IBL Power Rankings: Week 2
By Chris Lazar
What an opening week it was.
Surprising results, breathtaking comebacks, massive blowouts, and everything in between – the first week of the 2023 IBL season gave us a little bit of everything. If the first few games are any indication of what to look forward to this summer, we should expect the unexpected.
#8. Brantford Red Sox (0-2, Previous Week: 8)
After an opening day blowout loss to the Kitchener Panthers, the Red Sox showed a very encouraging performance Sunday night in Barrie. The most notable improvement from game one was the defense – six errors Friday, zero against the Baycats. Jeremie Veilleux provided their highlight of the week, hitting a two-run homer on Sunday. If Brantford can continue to show incremental improvements throughout the year, they could be an interesting team to follow.
#7. Welland Jackfish (0-2, Previous Week: 2)
I don’t think the Jackfish are the 2nd worst team in the league, however the first week did not go well. A hard-fought defeat in their opener against Hamilton was followed up by an uninspiring performance at Jack Couch to close the week. The pitching staff – viewed as a strength of this team – had nine walks against the Panthers, while the lineup struck out 13 times. Last season’s Rookie of the Year Sam Cawker provided all the offense on Sunday, going 3-for-4 and driving in all six runs. Maybe this weekend is the wakeup call Welland needs to turn things around, because they should be better than what they showed.
#6. London Majors (0-3, Previous Week: 1)
The defending champs got punched in the mouth this week, falling twice to the team they defeated in last year’s finals. The first matchup featured them blowing a 4-1 lead in the eighth inning, while the second was a controversial, ejection-filled mess – Keith Kandel, Austin Wilkie, and manager Roop Chanderdat were all tossed before the fifth inning was over. The weekend ended with another blown lead, getting walked off by Hamilton spoiling another stellar start from Owen Boon. It was Murphy’s Law for London this week, but if there’s one thing we know about Chanderdat’s club it’s that they almost certainly will bounce back.
#5. Barrie Baycats (2-0, Previous Week: 6)
Barrie gave their fans a thrilling comeback on opening day, putting up five in the 9th inning to walk-off Toronto 11-10. Ryan Rijo was the hero, lining the first pitch he saw back up the middle to drive in the winning run. Evan Soules was excellent Sunday night against Brantford, throwing 8 and 1/3 innings in relief, with his only blemish being the two-run shot by Veilleux. There are still some concerns about their starting pitching, but so far so good for the seven-time champions.
#4. Guelph Royals (1-1, Previous Week: 4)
A tale of two games for the Royals this week – a big win followed by a blowout loss. Friday saw Guelph convincingly defeat the Hamilton Cardinals to spoil their home opener, although it didn’t come without consequence. Highly touted import Dario Alvarez left the game two pitches into his outing with what appeared to be an arm injury. Their second game was a familiar story for anybody who has traveled to Christie Pits for a Sunday afternoon game. Sloppy defense, walks galore, and a lineup lacking some of their top hitters led to a rough end to their week. The injury to Alvarez is the biggest concern coming out of the long weekend, as that would be a difficult arm to replace for a pitching staff that already lacks depth.
#3. Hamilton Cardinals (2-1, Previous Week: 5)
The Cardinals ushered in their new era in strong fashion, putting together a pair of one-run victories, capped off by a Clayton Keyes walk-off single to defeat last year’s champs. The formula for their wins was one we hear about good baseball teams all the time – pitching and defense. The Cardinals allowed five runs and only committed one error in the two victories. The best part for Hamilton? They’re expected to add more arms now that college seasons are coming to an end. If they continue to attack the strike zone and play solid defense, they should be a strong team all season.
#2. Kitchener Panthers (2-0, Previous Week: 7)
We may have underestimated this team. Kitchener started off their season with a bang, scoring 32 runs over their first two games. The middle of their lineup is among the best in the league, headlined by local names Andy Leader, Liam Wilson, and Elliott Curtis. The Cuban impact is already being felt as shortstop Raul Gonzalez is six-for-11 with two homers and five RBIs. With the Panthers launching six balls over the wall this weekend, it seems like their lineup is built for their home park, which is notoriously hitter friendly. Was it just a great weekend or is this a sign of things to come? Time will tell, but boy did these cats look good.
#1. Toronto Maple Leafs (3-1, Previous Week: 3)
Nobody looked better this week than the Toronto Maple Leafs. Take away a disastrous 9th inning in Barrie and they were nearly perfect. The biggest story out of Toronto this week isn’t their offense – we knew they could hit – their starting pitching was better than advertised. Ryan Burnside and Sam Greene had excellent starts to close the weekend, giving up two earned runs combined over 11 innings. Combine that starting pitching with a lineup averaging nine runs per game, and this team is going to be very difficult to beat.