Following the 2022 Toronto Maple Leafs baseball season.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Royal Rumble

Maple Leafs Weekly Recap - June 27 to July 3, 2022

The Maple Leafs' Week 7 series with the Guelph Royals was high on drama as the clubs traded weekend walkoffs.

Gregory Carrington dances across home plate with the winning run after Jose Vinicio hit a walk off single on Sunday.

Are the Guelph Royals the abrupt new powerhouse of the IBL?  

After two years of suspended operations, the Royals returned in 2022 with a roster that featured many returning players including the IBL's Greatest of All Time, Sean Reilly.  To that mixture they added a couple of heaping doses of ex-Toronto Maple Leafs and ex-Barrie Baycats.  The result is a core of veterans with skills and savvy.

When the Leafs rolled into Hastings Stadium on Tuesday, the Royals were riding a four-game win streak.

By Saturday night, the streak was up to seven and the Leafs had contributed two of those wins.

Enough was enough, and on Sunday the Leafs put a stop to Guelph's reign of terror with a walk off thriller at Christie Pits.

It was a wild week to be sure.  The Leafs dropped a couple of places in the standings but the young guns of the pitching staff continued to impress.  Hopefully the boys in blue are back on course.  The schedule turns nasty in the week to come, with four games on the sked including back-to-back nights at Barrie and London (that's diabolical, Mr. Kastner).

Tuesday, June 28, 2022 - Toronto Maple Leafs at Guelph Royals (rescheduled from May 21)

Dustin Richardson got Sean Reilly to swing right out of his helmet, but left the game after walking Guelph's strongman late Tuesday.  (Image: Guelph Royals YouTube)

The forces of nature tacked this game onto the Toronto Maple Leafs' Week 7 schedule.  Back in May, a game was postponed after high winds brought a tree crashing down on right field at Hastings Stadium in Guelph.

Tuesday night's makeup had the potential for all kinds of thunder and lightning at the plate.

Marra, Reilly, Castaldo, Garton.  Leafs vs Royals with all their respective sluggers in one place.  Visions of missiles soaring out of the ballpark to shatter windows, trigger car alarms, knock over some more century-old trees.  You could sell tickets to a show like that.

Instead, the Torontos and the Guelphs played a low-scoring pitchers' duel.

On the mound, it was Claudio Custodio for the home side against Zach Sloan for the visiting Mapes.

The Royals grabbed an early run in the bottom of the 1st.  Former Toronto Blue Jay Dalton Pompey drew a walk to start the game.  He advanced to second when Conner Morro drew a walk, and moved to third on a double steal with Morro.  Up next, J.D. Williams hit into a fielder's choice and Pompey scored to make it 1-0.

Things remained quiet until the bottom of the 4th, when strongman Sean Reilly blasted a leadoff home run to make it 2-0 Royals.

The Leafs got on the board in the top of the 5th.  Centerfielder Gregory Carrington singled, then moved around to third when DH Damon Topolie hit a grounder to short and the ball was played for an error.  Carrington scored on a wild pitch by Custodio, and after five it was a 2-1 ballgame.

Sloan went five innings before handing the ball to the bullpen.  Ryan Wells pitched a scoreless 6th and Rhys Montgomery a scoreless 7th.  Meanwhile Custodio went seven and struck out 11 Leafs along the way.

In the bottom of the 8th, Dustin Richardson took the mound for Toronto.  He struck out the first two batters he faced, then gave up a triple to Williams, setting up the matchup of the night as Reilly came to the plate.  The electricity at the ballpark went up a bunch of kilopascals or whatever.  Reilly was so amped on the first pitch that he swung right out of his batting helmet.  He eventually worked a walk and Richardson was replaced on the mound by Adam Marra.  RBI singles by Justin Interisano and Ethan Hammond came next, and the Royals extended their lead to 4-1.

In the 9th, all the Leafs could muster was a single by Grant Tamane, as Brandon Deans closed out the game for a 4-1 FINAL and a win for Custodio.

Toronto 1 6 0
Guelph 4 9 1

W - Custodio (5-0, 2.02)
L - Sloan (3-2, 2.18)
S - Deans (2)

Saturday, July 2, 2022 - Toronto Maple Leafs at Guelph Royals

The violent carnage that was inflicted on pitchers in this game was deemed to be too disturbing for YouTube's standards and the broadcast was pulled off the air before the game ended.  (Image: Guelph Royals YouTube)

There's a new Battle of Hastings for the history books.

On Saturday night, the Maple Leafs returned to Guelph looking to break the Royals' now-six-game winning streak and gain revenge for their loss four nights before.

Unlike Tuesday's opening skirmish, this was an all-out battle and pitchers on both sides were the mass casualties.

Twenty-two hits in the game.  Twenty-three walks.  There were seven blown leads before the Royals walked it off in the bottom of the ninth, ending a game that took over eight hours to complete.*

Guelph took an early lead, then Toronto stormed back.  Then Guelph stormed back.  Then Toronto stormed back, etc etc.  Shortstop Jose Vinicio, catcher Justin Marra and first baseman Jordan Castaldo combined for six of the Leafs' eight hits, rapping two each.  Third baseman Aidan McAskie drew four bases on balls and drove in two.  Vinicio and Marra also drove in two each.

The starting pitchers on both sides were battered.  The Leafs' Angel Castro went five innings, giving up six runs on six hits and six walks while striking out five.  Royal Nelson Mercado lasted just three innings, giving up four runs on two hits and seven walks while striking out two.  The relievers on both sides fared little better.  Each time the Leafs retook the lead, Marek Deska and Sam Greene were unable to prevent a Guelph comeback.  The story of the game came down to which pitcher would be the last man standing.

It turned out to be Royals reliever Brandon Deans, who was seated on the bench as his teammates rallied in the bottom of the ninth.  Deans had blown a save in the top of the inning, giving up a bases-loaded walk to left fielder Grant Tamane.  With the score tied 12-12, Greene took the mound for his second inning of work for Toronto.  He gave up a leadoff single to Dalton Pompey.  Conner Morro then reached safely on an error by McAskie at third.  That brought Sean Reilly to the plate, and he was walked intentionally for the second time in the game.**  With the bases loaded, Greene struck out Malik Collymore, but Ethan Hammond followed with a game-winning single to score Pompey.

This battle of Hastings ended in a 13-12 FINAL.  Deans grabbed the win and Greene took the hard luck loss.

* Felt like it.
** Reilly has to be the IBL's all-time intentional walks leader, ranking second in the entire history of baseball to Barry Bonds.

Toronto 12 8 3
Guelph 13 14 2

W - Deans (1-1, 4.09)
L - Greene (0-1, 3.24)

Sunday, July 3, 2022 - Guelph Royals at Toronto Maple Leafs

Chris Nagorski pitched a scoreless ninth and scored a win on Sunday at the Pits.

The Leafs' third and final chance to break the Royals' now-seven-game winning streak came Sunday afternoon at Christie Pits.

For a series that promised all sorts of longball firepower on paper, it produced just two dingers after two games (hit by Royals Sean Reilly and Conner Morro).

Both pitching staffs bore the brunt of grind-it-out baseball, but Sunday turned out to be another pitchers' duel.

Albertan Dylan Jacober was on the mound for the Leafs, facing Tuesday's winner Claudio Custodio.

Shortstop Jose Vinicio wasted no time manufacturing a run.  After hitting a leadoff double, he made a delayed steal of third, then sprinted home when Custodio's throw to third was mishandled.  Firestarter!  1-0 Leafs.

Jacober cruised through the first four innings, giving up just two hits to Guelph.  However they got to him in the top of the 5th, scoring two runs on three hits, including a two-run single by Ethan Hammond to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

After Vinicio's first inning adventure, Custodio also cruised.  He kept the Leafs off the board until the bottom of the 6th.  With the Bushmen chanting his melodic name over and over, Custodio finally lost his focus.  First baseman Jordan Castaldo led off with a single.  Third baseman Johnathan Solazzo singled.  DH Aiden McAskie singled, and Castaldo scored after another Royals error at third.  Second baseman Dan Marra hit the fourth straight single of the inning and Solazzo scored to give the Leafs a 3-2 lead through six.

Jacober went five innings and reliever Ryan Wells followed with two scoreless frames.  Kyle Smyth took over on the mound in the top of the 8th.  Smyth gave up a single and a walk, then uncorked a couple of wild pitches that allowed Malik Collymore to score the tying run for Guelph.  With one out, manager Damon Topolie signaled for Adam Marra out of the pen.  Marra surrendered a four-pitch walk, then slammed the door by striking out two Royals in a row to keep the game even at 3-3.

Chris Nagorski pitched a scoreless top of the 9th to setup the final act in this weeklong drama.

Custodio was out of gas after eight innings and 144 pitches.  He turned the ball over to Brandon Deans for the bottom of the 9th.  The Leafs then executed to perfection.  Right fielder Gregory Carrington was up first and Deans surrendered the dreaded leadoff walk.  The Pits began to stir.  Centerfielder Connor Lewis followed with a perfect sacrifice bunt and Carrington moved to second.  The Pits got to its feet.  Up next was first inning firestarter Jose Vinicio, who poked the first pitch from Deans for a game-winning single.  Carrington roared around third, easily beat the throw home and danced across the plate.  The Pits went ballistic.

Vinicio was the hero of the game, starting and ending things with great panache.  Nagorski got the win in a 4-3 FINAL.  Deans completed the Dennis Eckersley Hat Trick, earning a win, a loss and a save in three games.*

* Literally just made that up.

Guelph 3 6 2
Toronto 4 8 0

W - Nagorski (3-0, 8.10)
L - Deans (1-2, 4.76)

The Leafs end an up and down week with a 12-9 record, good for 5th place in the IBL standings, 3 1/2 games behind the London Majors.

The week ahead:

Wednesday, July 6 - Kitchener Panthers vs Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:30 pm at Christie Pits

Thursday, July 7 - Toronto Maple Leafs at Barrie Baycats, 7:30 pm at Vintage Throne (formerly Coates) Stadium

Friday, July 8 - Toronto Maple Leafs at London Majors, 7:35 pm at Labatt Memorial Park

Sunday, July 10 - Hamilton Cardinals vs Toronto Maple Leafs, 2:00 pm at Christie Pits

Monday, June 27, 2022

This Country, These Pits

Maple Leafs Weekly Recap - June 20 to 26, 2022

Week 6 saw the Leafs take two out of three and climb to 3rd place in the IBL standings.

Former major leaguer Angel Castro made his Maple Leafs debut at Christie Pits on Sunday.

The Toronto Maple Leafs -- Canada's favourite ballclub -- have been on a roll.

Going into Sunday's contest at Christie Pits -- Canada's favourite ballpark -- the Leafs had won eight of their last ten games.  This included wins on Friday in Hamilton and on Saturday at Welland against a Jackfish club that had swept them in May.

The big news this week was the arrival in Toronto of former Oakland Athletics pitcher Angel Castro.

"We needed a horse, so we're bringing in the horse," said Damon Topolie -- Canada's favourite player-manager -- before Sunday's home tilt against the Jackfish.  "We're gonna let him out of the stable today and see what he does."

Castro's signing means there are now two former Major League pitchers on the Leafs roster, the other being ex-BoSox beast Dustin Richardson.

Perhaps the biggest news of all is that the Leafs roster is nowhere near final, with more additions slated to join the team before their playoff push begins in August.

Summer is in full swing and Maple Leafs baseball is a thrill ride that beckons irresistibly.

Friday, June 24, 2022 - Toronto Maple Leafs at Hamilton Cardinals

Damon Topolie crosses home plate after hitting his second home run of the season and putting the Leafs ahead for good at Bernie Arbour Stadium.  (Image: IBLCardinalsBaseball)

Two aces, never in doubt.

After winning a come-from-behind walk off thriller on Sunday, the Maple Leafs rolled into Steeltown fully armed.

Marek Deska on the mound.  Zach Sloan in the pen.  Together, the Leafs aces combined to pitch eight innings, giving up just one hit and one run.

The boys in blue were never behind in this one.  In the top of the 1st inning, shortstop Jose Vinicio singled and stole second, then scored the first run of the game on an RBI single by third baseman Johnathan Solazzo.

In the bottom of the 1st, Deska surrendered the one and only run that Hamilton would score on the night.  Tyler Duncan doubled to drive home Cards leadoff man Justin Gideon, who had walked to start the frame.  1-1 ballgame through one.

The Leafs took the lead in the top of the 2nd and never looked back.  Making a start as catcher, Luca Boscarino walked to lead things off, then stole second.  Boscarino advanced to third on a bunt by centerfielder Connor Lewis.  All this to set up a two-run homer by DH Damon Topolie to give the Leafs a 3-1 lead.  Boom!

That remained the score until the 7th, when Toronto finally chased starter Chris Lazar.  Right fielder Yusei Teraoka and Vinicio both singled, then advanced to 2nd and 3rd with a double steal.  Teraoka went on to score on an error by Hamilton's catcher, and first baseman Jordan Castaldo drove Vinicio home with a single to make it 5-1 Leafs through seven.

Deska went the first five innings.  Sloan relieved him with three scoreless.  That left the 9th inning to Chris Nagorski, who had little trouble in putting this one to bed with a 5-1 FINAL and a win for Deska.

Toronto 5 9 2
Hamilton 1 2 3

W - Deska (2-0, 2.64)
L - Lazar (0-2, 4.19)

Saturday, June 25, 2022 - Toronto Maple Leafs at Welland Jackfish

Adam Marra earned his first save of the season as the Leafs beat the Jackfish at Welland Stadium.  (Image: Welland Jackfish YouTube)

Faithful readers will recall the last time the Maple Leafs cast out looking to land some Jackfish.  

It was the final weekend in May and the Leafs played a home-and-home series against Welland.  It turned out to be a lost weekend as the team hit some rough waters.  Their lines broke, their rods snapped and the boat overturned.  Your heroes got swept.

The final weekend in June presented an opportunity to even the score, beginning Saturday night in Niagara.

This time it was Welland's Boatto that capsized and the Leafs landed a big win.

The Mapes on the mound dictated affairs.  After the vets on Friday, it was the kids on Saturday.  Starter Dylan Jacober gave up two runs over five innings en route to the win.  Relievers Ryan Wells and Sam Greene combined to pitch three scoreless innings.  Adam Marra slammed the door in the 9th.

Boatto remained on the mound for Welland to take the complete game loss.

All of the game's scoring took place in the 3rd inning.  Shortstop Jose Vinicio reached first base on a fielder's choice, then came all the way around to score on an RBI single by catcher Justin Marra, thanks to some slow motion fielding by Welland.  Marra moved to second when first baseman Jordan Castaldo drew a walk.  Marra scored when third baseman Johnathan Solazzo ripped a ground rule double that bounced over the right field fence.  With two men on and two out, left fielder Aidan McAskie clubbed a grounder right through the infield into center, scoring two runs and giving the Leafs a 4-0 lead.

The Jackfish battled back in the bottom of the 3rd.  They touched Jacober for a single and a pair of doubles to put two runs on the board.

It was 4-2 after three innings, and that remained the score into the bottom of the 9th. Adam Marra retired the 'Fish in order to lock down his first save of the season, and Jacober's first dub in a Leafs uniform.

Toronto 4 5 0
Welland 2 7 3

W - Jacober (1-0, 3.60)
L - Boatto (0-2, 3.09)
S - A. Marra (1)

Sunday, June 26, 2022 - Welland Jackfish at Toronto Maple Leafs

On a sweltering Sunday afternoon, a seat in the shade and further back from the action felt like the best place to be.

This country, these Pits!

Not a game goes by without seeing something new at the legendary home of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

You might think it was the sight of a former Major League pitcher taking the mound for the Leafs.

As dawn broke on Sunday, social media was ablaze over a new signing for Toronto: former Oakland Athletics pitcher Angel Castro.  No sooner had the signed contract been spat out of the fax machine than Castro's plane landed at Pearson and he was sped to the ballpark via Toronto police motorcade in time for his 2:00 pm debut.

But Castro is not even the first major leaguer to currently wear the famous V-neck.  Closer Dustin Richardson is a former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

No, it was literally the bottom of the 9th when I spotted a bizarre sight on the Christie hillsides.  A porta potty appeared to have been overturned and its progress down the northern slopes was halted by a single strand of caution tape.

Talk about metaphor.

Castro's debut was marred by an offensive onslaught by the visiting Welland Jackfish.  Sloppy play in the infield (four errors) did not help, nor did the Leafs' cold bats.  They didn't score until the 7th inning and by then it was too little too late.  The Wellanders riled up the angry confines with a 14-2 win.

So a toppled plastic outhouse no doubt sloshing with, er, "sewage," or "effluent" (my people call it piss and shit) seemed the most fitting image of the day.

Let's forget this one and move on.

Welland 14 17 1
Toronto 2 9 4

W - Corrente (3-0, 4.50)
L - Castro (0-1, 11.25)

With a record of 11-7, the Maple Leafs are 3rd in the IBL standings, 2 games behind the Welland Jackfish.  

A royal week lies ahead: 

Tuesday, June 28 - Toronto Maple Leafs at Guelph Royals (makeup game from May 21), 7:30 pm at Hastings Stadium

Saturday, July 2 - Toronto Maple Leafs at Guelph Royals, 7:30 pm at Hastings Stadium

Sunday, July 3 - Guelph Royals vs Toronto Maple Leafs, 2:00 pm at Christie Pits