Castaldo, Maple Leafs beat Cardinals

By Rob Vona

The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Hamilton Cardinals by a score of 9-5 on Sunday afternoon at Dominico Field, improving to a 15-14 record and climbing to fourth place in the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) standings.

“We needed the win today,” said Maple Leafs third baseman Johnathan Solazzo following the game. “It’s been a struggle with the rainouts and losing these extra inning games . . . it was a good game all around.”

The home team got on the board first with a sac-fly from first baseman Jordan Castaldo in the bottom of the first inning that scored shortstop Jose Vinicio after he made his way on base via a leadoff single and stole second and third base for his IBL-leading 19th and 20th stolen base of the year. 

Castaldo went on to finish the game with a game high four hits, finishing 4-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. 

Cardinals third baseman Laine Renaud responded with an RBI double to tie the game at one in the top of the second inning, however the tie didn’t last long as Maple Leafs DH Garrett Takamatsu cleared the right-field fence for his second home run of the year, giving the Maple Leafs a one-run lead yet again, this time leading 2-1. 

Maple Leafs starter Daniel Procopio got through the third and fourth inning of work, holding the Cardinals scoreless, stranding four runners while striking out three batters. 

Julian Valdez came in relief for Procopio in the fifth inning and gave up a home run to the IBL home run leader, right-fielder Tyler Duncan - his 12th of the year - to tie the game up at two.

After Valdez gave up a leadoff double in the top of the sixth inning to left-fielder Connor Bowie, a ground ball to the right side allowed for Bowie to make his way to third base with just one out.

With the infield charging in on a fake bunt attempt, Maple Leafs catcher Justin Marra delivered a strike to Solazzo at third base to pick off Bowie, eliminating the scoring threat and keeping the game knotted at two. 

Maple Leafs left-fielder Jesse Hodges would score in the bottom half of the sixth inning on a throwing error from Cardinals catcher Luis Bernardo, giving the Maple Leafs their third lead of the game. 

The Cardinals turned to relief pitcher Brett Lawson after Colby Ring finished with six innings pitched that saw him give up only three runs on eight hits. 

Solazzo opened the floodgates in the bottom of the seventh inning with what he considered the turning point of the game, a mammoth three-run home run to right-field that extended the Maple Leafs lead to 6-2. 

“[I] got [a] barrel on it, he [Lawson] kept a hanging splitter over the plate,” said Solazzo on his home run. “It definitely felt nice.”

A trio of singles in the bottom of the eighth inning from Castaldo, Solazzo and outfielder Aidan McAskie drove in three more runs for the Maple Leafs who now owned a 9-2 lead going into the ninth inning. 

Solazzo mentioned that this point in the season is “a good time to heat up” with the playoffs quickly approaching.

Maple Leafs pitcher Dustin Richardson entered in the eighth inning to induce a ground out to escape a jam, the 39-year-old veteran came back out for the ninth inning. 

Richardson surrendered three runs in the ninth inning, the first time he has surrendered a run in the IBL regular season since Aug. 13, 2022, against the Guelph Royals.

Although the Cardinals made it a 9-5 game late, they could not make any more of the comeback attempt, as the Maple Leafs hung on for the win. 

The Maple Leafs travel to Jack Couch Park in Kitchener, Ont. with a matchup against the Kitchener Panthers Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m..

The post game report is brought to you by Woodbine Racetrack, official sponsor of Maple Leafs baseball.