Jackfish eliminate Maple Leafs in Game 5, advance to finals

By Rob Vona

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Welland Jackfish in Game 5 of the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) semifinals on Thursday night at Welland Stadium. 

The Jackfish, after trailing 5-1, scored six unanswered runs to win 7-5.

For the first time this series, the Jackfish were the first team to get on the scoreboard, scoring one run in the bottom of the first inning off of a fielder’s choice to first base from shortstop James Smibert that saw Hogan Brown, the speedy left-fielder, slide under the tag attempt form Maple Leafs catcher Justin Marra.

The Maple Leafs responded every so quickly with five runs in the top half of the second inning. 

A leadoff walk from DH Garrett Takamatsu was followed up by a double into the left-field corner from third baseman John Solazzo, giving the Maple Leafs two runners in scoring position with no outs. 

Both runners would score on a single from centre-fielder Connor Lewis and a fielder’s choice from second baseman Dan Marra, giving the Maple Leafs the 2-1 lead. 

The bats didn’t stop there as shortstop Jose Vinicio cashed in two more runs on a single to right-field, Vinicio came around to score two batters later off of a base hit up the middle from first baseman Jordan Castaldo. 

After giving up the two-RBI single to Vinicio and a base hit to Justin Marra, Jackfish starting pitcher Jake Harford saw his day come to an end, recording only five outs and giving up all five earned runs on four hits. 

The Jackfish wasted no time in punching back, scoring three runs in the bottom of the second inning off of Dan Procopio. 

A wild pitch and a fielder’s choice from first baseman Steve Moretto saw the home team cut into the Maple Leafs lead as they now trailed 5-4. 

James Bradwell, who entered in relief of Harford in the second inning, was flawless.

The 24-year-old put up five-and-one-third innings of relief and gave up no runs on two hits while striking out seven batters. He recorded his second win of the series and improved to 3-0 in the playoffs. 

Procopio got through the third and fourth innings with ease, retiring six of the eight batters he faced, however he ran into some trouble in the fifth inning. 

After issuing back-to-back walks to start off the inning, Procopio sat down the next two batters he faced on strikes, bringing up third baseman James Hunt in a pivotal moment. 

Hunt took the 0-2 fastball from Procopio and drove it into the left-field gap, scoring both runs and giving his team the 6-5 lead. 

Procopio was taken out after giving up the go-ahead double and was charged with his first loss of the playoffs. 

With Bradwell still dealing, Dustin Richardson came into the game for the Maple Leafs and shut the door. 

Richardson allowed just one run in the eighth inning on a sac-fly off the bat of Moretto as the Jackfish extended their lead to two. 

Deivy Mendez took over for the Jackfish in the eighth inning, looking for the six-out save.

Mendez worked two perfect innings, striking out three batters en route to recording his first save of the playoffs and 11th of 2023 as the Jackfish won 7-5, advancing to the IBL Finals for the first time in franchise history. 

The first game of the IBL Finals will feature the number-one seeded Jackfish and the number-three seeded Barrie Baycats square off in a best-of-seven series with the first game to be held at Welland Stadium on Saturday night.

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