Maple Leafs come back late against Cardinals

By Rob Vona

The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Hamilton Cardinals on Friday night at Bernie Arbour Memorial Stadium by a score of 8-7. 

Toronto overcame a 7-5 deficit, tallying three runs in the final two innings to capture their third win of the year.

Catcher Justin Marra drew a walk with the bases loaded in the top of the second inning to give the Maple Leafs the 1-0 lead, the Cardinals were quick to respond however, putting up three runs of their own in the bottom half of the same inning.

Designated hitter Josh Niles drove in two runs on a single to centre-field, third baseman Cole Iantomasi plated a third run with a sacrifice-fly to right-field. 

Both teams traded punches, Toronto responded with three runs in the top of the third inning to take back the lead as fast as they had surrendered it. 

Shortstop Jose Vinicio made his way on base via a dropped third strike which allowed for third baseman Johnathan Solazzo to score, making it a 3-2 game. 

Vinicio and left-fielder Ryan Dos Santos both later scored on a bloop single off the bat of second baseman Dan Marra.

Hamilton would not go away quietly as they tagged Wilgenis Alvarado for two more runs in the third and fourth inning. 

Reigning Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) MVP Tyler Duncan ripped a single into left-field to score the tying run, in the fourth inning it was Iantomasi who cashed in his second RBI of the game, a single to second base that scored Niles. 

Centre-fielder Connor Lewis drove in the fifth run of the game for the Maple Leafs, knotting the game up at five runs a piece heading into the sixth inning. 

Alvarado saw his day end after five innings of work with the game at a standstill, sitting at a score of 5-5, he was left with the no decision after giving up all five earned runs. 

The Cardinals broke the ice yet again, a sac-fly from catcher Luis Bernardo was immediately followed by an RBI single off the bat of right-fielder Dennis Dei Banning, making it a 7-5 game. 

Maple Leafs first baseman Jordan Castaldo led off the eighth inning with a single, he would later come around to score courtesy of a fielder’s choice, cutting the deficit to just one as Toronto now trailed 7-6 heading into the final frame. 

It was none other than the speedy Vinicio who led off the ninth inning with an infield single to spark the comeback, Vinicio ended the game with three hits and a game-high four runs scored. 

He would later score on a single from Lewis, who would eventually score the winning run courtesy of a single into left-field off the bat of right-fielder Marcus Knecht. 

Hanging on to the 8-7 lead, the Maple Leafs brought in Dustin Richardson to close things out in the bottom half of the inning. 

Richardson worked swiftly as ever, striking out all three batters he faced to record his second save of the 2024 season.

The Maple Leafs will look to win back-to-back games for the first time this season tomorrow when they take on the Guelph Royals at Hastings Stadium, first pitch is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.