Maple Leafs come up short on Opening Day

By Rob Vona

The Toronto Maple Leafs fell short to the London Majors on Opening Day by a score of 7-5 at Dominico Field at Christie Pits. 

The Maple Leafs welcomed a new era of baseball, debuting not only new uniforms but new ownership and sponsors as well. 

“The whole day was positive, the guys are getting their reps in and getting ready for the season ahead,” said Maple Leafs head coach Rob Butler following the game. “We could have easily caved but we didn’t.”

The first three innings of play saw both pitchers, Wilgenis Alvarado and Victor Payano go punch for punch, combining for eight strikeouts of shutout baseball. 

The fourth inning saw Marek Deska enter the game in relief for the Maple Leafs. 

After allowing the first two batters to reach base, Deska punched out Majors catcher Eduardo De Oleo for his 600th career strikeout in the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL). 

The two leadoff runners would come back to haunt Deska and the Maple Leafs as they both would score, giving the visiting team the 2-0 lead.

Julian Valdez entered the game in the fifth inning for the Maple Leafs. The 25-year-old faced 11 batters and allowed just one earned run, a ground ball off the bat of first baseman Kaiden Cardoso forced in a run.

Trailing by three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Maple Leafs capitalized on a fielding error from Majors third baseman Victor Plaz, before left-fielder Jesse Hodges smashed a double into the right-centrefield hole to bring in two more runs, knotting the game up at three heading into the sixth inning. 

“That’s what we expect from Jesse,” said Butler. “He’s a pro, if he does that all year he’s going to be one of the top hitters in the league.”

The Majors were quick to respond, a sacrifice fly from second baseman Gibson Krzeminski was immediately followed by an RBI double from right-fielder Byron Reichstein, giving the Majors a 5-3 lead now. 

It wasn’t until the bottom of the eighth inning until the Maple Leafs struck again, right-fielder Ryan Dos Santos lined a double to the centre-field wall to plate the tying runs.

Reliever Chris Nagorski entered the game in the ninth inning for the Maple Leafs, the big righty was tagged for two runs which would spell the end of the day for Toronto as their ninth inning comeback attempt fell short, losing 7-5. 

Up next, the Maple Leafs travel to Barrie Ont., on Thursday night for a matchup against the Barrie Baycats. First pitch is scheduled for 7:35 p.m..