Maple Leafs End Baycats' Dynasty; Advance to Finals

by Ryan Eakin

MIDHURST - It's over.

The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Barrie Baycats 13-11 on Saturday evening to sweep their semifinal series 2-0.

The win ends the Baycats dynasty, who entered this season looking for a record-setting seventh straight IBL championship.

Toronto starting pitcher Justin Cicatello continued his great postseason, picking up the win while allowing one earned run on 10 hits in six innings pitched.

The crafty righty struck out three Barrie batters and walked none.

A pair of former Baycats led the way at the plate, with first basemen Jordan Castaldo going three-for-five, including a lead-off home run in the top of the first inning.

Designated hitter Sean Reilly went four-for-five with a moonshot home run to left field in the top of the sixth inning.

Maple Leafs closer Dustin Richardson recorded the save.

Barrie ace Juan Benitez had his worst start of the year, allowing 10 earned runs in just 2.2 innings pitched.

He allowed nine hits and walked two, while striking out just one Maple Leaf.

TORONTO - 13-16-1

BARRIE - 11-22-1

BIGGEST PLAY OF THE GAME: Up 1-0 in the top of the first inning, Maple Leafs' right fielder Marcus Knecht hit a grand slam to give the Leafs a 5-0 lead.

While the Baycats rallied late, the game felt all but over after the former Blue Jays' draft pick hit his second home run of the series.

BY THE NUMBERS...

3. Three outfield assists by the Maple Leafs' outfielder tonight, including Knecht, who had two.

10. 10 earned runs allowed by relievers Adam Marra and Mateos Kekatos tonight, which allowed the Baycats to get back into the ball game. 

Thankfully for the Leafs, Richardson came in to put out the fire, as he so often does out of the Leafs' bullpen.

23: The Maple Leafs scored 23 runs in this short two-game series. Not bad for a team who was not considered a contender by a certain manager in the IBL this season.

QUOTES FROM THE GAME...

Castaldo on ending the dynasty that he helped build: "I'm super proud of our group as we dealt with a lot of ups-and-downs as a team but in a way, it's kind of bittersweet. I had a lot of good memories here -- playing for Barrie, so it's bittersweet. Seeing [Jeff] Cowan and Branfy [Infante] on the field with their kids right now -- it's bittersweet."

Maple Leafs manager Damon Topolie on the Leafs' hot start to this game: "I was surprised by the number of runs we scored. I thought it would be great to get a run or two early but to get that big of a lead off of him [Bentiez] is pretty impressive."

Topolie on the Leafs' rotation of Marek Deska and Cicatello in this series: "They pounded the strike zone and kept the game moving. That's what a veteran ball club wants to see -- they don't want to be standing out there an hour per inning. They went after hitters and challenged them. I can't ask for anything more."

Topolie on having Richardson as an option when things start to go off the rails for the Baycats: "Having that ace in your back pocket really helps," chuckled Topolie. "I was hoping not to use him tonight but I had to and he got the job done."

Castaldo on Cowan potentially ending his career with a home run in the bottom of the eighth inning, after not hitting a home run in Barrie since 2012: "I asked him before the game if he has another home run left in him but he said he's saving it for next season," laughed Castaldo. "He was swinging it well all day long to the point where we didn't think we'd be able to get him out. He's always been a baller and I'll always be one of his biggest fans. I'm happy for him but happier for us."

Castaldo on how this lineup compares to all the great Barrie lineups he played on: "It's a powerful lineup, that's for sure. One to nine, the Barrie lineups had a lot of guys who would scrap and put together great at-bats. This lineup probably has some of those lineups beat in terms of power but it's really hard to compare this lineup to lineups that won championships. Hopefully, we can do what those teams did and get this one done."

Topolie on the Leafs' defence today: "This goes back to having veteran guys. They know the moment. They don't put too much pressure on themselves and they know what plays they need to make."

Castaldo on Mike and Tim Clark, the Baycats' longtime PA announcer and statistician who were honoured before tonight's game due to them retiring at the end of the season: "I didn't get to know Tim too well during my time here but I got to know Mike a lot more. I didn't know tonight was it for them but I couldn't be happier to be here for their last game. I don't know what it's going to sound like next year without him in the park because even when I was with Oshawa, those two guys were up there in the booth. Those two guys are as much a part of the fabric of this organization as any player was. I'm super happy for both of them and hopefully, they can find another hobby that they enjoy as much as this. It's bittersweet to go out this way but a lot of good memories, that's for sure."

NEXT UP...

- The Leafs will face the winner of the London Majors-Brantford Red Sox series in the IBL Finals.

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Photo: @LaRussaGastro