Maple Leafs Fall to Majors on Emotional Opening Day

by Ryan Eakin

TORONTO - A day to remember.

The London Majors defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 on Sunday afternoon to begin their 2022 Intercounty Baseball League season 1-0.

The Leafs, as a result, drop to 0-1 on the season.

The day began with pregame ceremonies, first standing in solidarity with Ukraine before honouring the life of our late owner, Jack Dominco.

Longtime Majors starter Owen Boon picked up the win for the defending champions, allowing two earned runs on five hits and one walk.

The Western University alumn struck out four batters.

Left fielder Andrew Lawerence led the way at the plate, going four-for-four in his IBL debut.

Dominican import Jose Arias picked up the rare four-inning save, allowing one earned run on four hits while striking out seven.

Toronto reliever Zach Sloan took the loss, allowing one earned run on three hits and two walks in two innings of work.

Maple Leafs starter Marek Deska took the no-decision in his three innings of work, allowing one earned run on two hits and three walks.

LONDON - 6-11-1

TORONTO - 3-9-3

BIGGEST PLAY OF THE GAME: With Maple Leafs catcher Justin Marra at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning representing the tying run, Arias blew a high fastball past the 2018 IBL MVP to end the ball game.

DID YOU SEE THAT? After Lawerence hit a double to begin the top of the fourth inning, he attempted to turn it into a triple, only for the Leafs to complete a tidy 9-4-5 putout to retire Lawerence for the first out of the inning.

BY THE NUMBERS...

2. The Leafs only reached base on walks two times on Sunday, with both coming from first basemen Jordan Castaldo.

3. Toronto got three quality innings from junior Rhys Montgomery. The tall southpaw allowed two earned runs on five hits out of the bullpen.

5. Between Montgomery, second basemen Tage Gollert, shortstop Nikko Khananwho, designated hitter Brady Cerkownyk, and pinch hitter Blake Simpson, the Leafs had five juniors in their lineup as they await reinforcements.

Cerkownyk was the best of the bunch, going three-for-four with two runs scored.

9. Both teams left nine runners on base on Sunday.

11. The Leafs struck out 11 times on Sunday, far more than they will be expected to as they settle into the grind of the regular season.

INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM...

Maple Leafs manager Damon Topolie on the pregame ceremony for Jack: "It was a tough day. My drive wasn't easy today. There's just a lot of memories."

Topolie on his pitching staff: "I said prior that this was going to be a staff game and it was. I just wanted guys to get their feet wet given it is game one. They came in and threw strikes, so I can't complain about him or any of our pitchers today. They competed, battled, and did everything they could. It just so happens we faced two of the top pitchers in the league. If you told me prior to the game that we would have Castaldo and Marra up in the ninth inning with a chance to tie it, I would have taken that."

Topolie on what he wants to see from his team throughout the first month, a month that he deems to be Spring Training: "I want to see us stay healthy. Injuries kill you in this league. From there, it is just about competing and getting at-bats in. They did that today so I cannot ask for anything more at this stage."

Topolie on the juniors that he had in his lineup: "Those are kids that I coach, so that is why I trusted them to be in the lineup. I wanted them to get an idea of what this league is all about and truthfully, that is what this league needs to promote more -- these young, local players who are trying to gain experience so they can play at a higher level. After the game, they were amazed by the crowd and also the competition level. They do not face guys like this in college, so that is what this is all about."

Topolie on the crowd: "I couldn't believe the number of people. It's the younger people. I knew Covid was a big factor last season in terms of getting people out, but they came back. I couldn't ask for anything more -- this was an outstanding opening day crowd."

LOOKING AHEAD...

The Leafs return to action on Thursday for their first road contest of the season when they travel to Midhurst to battle the Barrie Baycats, who they swept in the semifinals last season.

From there, they return home on Sunday to host the Brantford Red Sox.

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