Maple Leafs Lose Rubber Match to Cardinals

By Rob Vona

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost the rubber match to the Hamilton Cardinals at Bernie Arbour Memorial Stadium on Friday night by a score of 14-5.

Left-fielder Ryan Burnside got things started for the visiting Maple Leafs early on, leaving the yard in the bottom of the first inning, a two-run home run to put his squad on the board. 

The Cardinals responded with four runs in the bottom half of the inning, a two-run home run of their own from centre-fielder Clayton Keyes, followed by an RBI single from catcher Luis Bernardo and a sacrifice fly from DH Tanner Rempel. 

Suddenly, the Cardinals now had the lead. 

Maple Leafs third baseman Johnathan Solazzo hit his fifth home run of the year in the top of the fourth inning to cut the lead to one, making it a 4-3 ballgame. 

J.J. Dutton found his way on base in the top of the fifth inning via a single to centre-field, only to be followed up with another single from shortstop Jose Vinicio, then a walk from catcher Justin Marra to load the bases. 

First baseman Jordan Castaldo made his way to first base courtesy of a fielder’s choice, a ground ball to the second baseman Bryan Rivera, who flipped the ball to second base to get Marra, while two runs scored on the play.

The Maple Leafs now had a 5-4 lead heading into the back half of the game. 

The home team put up four runs in the bottom half of the fifth inning. 

Third baseman Laine Renaud led off the inning with a solo home run to tie the game up at five. 

A second RBI single from Bernardo brought in another run, giving the Cardinals the lead yet again. Rempel followed suit with an RBI single of his own, this one bringing two runners in as the Maple Leafs were now looking at a 8-5 deficit. 

Maple Leafs starter Julian Valdez was chased from the game after five innings of work, he was charged with the loss after surreding seven earned runs. 

Cardinals outfielder Tyler Duncan tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning after hitting a single off of Maple Leafs reliever James Wilson, extending the lead to five. 

After Maple Leafs pitcher Chris Nagorski retired two of the first four batters he faced, the Cardinals rallied for four more runs of insurance in the eighth inning, a third RBI single from Bernardo made it an 11-5 game. 

First baseman Josh Niles put the nail in the coffin, hitting a three-run blast to make it an almost double digit lead for the Cardinals, as they held the visiting Maple Leafs scoreless in the last five innings, taking this one by a score of 14-5. 

The Maple Leafs will take on the Welland Jackfish - who sit in first place in the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) standings - Saturday night at Welland Stadium. First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m.