Maple Leafs Pull Away Late From Panthers

By Rob Vona

The Toronto Maple Leafs came back against the Kitchener Panthers to win 11-7 on Wednesday night at Dominico Field, ending Kitchener’s five game win-streak.

The Maple Leafs struck first as DH Garrett Takamatsu lined a ball from Panthers starting pitcher Christian Hauck into right field to score shortstop Jose Vinicio, opening up the scoring to make it a 1-0 ballgame. 

The visiting Panthers responded with a two-run blast off of Sam Greene, courtesy of shortstop Tyler Hinrikus, giving the Panthers their first lead of the game. 

After a quiet third and fourth inning from the offence, the Maple Leafs pulled ahead in the bottom of the fifth inning, manufacturing three runs on a passed ball and an infield hit combined with an error from Panthers first baseman Marcel Lacasse.

Kitchener rallied for five singles with two outs to score three runs of their own in the top of the sixth inning and retake the lead, this time 5-4. 

Newly acquired pitcher Evan Elliott entered the game for the Maple Leafs in relief for Greene who finished with the no-decision on six innings with five earned runs on nine hits. 

Elliott got through his only inning of work, but not before he allowed a batter to reach base via a hit-by-pitch.

Maple Leafs right-fielder Ryan Dos Santos said that Elliott is a big addition in the back end of the bullpen and that his fastball looks “lively”. 

The Maple Leafs put up four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. 

After centre-fielder Connor Lewis led off the inning with a single, Vinicio and first baseman Jordan Castaldo each ripped an RBI double that rolled to the wall, giving the Maple Leafs their third lead of the game, leading 6-5 now. 

The home team didn’t stop there, after a pitching change from the Panthers that saw Nathan Laird enter the game, Takamatsu hit his game-high third hit of the night, a single that scored another run. 

Mid-game substitution and outfielder J.J. Dutton stayed hot, recording his seventh hit in as many games that cashed Castaldo to extend the Maple Leafs lead to 8-5.

The Maple Leafs also welcomed back a familiar face this week, left-handed pitcher Dustin Richardson, who made his first appearance of the season.

“It feels good to be back,” said Richardson following the game. 

The 39-year-old added that the team has a lot of depth in the pitching category and described them as a “good, fun team.”  

The big lefty cruised through his one inning of relief by striking out two batters and surrendering one hit - a bunt single. 

“Richardson has great dugout presence,” said Dos Santos following the game. “He’s a really good leader.”

The Maple Leafs tacked on three more runs of insurance in the bottom of the eighth inning, Dos Santos hit a laser over the right centre-field wall for his first home run of the year. 

“It felt amazing,” said Dos Santos about his home run. “I got my pitch over the middle and the whole way I was hoping if it got high enough . . . and I got lucky.”

Castaldo followed suit with a solo home run to give the Maple Leafs their biggest lead of the night at 11-5.

Reliever Adam Marra came into the game in the ninth inning for the Maple Leafs and surrendered a two-run home run to DH Andy Leader, but that was all that the Panthers would get as the Maple Leafs came away victorious, winning 11-7. 

The two teams are back at it Thursday night, this time at Jack Couch Park in Kitchener, Ont.. First pitch is set for 7:30 p.m. 

The postgame report is brought to you by Woodbine Racetrack, official sponsor of the Toronto Maple Leafs.