Maple Leafs steal Game 1 win over Jackfish

By Rob Vona

The Toronto Maple Leafs hung on for a 4-3 win in Game 1 of the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) semifinals against the Welland Jackfish on Saturday night at Welland Stadium. 

It was a quiet first two innings as both pitchers were on point.

Jackfish starter Jake Harford for the first to crack, giving up a run to the Maple Leafs in the top of the third inning, issuing a walk to Maple Leafs first baseman and the IBL walk leader Jordan Castaldo, forcing in the first run of the game, giving the visiting Maple Leafs the 1-0 lead. 

Harford quickly responded, getting out of the bases loaded, one out situation with a flyout and a ground out. 

Wilgenis Alvarado got the starting job for the Maple Leafs, his third of the playoffs.

Alvarado was his brilliant-self, shutting out the Jackfish for the first seven innings. 

The Maple Leafs struggled to help out their starter as Harford surrendered only the one run until the top of the eighth inning when he ran into some trouble.

A walk and a batter hit by a pitch saw Harford’s day come to an end, responsible for the two men on base. 

Harford finished with the no-decision in a strong seven-and-one-third innings pitched that saw him strike out seven batters.

Another walk with the bases loaded, this time by second baseman Dan Marra allowed for the Maple Leafs to score again as they now led 2-0, six out away from the win. 

The Jackfish finally got to Alvarado in the bottom of the eighth inning, scoring on a fielding error from Alvarado, cutting the lead in half. 

The ball was handed to Chris Nagorski after Alvarado finished his day with seven-and-one-third innings pitched, giving up only five hits and three walks. 

Nagorski recorded the second out and then hit Jackfish first baseman Steven Moretto with a pitch, bringing in Dustin Richardson. 

Richardson was able to record the third out of the inning, but not before the Jackfish tied up the game at two on another hit by pitch, this time from shortstop James Smibert.

The game headed to the ninth inning tied at two. 

A one-two-three inning from Dievy Mendez and the Jackfish turned things over to Richardson again. 

A one-out double to right field from centre-fielder Gianfranco Morello saw the Jackfish with the winning run in scoring position. Richardson settled in and struck out the next two batters he faced, striking out the side and forcing the game into extra innings. 

After a walk, a single and a fielder’s choice, the Maple Leafs found themselves with bases loaded and zero outs. 

They were able to muster one run off of Mendez on a sac-fly to left-field from left-fielder Jesse Hodges, giving them their second lead of the game, this time 3-2. 

Almost one calendar year later, Mendez cracked, surrendering his first earned run since Sept. 2, 2022, against the Maple Leafs in the 2022 playoffs.

The relentless Jackfish responded with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning, capitalizing on a fielding error from shortstop Jose Vinicio which later allowed for the tying run to score on a fielder’s choice. 

Headed to the 11th inning, the game remained knotted at three. 

A flawless inning from both Mendez and now Sam Greene called for a 12th inning. 

The left-handed Rich Corrente came into the game for the Jackfish. The Maple Leafs jumped on Corrente with a man on first and second base and one out. 

Corrente sat down the next batter he faced and followed it up with a ground ball to shortstop. 

Smibert swiftly fielded the ground ball and overthrew the first baseman, allowing for the runner on second base to score for the Maple Leafs, giving them the 4-3 lead. 

Greene came back out for the 12th inning, the 26-year-old sat down the first two batters he faced as the Maple Leafs were now one out away from taking a 1-0 series lead.

A two-out walk from DH Matteo Porcellato gave the Jackfish any hope of a comeback, but Greene responded with a strikeout, his second of his two-inning outing, giving the Maple Leafs the 4-3 win. 

Greene now improves to 1-0 with five scoreless innings in the playoffs.

Game 2 of the best-of-five series is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. at Dominico Field.

The post game report is brought to you by Woodbine Racetrack, official sponsor of Maple Leafs baseball.