Maple Leafs walk-off Panthers for first win in 2024

By Rob Vona

The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Kitchener Panthers in walkoff fashion on Wednesday night at Dominico Field at Christie Pits, coming out on top by a score of 8-7 for their first win of the 2024 Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) season. 

It was Sam Greene who got the start for Toronto and Yadian Martinez on the bump for the visiting Panthers. 

The Maple Leafs got out to a fast start, three pitches is all it took for shortstop Jose Vinicio to launch his first home run of the year for a leadoff home run. 

Working with the 1-0 lead, Greene worked through four scoreless innings until he ran into some trouble in the fifth inning. 

The Panthers rallied with two outs, a pair of walks and a single and saw the bases loaded for third baseman Nick Parsons, who also drew a walk and brought in the first run of the game for Kitchener. 

Still with two outs, catcher Yunior Ibarra came to the plate and cleared the chain-link fence for a grand slam, breaking the gates open and giving the Panthers the 5-1 lead. 

Martinez settled in after surrendering the leadoff home run to Vinicio, he would finish with a strong seven innings of work, giving up just the one run on four hits while striking out 13 batters. 

Dean Christidis entered the game for the Maple Leafs and surrendered a double to the former Maple Leafs catcher Ryan Burnside in the top of the inning. The double scored two runs to make it a 7-1 ballgame as Toronto was down to their final six outs.

Nathan Laird came in to relieve Martinez in the eighth inning and was rung up for two earned runs while recording only one out. 

A bases loaded walk to catcher Justin Marra forced in a run and shortly after, third baseman Johnathan Solazzo drove in a run with an RBI single. 

Jack Anderson came in after Laird’s short time in the game, he gave up three earned runs on three hits and two walks. 

The Maple Leafs capitalized on wild pitches and a hit by pitch to make it a 7-5 game going into the final inning. 

Julian Tymochko entered the game for Toronto in the ninth inning and swiftly worked through four batters to give the Maple Leafs one last chance. 

A leadoff walk from outfielder Jamie Cabral got things started for the home team in the ninth inning, Vinicio quickly followed with a single to get two men on with no outs. 

First baseman Jordan Castaldo ripped a single into left-field to score both of the speedsters Cabral and Vinicio, knotting the game up at seven. 

With tons of momentum, the Maple Leafs drew a walk and a hit by pitch to load the bases for their hottest hitter, outfielder Ryan Dos Santos.

A wild pitch got away from Ibarra and allowed for Kerian Wong - who pinch ran for Castaldo following the two RBI single - to score with ease, sending Christie Pits into a frenzy as the Maple Leafs got in the win column for the first time this year.

The Maple Leafs will head to Welland Stadium to take on the defending Dominico Cup champions, the Welland Jackfish, for the first time this year. 

First pitch is set for Saturday afternoon at 1:05 p.m..