Maple Leafs win Game 3 thriller

By Rob Vona

The Toronto Maple Leafs outlasted the Guelph Royals by a score of 6-5 in a back-and-forth Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-five, first round of the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) Playoffs.

“To bounce back after giving up a few runs is huge,” said Maple Leafs catcher Justin Marra following the game.

Dan Procopio took to the mound for the Maple Leafs, the 27-year-old righty went six innings, allowing four runs, three earned, on six hits and struck out four batters, he would finish with the no-decision.

The Maple Leafs were the first to get on the scoreboard as shortstop Jose Vinicio scored on a wild pitch from Royals starting pitcher Kyle Thomas, making it a 1-0 game in the bottom of the third inning. 

The Royals wasted no time in responding as first baseman Josh Garton hit a leadoff home run in the top of the fourth inning, his second home run of the series. 

After the first two Maple Leaf batters found their way aboard in the bottom of the fourth inning, a sac-fly from right-fielder Greg Carrington was immediately followed by a double into left-field from Vinicio, cashing both runners and giving the Maple Leafs their second lead of the day, now leading 3-1. 

Vinicio finished with a game-high three hits and is now batting .571 (8/14) in the IBL Playoffs. 

The Royals stormed past the Maple Leafs in the sixth inning, scoring three runs thanks to back-to-back base hits from DH Justin Interisano and second baseman Claudio Custodio, and capped off by a sac-fly from catcher Chris Robinson, giving their squad their first lead of the game, 4-3.

Into the game came Chris Nagorski for the Maple Leafs, the 33-year-old surrendered an RBI double to third baseman Malik Collymore that extended the Royals lead to 5-3.

“On the bench it’s ‘put good at bats together, get the next man up’, we’ve been saying it all year,” said Marra. “Nothing changes for us, we trust the guys on the bench and in the locker room.”

The Maple Leafs rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning with one out and retook the lead. 

First baseman Jordan Castaldo was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded on a breaking ball from Yomar Concepcion, forcing in a run and making it a 5-4 game. 

DH Garrett Takamatsu drove the first pitch he saw from Concepcion into shallow right-field for an RBI single, while third baseman John Solazzo pounded a ball into the ground that bounced high enough to allow for the go-ahead run to score. 

After the three-run inning, the Maple Leafs now led 6-5 with two innings to go.

“We try to keep our composure and not get too emotional whether we’re down a lot or up a lot,” said Marra. “When you let the emotions get the best of you sometimes it doesn’t always play in your favour, especially in a park like this [where] we know that runs could come easy and especially with our lineup.”

Adam Marra and Dustin Richardson entered the game in the eighth and ninth innings, the two combined for no runs on one hit and struck out one batter to close out the game and secure the Maple Leafs the 5-4 win. 

In the ninth inning, Richardson dove off the mound to catch a bunt attempt from Royals centre-fielder Ashton Patterson, before retiring the next two batters he faced, securing his first save of the playoffs.

The Maple Leafs travel to Guelph, Ont. on Tuesday for Game 4 where they will ‘try and do everything they can to put it away,” says Marra. 

First pitch is set for 7:30 p.m..

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