Panthers hold off Maple Leafs in extra innings

By Rob Vona

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Kitchener Panthers by a score of 8-7 on Thursday night at Jack Couch park after a late comeback attempt came up short.

The Panthers got out to a quick 1-0 lead as left-fielder Blake Jacklin took Maple Leafs starting pitcher Sam Greene deep for a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first inning.

The Panthers pounced on Greene again in the third inning with back-to-back home runs, a two-run shot from first baseman Nick Parsons was immediately followed by a blast from DH Elliot Curtis as the home team extended their lead to four.

Panthers starting pitcher Christian Hauck was on point, shutting the Maple Leafs down for the first six innings, including a sixth inning that saw him strike out the side.

Hauck would finish with the no-decision after giving up two runs on four hits while striking out 10 batters in his seven inning outing - the longest of his 2023 season. 

The Panthers continued to utilize the long-ball as a two run home run from centre-fielder Andy Leader in the sixth inning was followed by a solo home run in the seventh inning from third baseman Marcel Lacasse as the home team now led 7-0.

The blast from Lacasse marked the end of Greene’s day as he surrendered seven runs on 10 hits - five of which were home runs, in five innings of work.  

The Maple Leafs finally got to Hauck in the seventh inning, putting up two runs courtesy of a pair of RBI singles from catcher Justin Marra and first baseman Jordan Castaldo. 

Yoichi Ishihara entered the game as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, in his first at bat he left the yard for his first home run of the year - a three run blast to make it a 7-5 ballgame. 

Relievers Chris Nagorski and Adam Marra put up a combined three strong innings of relief. The two gave up a combined one hit and recorded three strikeouts in the eighth and ninth innings.

The offence rallied behind the strong relief efforts of the bullpen and tied the game up at seven in the ninth inning. 

A pair of errors from right-fielder Jett Jarvis allowed for Castaldo and DH Garrett Takamatsu to score - sending the game into extra innings. 

With right-fielder Greg Carrington starting on second base, left-fielder J.J. Dutton found his way aboard the bases with an infield single.

With the lineup turned over to Jose Vinicio, the shortstop ripped a single into centre-field, but a great play from Leader saw Carrington thrown out at the plate. 

The Panthers escaped the inning unharmed and had their crack at producing a run in the bottom half of the 10th inning.

A sac-fly from catcher Yunior Ibarra saw the winning run cross the plate as the Panthers held off the Maple Leafs for the 8-7 win. 

The 17-17 Maple Leafs will travel to Hamilton, Ont. on Friday night for their second of four consecutive games with a matchup against the Hamilton Cardinals. First pitch is set for 7:35 p.m. at Bernie Arbour Memorial Stadium.

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