Woodbine Racetrack Game Report: Knecht Returns with a Bang in Wild Win Over Panthers
TORONTO - He's back.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, with the rain beginning to fall, got a two-run home run from Marcus Knecht in the bottom of the eighth inning in his season debut to lead the Maple Leafs to a 16-14 win over the Kitchener Panthers on Wednesday evening.
With the win, the Leafs move to 20-13, while the Panthers fall to 13-20.
Toronto starter Zach Sloan was not his sharpest self on Wednesday, taking a no-decision on eight hits, six walks, and three earned runs in four innings pitched.
Maple Leafs reliever Sam Greene continued his impressive rookie season by throwing the first three-up, three-down inning of the ball game in the top of the eighth inning to take the win.
Toronto closer Dustin Richardson picked up a dominant save in his return to the mound.
The former Boston Red Sox threw a three-up, three-down ninth while striking out a pair of batters in the process.
The southpaw did so on seven pitches -- all of which were strikes.
Knecht, who was in the designated hitter slot for the Leafs in his season debut, went three-for-six, highlighted by his two-run moonshot to left field in the eighth inning.
Kitchener starter Brett Reid continued his struggles in a no-decision, allowing seven earned runs on eight hits and six walks in four innings of work.
Panthers reliever Grant Shantz took the loss after allowing two earned runs on three hits.
KITCHENER - 14-15-4
TORONTO - 16-16-1
BIGGEST PLAY OF THE GAME: Tied at 14 in the bottom of the eighth inning, there is no question that Knecht's home run was one of the bigger home runs for the Leafs this season.
DID YOU SEE THAT? On his way to Pennies Player of the Game before Knecht stole it from him, Maple Leafs centre fielder Connor Lewis had himself a night, highlighted by hitting a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning for his first home run of the season.
BY THE NUMBERS...
9. All nine batters in the Leafs lineup got on base, with eight recording hits. Only second basemen Nikko Khananisho failed to record a hit, but he reached base via a walk.
13. It took Greene and Richardson a combined 13 pitches to get out of the eighth and ninth innings.
21. A combined 21 walks between the Leafs and Panthers pitching staffs on Wednesday. It felt like more.
INSIDE THE LOCKERROOM...
Knecht on hitting his home run: "It's always good to help your team win. It was a tough game to play -- everybody was scoring -- but somebody had to win."
Knecht on playing in a game that went over three hours long and saw a combined 30 runs: "It is a lot of time on your feet. I was a DH today, so I was just sitting around. All you can do in that situation is get the boys going and try and help to get the sticks hot."
Knecht on Richardson: "He's a power guy. His delivery is just so smooth and the ball just looks so heavy. The boys left when he is out there."
Knecht on how great it is to be back: "I have a sour taste in my mouth from last year, so it is nice to see that it looks like we tied up some loose ends. I am excited for the playoffs."
The Leafs face the London Majors in London on Friday before wrapping up the weekend at home on Sunday against the Hamilton Cardinals.
Photo: Craig Aikin