Woodbine Racetrack Game Report: Knecht Walks Off Baycats to Sweep Series

by Ryan Eakin

TORONTO - A Christie Pits thriller.

The Toronto Maple Leafs stunned the Barrie Baycats 7-6 in walk-off fashion on Sunday to win the best-of-five quarterfinal series via a three-game sweep.

Toronto starter Sam Greene took a no-decision after allowing three earned runs on four hits and two walks while striking out three Barrie batters.

Former Baycat Chris Nagorski picked up the win after tossing two innings of one-run ball.

Maple Leafs right fielder Marcus Knecht was the hero at the plate, going three-for-five while hitting a two-run, two-out, two-strike base hit to give the Leafs the 7-3 win.

Barrie starter Juan Benitez took a no-decision after pitching his guts out for eight-plus innings.

The former Miami Marlin farmhand allowed eight hits on four earned runs and three walks.

Baycats closer Brandon Hillier took the loss after allowing five hits on three earned runs.

BARRIE - 6-9-0

TORONTO - 7-13-0

BIGGEST PLAY OF THE GAME: Knecht's series-winning base hit is what every athlete dreams about, so it is big enough to be labelled the biggest play of the game, I'd say.

DID YOU SEE THAT? Maple Leafs shortstop Jose Vinicio, with two runners on in the bottom of the ninth inning, loaded the bases on a bunt single.

Track speed.

BY THE NUMBERS...

.500. Maple Leafs designated hitter Damon Topolie batted .500 in the series, including a hit in the top of the ninth inning to start the rally for the Leafs. He's still got it.

7. The Baycats have now lost seven games in a row at Christie Pits and fall to 1-7 at the park since the start of last season. A place where the dynasty Baycats enjoyed many wins in has become the house of horrors for the new regime.

INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM...

Maple Leafs manager Garrett Takamatsu on the win: "To say I was nervous is an understatement, but once we got that first run in, I'd knew we walk it off. I had a lot of comfort with the top of our lineup coming up."

Knecht on his walk-off: "The mindset was to do everything I always do in practice and have the most fun in the moment. That is when the magic happens."

Knecht on what moments like these mean to an athlete. "That's a good question, man. Something I have been focusing on the last couple of years is how to remain calm and how to feel good in those moments. I take deep breaths during games and let go of the things that may happen. I have really fun doing it."

Knecht on the Baycats: "Benitez was great today just like [Frank] Garces was great in game one. Then you have [Baycats designated hitter Ryan] Rijo who can tie the game with one swing and [third basemen Owen] Jansen who can get on base. They have a lot of guys who can push to the next guy, so they are never out of any game."

Topolie on the Baycats: "Well, their starter pitched phenomenally. That's tough for that kid [Hillier] though. He comes in with the bases loaded and he was just grinding to get outs. He was in a tough situation but did a hell of a job."

Topolie on Vinicio: "We have never had a guy like this. This was the missing piece for this organization for the longest time. He's just an amazing baseball player."

LOOKING AHEAD...

The Leafs will face the London Majors in round two if the Guelph Royals beat the Hamilton Cardinals.

If the Cardinals beat the Royals, the Leafs will face the Welland Jackfish.

The Cardinals currently lead the Royals two games to none.

Photo: Craig Aikin 

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