London Majors are now one win away from their first Dominico Cup championship in 46 years after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4 Tuesday night in the Intercounty Baseball League finals.
Toronto’s hot bats were quieted by seven strong innings and six strikeouts from Majors starter Eduardo Perez, propelling his team to a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, at Labatt Park in London.
“He kept us off balance all night and he didn’t give in,” said Maple Leafs manager Damon Topolie, after the game. “To keep our offence down like he did, hats off to him he pitched a great game,”
A 2-2 contest going into the fifth inning, the Majors sent all nine of their batters to the plate, putting up three runs after loading the bases with two straight bunt singles.
Leafs veteran Zach Sloan got the start and took the loss, going four and one-third innings, allowing five earned runs on eleven hits, while striking out six.
Aside from the fifth inning where London loaded the bases twice, Sloan had a solid outing, working himself out of trouble with his breaking ball.
“He’s one of our veteran guys, he’s pitched in big playoff games before, I had all the confidence in the world he’d give us a good outing and he did,” said Topolie. “He had one rough inning, but we minimized the damage, and kept it within striking distance.”
Marcus Knecht was productive both at the plate and in the field for the Maple Leafs. He crushed a no doubt solo home run to left field in the top of the second, and also made multiple running catches in right field to rob the Majors of extra base hits.
Unfortunately for Toronto, the best defensive play of the game went to London’s left fielder Humberto Ruiz, who also went 4-for-4 in the game. In the top of the seventh, he made an incredible leaping catch while reaching over the wall to take a two run home run away from Sean Reilly and preserve the Majors lead.
The defensive play proved crucial for the Majors after Jonathan Solazzo hit a two-run home run in the eighth to bring Toronto within two. Solazzo now has home runs in back-to-back games.
With Toronto facing a must win situation Thursday at home to extend the series, they will turn to their trusted veteran pitcher Justin Cicatello, who had a solid outing in game one of the finals despite the loss.
“He’s our ace, I couldn’t be in a better position for this series, I know we’re down a game but it is a best of five and we just have to play our game on Thursday,” said Topolie. “We’ve got to relax a little bit, let the game come to us instead of trying to force it, putting balls in play is going to be the key, make them make outs.”
Returning home to Christie Pits should be a boost for the Maple Leafs; they are a combined 14-4 at home across the regular season and playoffs this season, including a victory in game two of the finals.
“It helped us on Sunday so we hope it does the same again,” said Topolie. “It gives us that home field advantage and we have to play it one inning at a time.”
First pitch for game four goes at 7:30 Thursday night, and can be streamed here.