Maple Leafs Advance, Beat Baycats Following Drama in Late Innings

by Patrick Melbourne

MIDHURST - It was, quite possibly, the most action-packed game of the year for the Barrie Baycats on Saturday afternoon. After an early-innings lead was built up by the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Barrie Baycats fought back to score ten runs in the final three innings of the game. it wasn't enough for the home team at Coates Stadium, though, as the Maple Leafs held on to win 13-11 and advance to the Dominico Cup Finals. 

The Leafs will fight for their first Dominico Cup championship since 2007 in the coming days, while the Baycats will reflect on a title-winning streak that lasted six seasons. Toronto will face either the Brantford Red Sox or the London Majors, depending on the result of their semifinal series.

The Game Story

The game began quickly. Former Barrie star and current Toronto first baseman Jordan Castaldo led off, and hit a huge home run on the second pitch he saw from Baycats starter Juan Benitez. The next three batters would all reach base, and set up Marcus Knecht with an RBI opportunity. Knecht swung at the second pitch he saw and hit it out of Coates Stadium for a grand slam. The Maple Leafs would add five more runs before the third inning was complete.

The story wasn't over, however. The Baycats turned to first-year reliever Riley Hoover in the late part of the third inning, and the 23-year-old was excellent. He pitched 4 1/3 innings of relief, giving up only four hits and a single run. Hoover wouldn't exit the game until the eighth inning, where he'd give up two of those four hits as he ran close to the conclusion of his outing.

Christian Mullen, for the second game in a row, was key for the Baycats in his subsequent scoreless inning of work. Barrie's baseball team, down 11-2, didn't give up.

Branfy Infante, the Baycats first baseman, led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a base hit. Adam Marra, the Maple Leafs pitcher, struggled with command over the next two hitters as well - shortstop Carson Burns singled to left, and pinch-hitter James Anderson walked on five pitches. After an RBI-scoring fielder's choice off the bat of Jake Wilson, longtime Baycats star Jeff Cowan hit a double into the deep outfield, scoring two and bringing the volume at Coates Stadium up high. 

That would be Marra's last pitch of the game.

Cowan would advance to third on a single from Avery Tuck, and score on a single from Ryan Rijo. After that, pitcher Mateos Kekatos struck out Marcel Lacasse to end the inning. The Baycats weren't done. After the Maple Leafs added two more in the top of the ninth inning, Infante led off his second straight inning with another base hit.

Carson Burns walked in the next at-bat, and James Anderson singled to load the bases. Leadoff hitter Jake Wilson stood in the batter's box against Kekatos, and hit a 2-2 pitch to right field. It dropped, scoring Infante and Burns. The next batter was Jeff Cowan.

The crowd watched intensely as Cowan took a called strike, and the fouled a pitch away. Then, in what may have been his final IBL at-bat, Cowan swung and connected on a deep hit to left field for his first Coates Stadium home run since the 2012 season. Kekatos exited the game following that swing from Cowan.

"It was kind of thrilling, I kind of don't remember it now," said Cowan after the game. "You kind of think back and say, 'oh, what did happen?' Obviously, in that situation, you're just trying to put the ball in play, I was down 0-2 against a really good pitcher, and fortunately it worked out in my favour. I was able to put a good swing on a pitch up in the zone, so it was nice." 

Dustin Richardson entered in relief, and shut down the Baycats to retire the side and send the Maple Leafs to the Dominico Cup Finals.

"We gave it our heart, and I'm proud of the boys," said manager Josh Matlow following the season-ending loss. "Obviously you want to win, but when it comes down to it, the boys gave it their all, and that's all I can ask for as a coaching staff. It's great to see that guys want to be a part of this, and I think moving forward, in the next couple of years, we're going to be a really, really good team. I'm really excited about the core of guys."

"It's a hard loss," Matlow said, reflecting on the late near-comeback. "Nobody wants to lose, and I apologize to the fanbase and the organization for not bringing home another championship, but when push comes to shove, we gave it our all, and that's all we can ask for."

The Baycats finished their final game of the season with 22 hits and 11 runs across the nine innings.

"I honestly can't wait to get started again; I don't want this to end," said Matlow. "It was almost like a dream."



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Quotes: Sam Hossack
Photo: Bob Hurley/Bob Hurley Photography