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Fata Homers, Maple Leafs Lick Fat Cats in Season Opener

May 6th, 2012 · 2 Comments


By Jonah Birenbaum

Despite failing to register a hit through the first six innings, a five-run seventh proved all the offense the Toronto Maple Leafs would need as they downed the Ottawa Fat Cats 6–4 at Dominico Field on Sunday.

Keyed by a three-run homerun from shortstop Tyler Fata, the Maple Leafs—held at bay all afternoon by Ottawa starter Brandon Huffman—feasted in the seventh on a Fat Cats relief corps that surrendered four runs on three hits and four walks by day’s end.

Trailing 3–1 in the seventh, Maple Leafs catcher Damon Topolie spoiled Huffman’s no-no bid with a sharp leadoff single, chasing Huffman from the game.  Fat Cats manager Tim Nelson called on left-handed reliever Eric Boisvert, who immediately surrendered a double to Toronto second-baseman Rob Gillis, bringing Fata to the plate with runners on second and third.

Fata, who appeared in just four games with the Maple Leafs last season, promptly deposited a Boisvert offering beyond the fence in left field to give the Maple Leafs a one-run lead.  Needless to say, the shortstop wasted no time endearing himself to Toronto manager Tim Harkness and the throngs of Maple Leafs fan in attendance with his late-inning heroics.

“It’s a great feeling whenever I can make an immediate impact for the team,” said Fata, who also added a sacrifice bunt in the victory.  “To be able to do that and help my team win a baseball game — there’s nothing more you can ask for on Opening Day.”

The Maple Leafs would tag on two more runs in the inning when Fat Cats second-baseman Chris Latimer’s throw eluded the first baseman while attempting to turn a double play on a ground ball from third-baseman Dan Gibbons.

Adam Garner, who worked the game’s final three innings, picked up the win for Toronto, striking out two and surrendering one run. Garner and Brett Lawson—who struck out three in three scoreless innings—did a fine job in relief of starter Marek Deska, who was pulled after surrendering three runs on five hits and two walks over just three frames.

Toronto’s refusal to quit despite the early deficit, their struggles against Huffman, and, of course, some Opening Day jitters is a testament to their character and experience, according to Topolie, who sparked the rally in the pivotal seventh.

“It just tells us that we have a veteran team and we didn’t panic,” said Topolie, of the victory.  “Those guys were pretty young, and they had us—we just needed a little bit of opening in the door and we took advantage.”

For the Fat Cats, who joined the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) in 2010, the loss represents a missed opportunity to snag a victory on the road and open the 2012 season with consecutive victories.  Nelson said the defeat will probably resonate a little  more considering Huffman’s impressive efforts.

“It’s disappointing for him.  He did throw very well,” Nelson said of Huffman, who surrendered just two runs—one earned—on one hit, and four walks over six-plus innings.  “We just couldn’t get those timely hits from our offense and when we went to the bullpen, things didn’t work out well there.

But while the loss hurts, Nelson said it’s important to realize that there’s a lot of baseball left this summer.

“It’s early in the season, wasn’t our best effort, wasn’t our worst effort, so it’s good just to get a couple games under our belt and look forward to next weekend,” he said.

The Maple Leafs play their next home game May 12, against the Brantford Red Sox. For more information about the Leafs and the IBL, visit

Tags: Annex · Sports · Maple Leafs Baseball

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Abraham // May 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    The article makes me wish I had been at the game. It makes the game sound exciting,nail biting and very descriptive.

  • 2 Toronto My Way // May 7, 2012 at 11:48 am

    I was at the game. I sat right behind home plate from Fergie Jenkins’ and Luis Tiant’s ceremonial pitches to the last out caught in centre field.

    It was tense, nothing going well through 6 innings and then the explosion in the 7th. It was great to see these Maple Leafs get a win to start the 2012 season.

    The whole family came down for a day at Christie Pits – a great summer tradition!