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Early Deficit Costs Maple Leafs

May 27th, 2012 · No Comments


By Jonah Birenbaum

The pitching woes continue for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who couldn’t overcome another rocky outing from starter Brett Lawson on Sunday as they fell to the Burlington Twins 7-4 at Dominico Field.

Lawson, who has yet to win a game in 2012, laboured through a rough first inning that put Toronto in a substantial hole before they even had a chance to swing the bat. The imposing right-hander surrendered four runs on four hits—including two for extra bases—and a walk in a disastrous opening frame.

After Lawson issued a walk to centre fielder Phillip Steer to lead off the game, first baseman Jamie Lekas ripped a single up the middle to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Second baseman Jeff Kosta promptly ripped a bases-clearing, opposite-field double to give Burlington an early 2-0 lead. The Twins would tag on two more runs in the inning by way of a Jeff MacLeod sacrifice fly and a two-out double from Aberdeen Chan.

The Maple Leafs offense worked admirably to chip away at the early lead, managing to plate a run in each of the second, third, and fourth innings, but the inability to come through with runners in scoring position—a recurring theme this season—proved costly once again. Toronto stranded eight baserunners in Sunday’s contest.

“It’s frustrating,” said Toronto third baseman Jordan Castaldo, who went 1-for-5 with an RBI. “It’s disappointing.  Some things aren’t going our way.  I mean we got to do everything—pitching, hitting, defense—we got to do everything better.”

And while Lawson did manage to settle down after a shaky start—he allowed just one run in his final three innings of work while striking out three—the early deficit was simply too great. Lawson gave up six earned runs on seven hits and three walks over five innings of work before giving way to Clay Caulfield, who struck out five and surrendered just a lone unearned run in three solid innings of relief.

Lawson has now surrendered 13 earned runs over his last seven innings as his earned run average balloons to 9.00 for the season.

Connor Smith picked up the win for Burlington after pitching a clean fifth inning in relief of starter Matthew St. Kitts, who surrendered three runs—two earned—on six hits and no walks in his four innings of work. St. Kitts also helped supplement his team’s offensive efforts with a solo homerun to centerfield to lead off the second inning.

Kurtis Robinson pitched the final three innings for the Twins, giving up one run, to pick up his first save of the season.

“Our pitching did a fantastic job, you can’t say enough about them,” Twins manager Jeff Lounsbury said.

With the loss, the Maple Leafs drop to 3-6 and sink to second-last in the Intercounty Baseball League standings as their struggles at home persist. Toronto hasn’t won a game at Dominico Field since the season opener on May 6, when they defeated the Ottawa Fat Cats in dramatic fashion.

Castaldo also lamented the missed opportunity to pick up a win against one of the few teams looking up at Toronto in the standings.  Heading into Sunday’s contest, the Twins sat a game back of the Maple Leafs at 2-5.

“It’s frustrating against a weaker opponent that we could only put up four runs today,” he said. “We should be able to score more than four runs against a team like that.”

Burlington’s victory represents the team’s first winning streak of the season. Sunday’s triumph over Toronto comes on the heels of a 7-5 win over the Kitchener Panthers the day before to give the team victories in consecutive games.

“It’s amazing considering we’re missing five players from our lineup,” Lounsbury said.  “These guys really stepped up … it was a huge win for us.”

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