After a rough start, the Toronto Maple Leafs triumphed over the London Majors after a series of consistent hits
By Jonah Birenbaum
A relentless Maple Leafs offense erased a seven-run deficit with a 13-run explosion in the fourth inning. The Leafs overcame a rough outing from starter Brandon Horgan as they outslugged the London Majors 23-13 at Dominico Field on Wednesday night.
The comeback victory improved the Maple Leafs’ record to 16-15 on a night of offensive indulgence: every Toronto starter collected at least two runs, and with the exception of one player, recorded multiple hits.
“These guys do not want to quit,” said Drew Taylor, who surrendered five runs over four innings of relief.
“Any time that we’re down, everybody on the bench is always up. No one sulks their heads, no one feels sorry for themselves. They just go up, grab a bat, and try to make a good swing on a pitch. And if you look at today, that’s exactly what we did.”
The slugfest started rather inauspiciously for the Maple Leafs, who were in a sizable hole before they even got a chance to hit. In fact, Toronto was down 5-0 before recording an out. The rookie Horgan surrendered five runs on two walks, a double, and two homeruns – from Byron Reichstein and Derrik Strzalkowski, respectively – before retiring a batter.
It didn’t get much better for Horgan after that eventful opening frame. After the right hander plunked Strzalkowski with one out in the third, left fielder Paul LaMantia took Horgan deep to extend London’s lead to 7-0 and effectively chase Toronto’s starter from the game.
But despite the seemingly insurmountable deficit, Toronto staged an improbable rally in the fourth inning that saw 13 runners cross the plate, all with two outs. After a walk to Dan Marra and a pair of singles from Jeremy Walker and Raul Borjas, Will Richards was issued a free pass with the bases loaded. This cut the deficit to six and brought Branfy Arias to the plate. Toronto’s shortstop promptly emptied the bases with a grand slam to left-centre that reduced the deficit to two.
“I know he’s definitely found himself now,” centre fielder Glenn Jackson said of Arias, who finished the day 2-for-6 with three runs and six RBI. “The way he carries himself, the edge he has on the field . . . you need to have that fire, and we definitely see that in Branfy.”
After a pair of walks, Toronto proceeded to tie the game on a two-run single from Aaron Guinn. The single plated third baseman Jordan Castaldo and Jackson, who enjoyed his second consecutive four-hit game on Wednesday.
Toronto would tag on six more runs with a barrage of base-hits from Walker, Borjas, Richards, and Jackson, in an inning that saw 18 hitters step to the plate and each player score at least one run.
“I think it just shows character,” Jackson said of his team’s comeback. “It shows that we’re not giving up.”
The Maple Leafs wouldn’t relinquish the lead for the rest of the game. Thanks to Taylor’s steady relief efforts and another offensive outburst in the seventh, Toronto extended the margin to 12 runs. Taylor, who has struggled with consistency this year due to off-season arm trouble, said Wednesday’s performance was a significant step in the right direction.
“Hopefully I’ll be peaking in the playoffs and ready to contribute for this team,” he said.
Lucas Kawa, who pitched the pivotal fourth in relief of Horgan, picked up the win for the Maple Leafs, who have lost just once in their last four games.