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SPORTS (JUNE 2017): Weather permitting

June 30th, 2017 · No Comments

PHOTO BY R.S. KONJEK/GLEANER NEWS: Johnathan Solazzo (right) is greeted at home plate by his teammates after blasting a grand slam for the Toronto Maple Leafs on June 7 at Christie Pits.

Hometown Leafs battle foes and forecasts as season gets under way

By R.S. Konjek

It was a rainy May.

The elements proved to be the Toronto Maple Leafs’ greatest adversary in the first month of the 2017 Intercounty Baseball League season. Three scheduled games at Christie Pits were rained out, as well as a road game in Hamilton.

“We only play every second Sunday now,” lamented Al Ross, a witty fixture on the Christie hillsides. “That’s what we should call the season: Every Second Sunday.”

“Fans will recognize the pattern: the Leafs have gotten off to neither a blistering hot start, nor a brutally cold one. They have been beating the lousy clubs, but getting edged out by the stronger ones.”

The traditional showers of April arrived late this year, regularly drenching the city throughout the month of May. Pondering on it, one might start to believe that our planet’s seasons have become displaced, with the change of seasons shifting back a month.

Lately, April weather has been hanging around into June. Then summer will click on like a light switch and last deep into September, maybe even October. Things will cool off in time for Halloween, but then the autumn months will carry over into the new year. It barely ever snows in December anymore. When the snow does come, it’s for briefer periods, punctuated by flash storms rather than lasting snowfalls. Temperatures will finally rise above freezing sometime in March or even April, making for a delayed spring. And the cycle repeats.

I am not a professionally trained climatologist, nor am I in possession of a Ph.D. in any of the applied sciences, but I have a pair of eyes and my theory is this: the seasons are shifting. To what cataclysmic end this shift is taking us, no one can say.

In the meantime, we have baseball.

Rainouts aside, the Leafs have managed to play a good number of games to start the season. By early June their record stood at five wins and five losses, good for fourth place in the league standings.

Fans will recognize the pattern: the Leafs have gotten off to neither a blistering hot start, nor a brutally cold one. They have been beating the lousy clubs, but getting edged out by the stronger ones.

Case in point: in two games against the perpetually rebuilding Burlington Herd, the Leafs dispatched their opponents handily by scores of 11-4 and 8-2.

Against the defending champion Barrie Baycats, the Leafs have stumbled. On the opening day of the season, a close game got away in the seventh inning when Barrie scored four runs en route to a 6-1 victory.

More recently, the rival clubs battled it out in a classic Christie slugfest.

The game took place on June 7, a cool but dry evening in Toronto. The Baycats arrived looking to extend their perfect 6-0 record, while the Leafs were eager to hand them their first loss.

The game got off to a bang in the bottom of the first inning, when Leafs third baseman Johnathan Solazzo blasted a grand slam to give his club a 4-0 lead.

Barrie punched right back in the second inning with three runs of their own, and the slugfest was on. The home nine put two more runs on the scoreboard in the third inning, and three more in the fourth to take a commanding 9-3 lead.

The Baycats clawed their way back against starting pitcher Zach Sloan, who was making his debut for the Leafs. Sloan lasted into the sixth inning before handing a 9-6 lead over to Pedro De Los Santos, another new face on the Toronto pitching staff. De Los Santos could not halt Barrie’s momentum. The visitors scored three more runs and the game was tied 9-9 after six.

The score remained deadlocked until the bottom of the eighth, when it looked like the Leafs might sneak a win. Pinch hitter Greg Carrington hit a single and then stole second base. Solazzo returned to the plate and calmly knocked a double into the outfield. Carrington scored, it was Solazzo’s sixth RBI of the night, and with that, the Leafs were three outs away from victory.

The visitors, however, demonstrated why they are the three-time defending champions. Bowed but not broken, they jumped all over De Los Santos for three hits and two walks with an error thrown in. When the dust settled, they had scored four runs. Toronto was unable to respond in the bottom of the ninth, and Barrie made off with the 13-10 win. A frustrating loss, but not discouraging. The season continues.

Weather permitting, the Leafs play at Christie Pits every Sunday through the rest of June and July. Games start at 2:00 p.m. The Leafs also host the occasional night game on Wednesdays.

 

READ MORE

SPORTS: Leafs return with sights on a title (May 2017)

SPORTS: Late summer blues (September 2016)

 

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