The Toronto Maple Leafs found themselves playing catch up all Sunday afternoon (May 5) against the Brantford Red Sox.
Unfortunately for the Leafs, they chase would fall short.
Fernando Suarez belted a grand slam and drove in five runs and Rickey Boutilier had three hits and two RBIs to help the Red Sox hang on for an 11-7 win over the Leafs, in their Intercounty Baseball League season opener at Christie Pits.
Brantford got to Toronto starter Zach Sloan (0-1) right off the bat in this one, with Andris Rizquez tagging him with a leadoff home run and then Suarez took the lefty deep with the bases juiced for a 5-0 lead.
The Leafs came right back with five of their own in the bottom of the first inning, but Brantford scored twice in the top of the second and had the Leafs chasing the rest of the way.
“It was a game of catch up and we just couldn’t catch up,” Toronto manager Damon Topolie said outside the dressing room. “We ran out of innings to catch up. We obviously didn’t start very well, we were down five, but the fact that we battled back and tied the game right off the bat that showed some real character on the team.
“It’s that first game of the year where we hadn’t been on the field much and it showed. We beat ourselves today.”
The Leafs had the leadoff hitter against Brantford starter Michael Bannon (1-0) on base in the next three innings, but didn’t take advantage. Bannon lasted five innings, giving up five runs on six hits and three walks, while striking out eight.
Toronto’s Mike Reeves hammered a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh off reliever Matt McGovern cut the lead to 9-7, but the Red Sox came right back to add a run in each of the eighth and ninth innings off reliever Justin Cicatello to put the game away.
“That’s baseball,” Reeves said. “You got to have the good hits, the timely hits and it didn’t work out today, but it was a great effort by the boys today. Going down five runs in the first inning, to come back like that is tough to do. It was nice to see out of the young kids.”
Sloan lasted just two innings, giving up seven earned runs on five hits and five walks, while striking out four. Topolie chalks this one up to just one of those games for the crafty hurler.
“That was a tough start for him,” he said. “His pitch count got up pretty high in the first inning and that’s why he only lasted two innings. I’m not worried, he’ll bounce back. He’s a veteran guy and he’s been around this league for two years.
“It’s Day 1.”
It was a big day at the plate for Reeves, who finished with four RBI on the day. Daniel Szpik also had a pair of hits and a run driven for the Leafs.
McGovern gave up two unearned runs on just two hits over the final four innings to earn the save for Brantford.
Toronto will look to bounce back on the road Saturday afternoon when they take on the Welland Jackfish, before returning to Christie Pits Sunday to host the Hamilton Cardinals at 2 p.m.
photo: Zach Sloan had a tough day on the mound as the Brantford Red Sox got to the Toronto Maple Leafs starting pitcher early in an 11-7 win, May 5, in their Intercounty Baseball League season opener at Christie Pits. Erin Riley photo