Justin Cicatello was his usual stellar self on the mound.
It was his effort at the plate that caught attention of his teammates.
The veteran pitcher tossed four innings of shutout relief to earn the save and added a home run to boot to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 12-5 win over Hamilton Cardinals in IBL action on a bitter cold May 13th afternoon at Christie Pits.
Already on in relief, Cicatello had to help out a shorthanded Leafs squad with the bat when teammate Cooper Lamb had to leave the game with an injury in the bottom of the sixth injury.
Cicatello drew a walk in his first at-bat and then in the bottom of the eighth inning drilled a solo bomb off Hamilton reliever Wes Markle that cleared the left-field fence to kick off a four-run rally that sealed the Toronto (1-1) win.
It was the long-time veteran hurler’s first hit in the league.
“It was funny,” said Cicatello, who gave up just a single in his four innings of relief. “I was trying to go right-centre and instincts just took over and I hammered it to left. Not quite sure what happened, but it was pretty cool.”
Toronto manger/player Damon Topolie, who had himself a day at the plate with two hits, a sacrifice fly and two RBIs, joked about how smart he looked letting Cicatello hit for himself.
“It was a clutch move on my part,” Topolie said, sporting a huge grin. “We had an injury. Lamb pulled his hamstring and we needed a favour from Cicatello to go up and hit for himself and he proved me right.”
Zach Sloan made his second start for the Leafs and was much sharper than his appearance in last week’s season opener, giving up just two unearned runs on three hits in four innings, while striking out three.
Mateo KeKatos picked up the win with two innings relief after Sloan left with a 7-2 lead. Making his IBL debut, KeKatos gave up just a single in the fifth inning, before he ran into trouble in the sixth inning when he gave up a run and left with the bases loaded.
Hamilton would cut the lead to 7-5 off Cicatello after a two-base error by outfielder Marcus Knecht brought home a pair of runs.
Cicatello shut the door after that.
“Justin’s one of the best pitchers in the league,” Topolie said. “We’re in a good spot when we have him on the mound and I wasn’t too worried. “It was a little bit tight, but he got us out of the jam.”
The Leafs got to Hamilton starter Ben Braun (0-1) early, scoring four times in the bottom of the third and then adding three more the next inning. The Leafs manufactured offence all afternoon, scoring on a balk and wild pitch, while drawing 12 walks.
Justin Marra and Knecht drove in a pair of runs each for Toronto, while teammate Ryan Santos scored three times.
“It was a good team win, everybody contributed,” Topolie said. “It was nice to see Cicatello pinching in for himself. We played a lot better as a team today and we took advantage of those opportunities when we needed to score runs.”
The Leafs will look to make it two-straight wins over the Cardinals when the two teams hook up again Friday in Hamilton at Bernie Arbour Memorial Stadium. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
photo: Toronto Maple Leafs pitcher Justin Cicatello had himself a day at both on the mound and at the plate. The Toronto ace tossed four shutout innings to pick up the save and belted a solo home run at the plate to lead the Leafs to a 12-5 win over the Hamilton Cardinals, May 12th, in IBL action at Christie Pits. Erin Riley photo.