A five-run third inning by Kitchener put the Maple Leafs in a big hole August 11th at Dominico Field.
With the Panthers threatening to put them on the brink of elimination, Toronto dug down and battled back for an emotional 12-7 win in IBL playoff action at Dominico Field.
The Leafs now trail the best-of-seven series, 2-1, and they can even it up when the two teams meet back in Toronto on August 14th. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Trailing 6-2 heading to the bottom of the fifth and with pretty much their IBL season on the line, the Leafs would storm back with nine runs over the next four innings to take the lead and get themselves back in the series.
“That stuff (bad inning) can happen, but the fact is it didn’t get us down,” said Toronto starter Justin Cicatello, who gutted out eight innings to earn the win. “We fought back and (our) guys did an awesome job.”
“The whole series has been like that,” Toronto manager/player Damon Topolie said of the back-and-forth play over the first three games. “We had a bad inning, but we overcame it and we know if we keep them within striking distance we have a chance in our ballpark.”
There were plenty of big efforts up and down the lineup. Topolie belted a key two-out, two-run single in the fifth, leadoff hitter Ryan Santos got on base five times and scored four runs and Cicatello (1-0) himself beared down after a rough third inning to allow the Leafs to rally.
Then there was Marcus Knecht who belted his third home run of the playoffs and drove in three runs, but it was his sliding catch in right field with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning that drew big praise from Cicatello.
“Marcus catching that with the bases loaded was the most excited I’ve been in a while,” said the right-hander, who gave up seven runs, but just three earned, on 12 hits and two walks, while striking our four. “That was pretty great.
“(We) battled back, which was great to see. We were kind of down, but all of a sudden we just kept chipping away and then had the big inning (four runs in the sixth). It was awesome.”
Toronto made five errors on the day, but thanks to the veteran on the mound he was able to limit the damage and allow his teammates to use an 18-hit attack to climb their way back.
“That’s what veteran pitchers do,” Topolie said of Cicatello. “They don’t let that stuff bother them, they fight through it. “He gutted out a huge performance for us and we had the right guy on the mound today.”
Reliever Christian Hauck (0-1) took the loss for Kitchener, giving up two runs on a hit and a walk in just a third of an inning. Kitchener starter Yoen Socarras gave up five runs on 10 hits and three walks, over five innings.
Cicatello and his teammates know they have to keep things rolling in Game 4 on Wednesday night against a very good Kitchener team that pushed Barrie to an extra tiebreaking game for first in the IBL standings.
“For sure, we got to carry the momentum over,” Cicatello said. “It could easily be 3-0 (series lead) for us right now, but we definitely got to keep it going, keep that chemistry going. You can kind of feel it right now, everyone is feeling good about the win. Hopefully we can carry it forward.”