Royals slip by Leafs to knot quarter-final series
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH – Two-out runs were the trend Saturday night at Hastings Stadium as the Guelph Royals pulled even with the Toronto Maple Leafs in their Intercounty Baseball League quarter-final series by edging the Leafs 3-2.
“We had to win that one,” Guelph coach Dave teBoekhorst said. “Going back to the band box in Christie Pits, there were six home runs hit there the other day and not really any of them were totally legit home runs. You don’t want to get into that type of ball game.
“It was as much a must-win as there is a must-win at this time of the year.”
Both teams have a win in the best-of-five series with both winning home games, Toronto’s being a 9-6 victory Thursday night.
Every run scored in Saturday’s game came after the team on defence had recorded the second out of their inning.
The Leafs struck for the opening run in the second when Connor Lewis clubbed a single to centre that scored Zac Orchard, who had been walked and moved to second when Garret Takamatsu was hit by a pitch from Guelph’s Yomar Concepcion.
That run stood as the lone run of the game until the sixth when Guelph’s Angel Villalona clobbered a two-run moonshot over the left-field fence for his first homer with the Royals.
“He’s just got so much power,” teBoekhorst said of Villalona. “He’s basically just a real good gap-to-gap guy, but when he runs into one he runs into it. That was a huge home run and it just kind of shifted the whole game for us.”
The Leafs tied it in the top of the seventh as Dan Marra’s single down the first-base line scored Aaron Hornostaj who had reached base and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice, Guelph second baseman Jon Waltenbury going home with the throw to get Lewis who had tripled.
The winning run came in the bottom of the seventh when Jeff MacLeod singled to right field and was awarded second on a balk call against Toronto pitcher Zack Sloan. MacLeod had taken off from first on an attempt to steal second when the balk was called on Sloan’s throw to first. MacLeod went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Darius Barlas before Ethan Mohan was intentionally walked after he had worked a 3-0 count off Sloan.
Waltenbury followed with what would be the game-deciding play. He smacked the ball that was scooped up by first baseman Damon Topolie who was playing a little off the base. He quickly stepped on the base to get Waltenbury out and then tossed the ball in an attempt to get Mohan at second to end the inning. However, his throw was off the mark and it struck umpire Jamie Killingsworth in the back. Killingsworth was standing in the infield grass getting ready to make a call at second although the Leafs argued that Killingsworth was on the base path. That he was hit by the ball prevented it from sailing into left field and kept Guelph’s run total to one as MacLeod took off for home at the crack of the bat.
Concepcion picked up the win as he threw 160 pitches in a complete-game outing. He walked six, yielded four hits and struck out 12.
“He did fantastic,” teBoekhorst said. “I was a little worried as he rolled his ankle, but he just kind of balled up and said ‘give me the ball, I’ll be fine.’ He did one heck of a job.”
Sloan took the loss for Toronto as he gave up the three earned runs off six hits and five walks in 6 2/3 innings. He had seven strikeouts and was relieved by Marek Deska who kept the Royals scoreless and hitless in his 1 1/3 innings of work. He also had a strikeout.
Villalona finished with three hits as he also hit two singles to go with his homer while Sean Reilly also hit two singles. MacLeod’s single was Guelph’s only other hit of the game.
Lewis had a triple and single for the Leafs while Dan Marra and Orchard each hit one single.
Third game of the series is set for Sunday at 2 p.m. at Dominico Field in Toronto’s Christie Pits.
“We’ve got to cut down on the strikeouts, especially looking, and just go in there and get a win,” teBoekhorst said.
Fourth game is to go Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Hastings Stadium.