Persistence paid off Sunday afternoon for a Toronto Maple Leafs team still trying to find its “groove” in the Intercounty Baseball League this season.
On a day the offence was fairly silent early on, it came to life late to help Toronto rally for a 7-6 win over the Welland Jackfish at Dominico Field at Christie Pits, and earn them a split of the home-and-home weekend series.
After wracking up a ton of offence in a 20-19 loss to Barrie at home Wednesday, Toronto (4-4) bats went silent in Welland Saturday, managing just five hits in a 5-2 loss.
Trailing 6-4 heading to the bottom of the seventh on yesterday afternoon, the Leafs offence got the jolt it needed on back-to-back solo homers by Marcus Knecht and Garrett Takamatsu to tie the game.
Chandler McLaren would come around with what proved to be the winning run on an error by Welland (3-6) shortstop Brendan Dadson and Marek Deska slammed the door on the mound over the final two innings to nail down the win.
“It was a good team win,” Leafs manager Damon Topolie said. “We’ve had a tough couple of days, our bats (going) from scoring 19 runs (Wednesday) to only two runs (Saturday).
“We’re not in the groove yet. I think we need a few games under our belt, 10 or 12 games, just because we haven’t played in a while to see where we’re at.”
Deska (2-0) tossed the final three innings to pick up the win in relief of starter Mateo Kekatos. He gave up a home run to Matt Hilderbrandt to start the seventh, but shut it down from there giving up just the run on four hits and a walk while striking out three.
Wil Jackman (0-1) was tagged with the loss in relief of starter Jake Polancic giving up three runs, two earned, on three hits and two walks. He struck out one.
Topolie wasn’t concerned when Deska gave up the long ball early. He knew his reliable hurler would come through.
“He’s just a veteran of the league, right,” the Toronto manager said. “So what the guy hit a home run. That happens at Christie Pits. You throw strikes and the guy hit it. He calmed down after that and settled down and did nothing but cover the strike zone.
“That’s what a veteran pitcher does. He works fast. He keeps every one on their toes.”
Takamatsu continued his torrid stretch at the plate, going 3-for-4 including his third homer. The outfielder is now hitting .457 and has 11 hits and three homers in his last four games.
“That’s what we’re expecting from him,” Topolie said. “Unfortunately a couple of years ago he had an injury and he just couldn’t play for us. He had a really good year at school, probably should have been drafted (in MLB draft) and he’s proving why he’s a great hitter like he is.
“It helps being in this lineup. You’re going to have to pitch to somebody and when he gets his pitch, he doesn’t miss.”
The Leafs also welcomed the return of another big bat in Knecht. It didn’t take the former Blue Jays prospect to make his mark.
“That’s a real blessing,” Topolie said of getting his outfielder back. “Unfortunately things didn’t work in professional baseball for him and he’s back with us. I couldn’t be happier that he’s back in our lineup.”
Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the first, Leafs slugger Jonathan Solazzo belted his third homer of the season to tie things up on one swing. Solazzo would finish with four RBIs.
Toronto returns to action Wednesday night when they host the Kitchener Panthers. Game time is 7:30 p.m.