Baseball can be a cruel mistress sometimes and she loves to break people’s hearts.
Sunday night at Labatt Park in London, She ripped the heart out of the London Majors and left it torn in a crumpled mess.
The Majors were two outs away from advancing to the Intercounty Baseball League final leading 5-4 until the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled off another one of their trademark late inning comebacks to end the Majors season taking the seventh and deciding game of the semi-finals 10-6.
The Majors built up an early 5-1 lead in the contest in front of a pack house of their fans and had chased Leafs starter Brett van Pelt from the ball game early. But couldn’t get any insurance runs off Justin Cicatello as he was in top form and held the Majors at bay as the Leafs began showing signs of life.
The Leafs made it 5-4 in the 8th but Ellis Jimenez worked his magic and got out of the jam in the inning to move the Majors to within three outs of advancing to the next round.
The packed house could feel the excitement building at the Leafs came to bat in the 9th inning. Dan Marra lead of the top of the 9th with a single off Jimenez who uncorked a wild pitch which allowed Marra to move up 90 feet but then got Brendan Keys to pop-out to third for the first out of the inning and things where well in hand.
Or so the Labatt faithful thought.
Connor Lewis blasted a laser off Jimenez for a double into right field to tie the game 5-5 and that spelled the end for Jimenez’ night at 135 pitches and the go ahead run standing at second base.
In came Cory Hammond who to this point this season had ice water running through his veins when it came to big games and even bigger situations.
Grant Tamane un-phased by this, took Hammond’s second offering deep off the light standard in left and the crowd in London went silently into shock as Tamane rounded the bases and was mobbed at home plate by his euphoric teammates and the handful of Leafs supporters cheering loudly in the stands.
“We waited a whole long year for a second chance at this” said Tamane who’s Maple Leafs lost a seventh game heart-breaker of their own in last year’s semi-finals to the Barrie Baycats.
The Leafs weren’t done either as they scored six in the fateful top of the ninth inning to make it 10-5 and pretty much left the Majors and the crowd a state of shock.
This instantly brought back nightmares to this blogger of the front row seat I had from the third base dugout in Stratford’s infamous 9th inning comeback in game 7 of the 1994 finals.
Down by a lot and yet they found a way to turn the tides and won the championship stunning the Guelph Royals in their own park. To cap off the nightmare there’s to this day nothing more demeaning than watching a grown man urinate all over home plate in celebration.
The Majors to their credit regrouped the best they could and scored an unearned run in the bottom of the frame thanks to a pair of errors by the Leafs and could have had more if not for a heroic catch by Lewis in center-field to end the ball game and the Majors season.
The Majors who rattled off 14 wins in a row to finish at top of the IBL standings were left on the outside looking in as the Leafs congratulated each other before lining up to shake hands as is custom in after a long playoff series.
The shock apparently still hasn’t left the Majors social media as not a tweet had been sent or liked since the 8th inning of the ballgame.
The end of the season also marks the end of one of the classiest guys in the league’s careers and with that I pause the story to wish Cleveland Brownlee my congratulations and thanks for always having a smile or laughing on and off the field no matter what. You’ll be missed you Gentle Giant.
The battle tested Maple Leafs have now played 14 games in the playoffs and will face the well rested two time defending champions the Barrie Baycats. With so many Baycats calling Toronto home its certain to feel like a homecoming to them.
The Schedule is yet to be released but will be posted soon as its made public.