It’s been a while coming, but the Toronto Maple Leafs feel they’re finally playing the way they’re capable of.
And with the playoffs right around the corner, the timing could hardly be any better.
Ryan Santos and Connor Lamb drove in three runs each as the streaking Leafs ran their win streak to four games with a 12-3 thrashing of the Brantford Red Sox, July 28th, at Dominico Field.
While the Leafs (14-20) — who only have two road games remaining on the IBL schedule — still have no idea who their first-round playoff opponent is, their focus remains on making sure they’re heading into the playoffs on a strong note.
“We’ve had the ability and the talent all year, it’s just we’re finally putting it together,” said catcher Justin Marra, who believes the Leafs are peaking at the right time. “Everyone’s coming together to finish the year. We’re trying to finish strong going into the playoffs and it’s been good. Everyone is having fun and that’s what it’s all about.”
The Leafs jumped all over Brantford (5-26) early, scoring five times in the bottom of the second inning and then getting seven strong innings from ace Justin Cicatello to complete a home-and-home weekend sweep of the Red Sox.
“That’s what we wanted,” manager Damon Topolie said of a strong finish to the season. “We wanted to make sure we had momentum and are moving in the right direction going into the playoffs. Then play our best baseball in the playoffs.”
Cicatello (4-2) gave up three runs, one earned, on just six hits and a walk, while striking out six. Zach Sloan and Jean Carlos Henriquez mopped up with a shutout inning each.
“He’s been our rock,” Marra said of Cicatello. “Every year, year-in-and-year-out, he’s reliable. He’s just doing his thing out there.”
The Leafs were doing their thing at the plate as well against Brantford starter Edison Frias (1-6) and relievers Matt McGovern and Michael Bucci. Toronto pounded out 12 hits, including a two-run homer by Ryan Johnston. Santos finished with a pair of hits, two runs scored and his league-leading 24th stolen base to go along with his three RBIs.
“We’re taking the right approach and guys are getting into good counts to hit,” said Topolie, who had a pair of singles and an RBI. “We’re not wasting any at bats and we got a good solid lineup, one through nine.”
Frias would go three innings, giving up five runs, one earned, on four hits and a walk. He struck out seven. The Red Sox would score three times in the top of the sixth to cut the lead in half to 6-3, but Toronto would score once in the bottom of the inning, three times in the seventh and twice more in the eighth to put the game away.
The Leafs will finish their regular season schedule on the road, with a stop Aug. 1st in Kitchener and then Aug. 2nd in London.
“Everyone’s looking forward to it,” Marra said of the upcoming playoffs. “We’re ready for the playoffs and we know that’s when the real baseball starts.”
Photo: Justin Cicatello pitched seven strong innings to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 12-3 win over the Brantford Red Sox in IBL action, July 28th, at Dominico Field.