A familiar face on the mound cooled down a red-hot Toronto Maple Leafs offence to help the London Majors draw first blood in their Intercounty Baseball League championship series.
Former Leafs starter Pedro De Los Santos tossed a complete-game five-hitter to lead the Majors to a 4-3 win over in the series opener on Friday night at Labatt Park in London.
The Leafs will now look to even the best-of-five series on Sunday afternoon when they host the Majors in Game 2 at Dominico Field at Christie Pits.
The IBL’s top offence in the regular season continued its torrid performance at the plate in sweeps of Hamilton and Barrie to get to the final, but De Los Santos, who spent three seasons in Toronto from 2017-19, silenced Toronto’s power bats for the most part.
Connor Lewis belted his first home run of the playoffs in the top of the seventh inning to cut the London lead to 4-3, but that would be it for any Toronto long balls.
The London lefty (2-0 in the playoffs) gave up three runs, just two earned, on five hits and a walk, while striking out 12 against his former team.
Toronto ace Justin Cicatello (2-1) went six strong innings, giving up four runs on six hits and two walks in the loss. He struck out three.
Down 4-3 heading to the ninth, the Leafs’ attempts at a rally fell just short. With one out, De Los Santos hit Dan Marra to put a runner on. The Dominican Republic hurler then got Chandler McLaren to hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out. Lewis belted a single to move McLaren into scoring position, but De Los Santos got Jordan Castaldo to ground out to end the threat and the game.
London got to Cicatello early in this one, with Byron Reichstein and Cleveland Brownlee hitting run-scoring singles to put the IBL’s top team on top, 2-0, after the first inning.
It stayed that way until the top of the fifth inning when Castaldo drilled a double to bring home McLaren and then came around to tie the game on a groundout by Justin Marra.
The Majors would take the lead right back in the bottom of the inning when Keith Kandel singled home Austin Wilkie to make it 3-2.
A Brownlee groundout to score Carlos Arteaga the next inning doubled the lead and would prove to be the winning run.
Game time Sunday in Toronto is 2 p.m.