Hamilton Cardinals soar to playoff upset; Welland Jackfish now know their semifinal foe


Published September 3, 2022 at 12:11 pm

The Hamilton Cardinals still have more baseball to play. (Art Ward photo)

Jacob Underwood, whom weeks ago planted the seed for the Hamilton Cardinals to get their giant-killer on, did something he had never done to complete the playoff upset of the Guelph Royals.

The Cardinals, seemingly unaware they finished 18½ games adrift of Guelph in the Intercounty Baseball League, found an ending for their farfetched script on Friday night. Underwood, their No. 9 hitter, tied it all together by hitting his first IBL triple in the 10th inning to bring in the Cardinals’ two go-ahead runs in a 6-4 win at Guelph’s David E. Hastings Stadium. The result gave Hamilton a 3-2 series win, and a semifinal matchup against the reigning champion London Majors.

Right-handed pitcher Corben Peters, who threw the last three of the six shutout innings by the Hamilton relievers, earned credit for his second win in the series. In the last of the 10th, Peters kept the arguably toughest out in the IBL, ex-Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey, from reviving the Royals. Peters got Pompey to fly out after a seven-pitch at-bat. One out later, it was over.

The Cardinals got all of their runs on two-out hits after being down 4-0 early against Guelph pitching ace Claudio Custodio, who set the IBL strikeout record with 196 over 120 regular-season innings. Custodio and reliever Jeifry Nunez combined for 21 strikeouts on Friday. Cardinals starter Sam Turcotte, lefty José Fernández, righty Daury Torrez and Peters teamed up for a six-hitter with 12 strikeouts, buying time for the hitters to heat up.

Cardinals home Sunday

With Hamilton advancing, the first two games of both IBL best-of-five semifinal series are now set for this weekend. The Welland Jackfish will host their series opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (Sept. 3, 6:05 p.m.), with the Buds of summer hosting Game 2 at Dominico Field at Christie Pits on Sunday (2 p.m.).

Hamilton is at London on Saturday night, then hosts Game 2 on Sunday (Sept. 4, 2:05 p.m.) at Bernie Arbour Stadium.

The Cardinals were outscored 45-28 by and outhomered 13-3 by Guelph. (They were also outscored 52-28 by Guelph in six regular-season games, winning only one.) That included 16-8 and 18-3 blowout defeats in games 3 and 4. In the second of those one-siders, Pompey scored runs in five consecutive innings. The 29-year-old Mississauga native, who has said this is his last go-round as a competitive ballplayer, scored 13 runs and on-based .593 against Hamilton.

That, along with Custodio striking out over half the batters he faced in two starts (24-of-46), were not enough to get rid of the pesky Cardinals. Hamilton had hot bats spread across the lineup, from shortstop Luis Jean (.480 on-base percentage, .700 slugging), catcher Jeremie Veilleux (.500 / .563) and Underwood (.450 / .471, which doubled his .213 / .236 regular-season slash).

Cleanup hitter Laine Renaud put the first nick in the Royals in the sixth when his two-out single on a full-count pitch scored Jean to pare the Royals’ lead to 4-1. A frame later, the bottom of the order nursed along a game-tying rally. Robin Fox-Pappas, the No. 8 hitter, got a two-strike hit, and Underwood wrangled a walk that loaded the bases. Two batters later, Jean jumped on Nunez’s first offering to him and clubbed a three-run triple, making the score 4-4.

Guelph only threatened once after that, when IBL career home runs, doubles and RBI leader Sean Reilly doubled with two out in the eighth. Reilly, a Hamilton native, was removed for pinch-runner Owen Ellis. Peters stranded Ellis by retiring Connor Morro on a flyout. Consequently, Guelph’s last hope in the 10th came down to a player with only six IBL at-bats instead of Reilly, who hit two home runs two nights earlier.

The winning Hamilton rally was set up by a leadoff single in the 10th from Ryan Burnside and Fox-Pappas waiting out a four-pitch walk. Underwood then delivered his go-ahead two-run triple.

That Hamilton and Guelph ended up in the quarterfinal owed to the Cardinals’ walk-off win against the Royals on July 31. That day, Tristan Osika hit a three-run home run for a 5-3 win that ended Hamilton’s 14-game losing streak.

The batter up before him, who got a hit on an 0-and-2 pitch, was none other than Underwood.

That result loomed large at the end of the regular season, when Guelph, London and Welland tied for first place with 31 wins.

If Guelph had held on that July 31, with everything else remaining the same, they would have finished first and drawn the eighth-place Brantford Red Sox. London and Hamilton would have met in the 2 vs. 7 quarterfinal.

Instead, those teams are meeting a little later.

Toronto-Welland schedule set

Here is the schedule for the Jackfish’s series against Toronto.

  • Game 1: Saturday, 6:05 p.m., at Welland
  • Game 2: Sunday, 2 p.m., at Toronto
  • Game 3: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., at Welland
  • Game 4: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., at Toronto (if necessary)
  • Game 5: Thursday, 7:30 p.m., at Welland (if necessary)
insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising