Hamilton Cardinals stay alive in IBL semifinal; Welland Jackfish gain day of rest


Published September 7, 2022 at 10:58 pm

Hamilton Cardinals pitcher Sam Turcotte (Art Ward photo).

The Hamilton Cardinals are showing they will only go down swinging, especially with what closer José Fernández is flinging.

Few might have anticipated that Hamilton, based on how it has fared against the defending champion London Majors every time out this summer in the Intercounty Baseball League, would get a late-inning lead it could turn over to the hard-throwing former Toronto Blue Jays lefthander. The Cardinals came into a do-or-done Game 3 on Wednesday trailing 2-0 in the best-of-five IBL semifinal and winless in eight tries all season against the Majors. Their average margin of defeat was 7.75 runs.

Hamilton pulled out all the stops, though, to win 3-2 and force Game 4 at Bernie Arbour Stadium on Friday night (7:35 p.m., Hamilton Cardinals YouTube channel). Starter Sam Turcotte turned in a season-long seven innings to keep the Majors in check. That kept Hamilton within one big swing of the bat. And when London lefthanded ace Pedro De Los Santos began labouring a bit with two out in the bottom of the seventh, shortstop Luis Jean delivered it by crushing a go-ahead three-run home run to left field.

Both IBL semifinals are now headed to a Game 4. The Welland Jackfish face their second elimination game in a row against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Jean’s big blast came on De Los Santos’ 115th pitch of the night, continuing a post-season where he leads the Cardinals with a .474 / .719 batting slash (on-base and slugging percentages). Jacob Underwood and Dennis Dei Baning created the opportunity for Jean by singling on 3-and-2 pitches. Both fouled off several offerings from De Los Santos, the 2021 IBL earned-run average (ERA) champion, before reaching base.

After Hamilton went ahead, Fernández came into a two-on, no-outs situation in the eighth and recorded a six-out save. The 29-year-old had four strikeouts, right in line with a playoff performance where he has struck out 15 of the 23 batters he has faced.

Fernández pitched a total of 14 innings in Major League Baseball with the Blue Jays and the Detroit Tigers in 2018-19.

Turcotte was touched up for 18 earned runs and 23 hits in four innings against London in the regular season, which swelled his regular-season ERA to 7.91. But he has put down a 3.18 ERA in the postseason while helping Hamilton go 3-0 in his starts, including both of their away wins in the quarterfinal upset of the Guelph Royals.

London did not score again after Taylor Wright hit a solo home run to put London ahead 2-0 in the third inning. Turcotte, who scattered 11 hits and had six strikeouts, later got Wright to hit into two double plays. Hamilton’s defensive effort also featured catcher Ryan Burnside throwing out two potential basestealers, one night after his six-inning pitching start in Game 2.

De Los Santos fired nine strikeouts, while allowing three runs over 6 2/3 innings. That raised his playoff ERA to 1.72.

Oakville native Jakob Newton, who is London’s leadoff hitter and second baseman, was 3-for-5 and scored a run. Newton has been the toughest batter to retire in the IBL playoffs, ranking first with a .606 on-base percentage while slugging .833.

Hamilton had a 12-30 regular-season record that included a 14-loss skid in July. Their season series with London, which the Majors won 6-0 with a 67-22 run differential, wrapped up on July 24, during the losing streak.

The Cardinals made some late progress in August. They went 6-4 in their final 10 games. The upset of Guelph gave them their third semifinal berth in the last four seasons.

Jackfish, Toronto postponed

A scheduling conflict caused Game 4 of the Jackfish-Toronto Maple Leafs semifinal series to be pushed back by one day. The Maple Leafs’ home ballpark, Dominico Field at Christie Pits, was being used by George Brown College on Wednesday.

One upshot for the Jackfish from the postponement to Thursday is that most of its pitching staff will end up with three full days of rest.

Jackfish lefthander Rich Corrente took one for the team with a 142-pitch complete game during Welland’s elimination-evading 10-2 win on Tuesday.

Welland, if it wins Thursday, would host a winner-take-all Game 5 at 6:05 p.m. on Saturday (Sept. 10).

(Photo by Art Ward, Hamilton Cardinals.)

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