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The TMU Bold men's baseball team walks off the diamond
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Revenge on U of T delayed yet again for TMU baseball

By Hannah Sabaratnam

Moments after striking out in the final inning, third-year catcher Ryan Ricci walked away from the plate with his head hung low. With a frustrated look, he put down his bat and removed his gloves. As he reached the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold baseball team’s dugout, he found his teammates quiet with the sour taste of defeat still fresh in their mouths. 

On the field, the University of Toronto (U of T) Varsity Blues pitcher opened his arms wide to accept the warm embrace of his catcher. Cheers of celebration echoed in the wind as the rest of the U of T players flooded the field. The Varsity Blues infielders and outfielders crowded around their pitcher, basking in the glory of their win over the Bold.

After the TMU players gathered their belongings, their parents applauded as they walked off the field—some for the last time in their baseball career. 

On a cold and rainy Thanksgiving Sunday, the Bold lost 23-7 in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Central qualifier final. 

It was the third straight season that the two sides met in the regional final as the Bold seeked to qualify for their first-ever OUA Championship finals. But as the game went on, victory slowly started to fall out of reach and TMU met the same fate as the past two years. 

“It always sucks to lose, especially to U of T,” said TMU assistant coach Kevin MacDonald. “We always want to beat our crosstown rivals.”

Last season, TMU finished the year with a program best 10-6-1 record. After losing in the playoffs, the Bold entered this season with high hopes of building on their success.

“It always sucks to lose, especially to U of T”

“We were still proud to an extent of what we accomplished even though we didn’t reach our end goal of winning a championship,” said third-year outfielder Josh Thomas. “The confidence we were playing with and that overall attitude [of] ‘it doesn’t matter who we play…nobody could beat us.’ We were taking that mindset into this year.”

This season’s roster resembled last year’s as 23 of 33 players returned to suit up for the Bold.

“We had the same core players so I thought it was going to be a very successful season for us,” said MacDonald.

Each weekend consisted of double headers—two games back-to-back—the Bold kicked off their season at home against the Laurentian Voyageurs on Sept. 9. The Bold’s home-opener saw plenty of runs scored by both sides along with an impressive debut by first-year TMU pitcher Alex Martin. In relief, the rookie pitched two and two thirds innings, struck out two batters, allowed one hit and earned his first career win.  

The next weekend, the Bold picked up their first two losses against the Waterloo Warriors. However, the subsequent series featured a different story. TMU gained a set of decisive wins the following day against the reigning OUA Champions, Queen’s Gaels. 

“That was actually one of the highlights of the season…definitely my favourite game of the year,” said third-year Bold infielder Thomas Markus.

The team was capable of using their offence to win games with a plethora of dangerous hitters on the squad. Third-year TMU center-fielder Domenic Gonzalez finished the second weekend of the year with three home runs, eight runs batted in and four walks. Along with Ricci and Thomas, other hitters such as second-year infielder Armaan Mermari and third-year outfielder Jamie Cabral had four or more hits across the four game-span.

Yet, once they wrapped their series against Queen’s, early signs of inconsistency began to poke through.

“Anytime the season ends like that, it’s very sad. It’s depressing almost”

As dangerous as TMU’s offence was, the Bold’s bats experienced periods of limited production. Additionally, poor defence often resulted in blown leads. Within that same weekend, the Bold committed 19 errors. 

The games that followed did not fortune the Bold as they were swept by the Varsity Blues and the York Lions. Characterized by the inability to bring runners home and mistakes in the field, the Bold dropped four in a row.

“Losing four games in a row is definitely frustrating,” said Thomas. “You kind of ask yourself ‘are we gonna win again?’” 

It was difficult for the team to get swept and follow up the next day against the Lions with two more losses, Markus shared. While the negative string of games could have caused the team to have low morale, according to Thomas and Markus, this was not the case. 

“It’s a blend of so many different personalities and so many cultures. [The locker room] was a great vibe…I just love talking to the guys,” said Markus.

It was the team camaraderie that Markus says helped the Bold move forward, especially when going through rough patches. 

“It’s a great group of baseball players, but it’s an even better group of men,” said Thomas.

The regular season ended with the Brock Badgers outscoring TMU 20-5, taking both games in their double-header. 

“It was a very rollercoaster season…and then it just ended in extreme disappointment with how the [regional finals] ended”

Overall, the way in which the season played out was certainly not what the Bold were expecting, especially after their 2022 campaign.

“Anytime the season ends like that, it’s very sad,” said Thomas. “It’s depressing almost.”

Despite the late season struggles, the Bold were handed an opportunity to mend the errors of the regular season given the structure of the OUA baseball playoffs. Regardless of the standings, every team qualifies for the post-season, giving the Bold both hope and a much needed fresh start. 

In the post-season, teams from each division play a series of round-robin games and those with the best records advance to the regional final. The teams who win the regional finals then face off in the OUA Championship tournament.  

The cold temperature—reaching single-digits—signaled the beginning of post-season baseball. The Bold started their playoffs with a win over Laurentian and then a loss to U of T. They bounced back against York, demolishing them 10-0, as TMU first-year pitcher Scott Hynes threw a complete game and struck out eleven batters.

As a result of those wins, the Bold made their way into the qualifier finals against U of T once again. With clouds looming in the sky, cold winds blowing the leaves to the ground and the sound of rainfall, the Bold hit the field to play the game they had waited a year for. A win against the Varsity Blues would make up for the poor weather conditions and redeem the team of their vendetta against their crosstown rivals.

“It’s a great group of baseball players, but it’s an even better group of men”

In the game, TMU got themselves into a hole early on, allowing four runs in the first. Their offence pushed back in the second to take the lead 6-5. But, in the innings that followed, they could not contain U of T. As the Varsity Blues piled on 18 more runs, the mercy rule ended the blowout game early in the fifth inning. Under OUA rules, if a team is losing by 10 runs once the fifth inning is complete, the game ends. 

With the loss, the Bold’s baseball season came to a close. A win would have felt like coming inside on a chilly evening to a warm blanket and a hot beverage. Instead, the frigid temperatures and absence of sunshine reflected the depressing loss and the overall mood of the season. The Bold will now have to wait until next year for another chance at redemption.

“It was a very rollercoaster season…and then it just ended in extreme disappointment with how the [regional finals] ended,” said MacDonald.

Inconsistency was the theme for the Bold this season. The positive moments throughout the year showcased their potential to be an elite team, while their flaws illustrated the work needed to be done. 

Moving forward, the Bold’s squad will enter a transition period with eight players leaving. Next season, younger players will need to step up and take on larger roles. The success some of the rookies experienced this season sets them up to lead the Bold program next year and avenge the sour taste of defeat left by their rivals, U of T.

“I’ve never seen such a talented rookie class,” said Markus. “I think that these guys are really going to make a difference in the following years.”

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