‘WE Did It’: Amazin ‘Majors Wins Long-Awaited Baseball Championship


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Seven years ago, Byron Reichstein missed a chance to make the Inter-County Baseball League final with the London Majors.

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He had to go back to school at Southern Arkansas University before it started.

This time around, the playoff MVP made the most of every second and landed the hardest blow – a three-run home run to the left in the third inning – to trigger an 8-4 win in London over Toronto in Friday’s deciding fifth game. the championship final, ending a 46-year title drought before an electric 3,330 at Labatt Park.

From pillar to post, the Majors were the best team in the league. Now they have the Dominico Cup in their possession for the first time since 1975 to prove it.

“We have worked year after year to try to do it,” said Reichstein, 28, from St. Thomas. “It’s an incredible feeling. At batting it was a full count and I was fighting with (36-year-old Maple Leafs starter) Marek Deska. I found a pitch in the area and it didn’t come back.

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Byron Reichstein is celebrated by his London Majors teammates after shattering a three-run homerun in the fourth inning that saw London lead 4-3 and change the course of Game 5 of the League Final. intercounty baseball.  The Majors won, 8-4.  Mike Hensen / The London Free Press
Byron Reichstein is celebrated by his London Majors teammates after shattering a three-run homerun in the fourth inning that saw London lead 4-3 and change the course of Game 5 of the League Final. intercounty baseball. The Majors won, 8-4. Mike Hensen / The London Free Press

Reichstein produced .448 in seven playoff games with four homers and six RBIs. He had two solo shots in the Majors’ Marathon loss in Game 4 of 13 innings at Christie Pits on Thursday.

Despite a 3-0 lead on Friday, the Maple Leafs were unable to maintain their powerful offense. The home side have won every game in the series and it was the first loop final to go the distance since Brantford came back strong to beat Barrie in 2013 in seven games.

This year’s final has been reduced to five games as part of a season cut short due to pandemic protocols. In the end, 37-year-old London slugger Cleveland Brownlee lifted the trophy above his head and then handed it to Reichstein.

This meant a passing of the torch between the two stars of the Majors.

“Byron deserves every piece of this MVP,” said Brownlee. “These guys were hungry from day one. They worked in COVID conditions and they wanted to. They came here and showed it in front of these big fans.

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“It has become my home. London has kissed me for all these years and I am grateful for it.

Toronto scored single runs in each of the first three innings and beat London starter Owen Boon for every out. Three of the first four Leafs reached base in the first inning, but the only damage they could inflict was a sacrificial fly from Johnathan Solazzo.

The Majors responded in the third with four runs on four hits – all with two strikeouts. Austin Wilkie, Carlos Arteaga and Humberto Ruiz scored before Reichstein went deep.

Boon, nearly unbeatable throughout the season, broke the 100-pitch mark in the fifth inning and lasted six. He benefited from an overly aggressive base run from the Leafs, who were sent off twice at home plate. With a strikeout in the sixth, Connor Lewis crossed manager Damon Topolie’s stop sign in the third and couldn’t beat the precise throw of center Austin Wilkie.

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“I’ve been bailed out by our defense a few times and that’s the way to win a game against Toronto,” said Boon. “They’re going to keep swinging the bat and hitting the ball. We made a few plays in defense and that was the difference.

The Leafs also made three mistakes, including a poor pitch from third baseman Solazzo who set the table for London’s two-point seventh. Brownlee tackled Arteaga with a ground ball in second and wide receiver Hayden Jaco hammered an RBI brace to the wall in left center field.

Then Toronto relief pitcher Brandon Lyons fended off Wilkie’s decay attempt in the bottom of the eighth, scoring Keith Kandel and essentially putting the game out of reach.

Venezuelan Eduardo Perez, a starter and winner of London’s third game, returned to close the game with three sets of one-point relief. He’s only made four relief appearances in the regular season, but manager Roop Chanderdat has put up his warmest arms wisely.

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London Majors part-owner and manager Roop Chanderdat receives a big hug from slugger Cleveland Brownlee after the club won their first Inter-County Baseball League title since 1975 with an 8-4 win in Game 5 winner against Toronto at Labatt Park.
London Majors part-owner and manager Roop Chanderdat receives a big hug from slugger Cleveland Brownlee after the club won their first Inter-County Baseball League title since 1975 with an 8-4 win in Game 5 winner against Toronto at Labatt Park. “We did it!” exclaimed Brownlee. Mike Hensen / The London Free Press

It was co-owner Scott Dart’s fourth trip to the final since buying the team – and closing the deal for the first time.

“We were trying to change things here and do the right things,” Chanderdat said. “You wait so long, it feels good. We knocked on the door in ’06, ’08, ’14 – and we finally broke through. I wrote on my whiteboard at the start of the year to ‘stay loose’ and that’s what the players did.

“They stayed with it and did it.”

Deska completed six innings and allowed five runs on eight hits. Main forward Jordan Castaldo went 4-for-4 with a double, three singles and a walk.

London lead Chris McQueen was injured in the Game 4 13-end marathon at Christie Pits on Thursday and was unable to play on Friday. American import Nick Carrell, used primarily as a pitcher since his arrival, replaced at second base.

Carrell, 28, had a memorable fourth round. He stole Lewis a hit in the top half and smashed an RBI brace in the bottom half to give London a two-point advantage.

Then, after a series of ups and downs, the Majors went from there.

(London wins Best of Five Championship Series 3-2)

Majors 8, Maple Leafs 4

Winners: London wins its first IBL championship since 1975 and the 13th in its history.

Roop Chanderdat, part-owner and manager of the London Majors, is overcome with emotion after his club won their first Inter-County Baseball League Championship since 1975, with an 8-4 victory at Labatt Park over Toronto.  Photograph taken on Friday October 1, 2021. Mike Hensen / The London Free Press
Roop Chanderdat, part-owner and manager of the London Majors, is overcome with emotion after his club won their first Inter-County Baseball League Championship since 1975, with an 8-4 victory at Labatt Park over Toronto. Photograph taken on Friday October 1, 2021. Mike Hensen / The London Free Press

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