LA PAZ, Mexico- Team Canada picked a fantastic time to play their best team-game of the 18U Pan American Championship earning a convincing 8-2 win over Panama.
The win is significant for two reasons with the main one guaranteeing Canada no worse than a fourth place finish which automatically qualifies the team for the 2015 IBAF 18U World Cup in Japan.
“We came here with the goal to qualify and we were able to get that done tonight which is great for this program,” said Head Coach Greg Hamilton. “It was a collective effort tonight, we got good pitching timely hitting and some plays defensively.”
The win also clinches a spot in one of two medal games slated for Sunday, September 14th. Canada has two games remaining in the round robin with host Mexico on deck tomorrow night and the Cubans on Saturday.
“We’re going to give it a run as best we can,” added Hamilton. “We believe we’re a good baseball team and we believe we’re a good baseball playing nation when we come to these tournaments.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where we can go after things a little bit.”
The Canadian bench was fired up right from the get-go and they had plenty to cheer about early as Canada built a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. After a pair of walks, Gareth Morgan (Toronto, ON) doubled to the wall in centerfield that easily brought in LP Pelletier (Montréal, QC) from second base, but Luke Horanski (Dugald, MB) was gunned down at home plate trying to score from first.
Morgan moved to third on a wild pitch that caused Panama to change their pitcher. The new hurler was welcomed into the game when Josh Naylor (Mississauga, ON) singled through the right side with the infield pulled in to put Canada up by two.
Morgan and Naylor were at it again in the fourth as Morgan led off the inning with a single and after moving to second on a wild pitch, scored when Naylor doubled down the right field line. Naylor took advantage of the ball being misplayed in right field to end up on third and scored the second run of the inning on a wild pitch with two out.
Morgan ended the game 4-for-5 with one RBI and three runs scored, while Naylor went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
Canadian starter Mike Soroka (Calgary, AB) didn’t allow his first hit of the ballgame until the third and after a two-out walk left two runners on when Pelletier made a great leaping grab at second base, falling into right field and surely saving a run.
More great defence from Canada continued in the fourth as Mitch Bigras (Sarnia, ON), for the second time in the game, made a diving catch in left field that saved extra bases before Soroka got two fly-outs later in the inning after allowing back-to-back singles.
With Panama threatening in the fifth, a key point in the game took place after Panama scored a run on a base hit with the bases loaded. Head Coach Greg Hamilton brought Colton Wood (Victoria, BC) into the game and the first batter he faced lifted a fly ball to right fielder Demi Orimoloye (Orleans, ON).
“I didn’t have to move much (to catch the ball) and I knew that I had a pretty good shot to get the runner at home so I positioned myself to get rid of the ball quick,” explained Orimoloye.
Get rid of the ball quick he did firing a strike to catcher Luke Horanski who had more than enough time to lay down the tag to get the sliding runner. Wood struck out the next batter he faced and Canada escaped allowing only one run considering that it could have been much worse.
“It could have been a completely different game if we don’t limit the damage in that inning,” said Hamilton. “It was a big play, that inning could’ve changed the whole complexion of the game.”
Canada went on to add a run in the seventh, on a two-out RBI double from Pelletier, and three in the eighth after an RBI single from Orimoloye and a pinch-hit double off the bat of Robert Byckowski (Georgetown, ON) that brought in two.
Colton Wood did an admirable job after coming into a tough situation in the fifth pitching five innings allowing only one hit and one walk, while striking out six.
The atmosphere for tomorrow night’s Canada/Mexico promises to be electric with a sold-out Arturo C. Nahl Stadium in La Paz cheering for their country.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Hamilton. “We put a lot of time in (with this program) and the chance to represent your country in atmosphere like there will be tomorrow night will be special.
“I don’t think (our guys) need to be nervous. It’s an opportunity to come out and feast off the crowd and see if we can silence them.”
UP NEXT: Tomorrow’s game against Mexico is set for 8pm MDT/10pm EDT at Arturo C. Nahl Stadium in La Paz…LHP JP Stevenson (Hunter River, PE) is expected to start.
TUNE IN: All games played at Arturo C. Nahl Stadium in La Paz will be shown live on National TV in Mexico courtesy of Cable Sports TVC Deportes. People in Canada can access a live stream of the televised games by visiting: http://internetv.tv/browse.php?dia=2014-09-04&next=1
Live tweets for all of Team Canada’s games will be available by following @Team_C_Updates.