HAVANA, Cuba – The Junior National Team pitching staff put up 13 zeros on the board and the only wild pitch of the game turned out to be their demise as the Canadians dropped a 14 inning marathon by a score of 1-0 at the hands of Cuba.
Both offences did not put up much of a fight as the Cubans collected four hits and left a total of 10 base runners. The Canadians on the other hand were able to muster seven hits, but also left 10 runners stranded.
Steven Inch (Edmonton, AB) got things started on the mound for Canada and got into a little trouble early as he gave up a single and two walks to load the bases with nobody out in the top of the first. But Inch was able to get Victor Rivas on strikes and made Lander Pedraja ground into an inning ending double play to get out of the jam.
Inch would then get into a groove as he went on to pitch five shutout innings, allowing two hits and four walks, while striking out seven, including striking out the side in the third.
“I never thought going in that it would be a game like that,” says Inch. “It’s fun to be a part of a game like this to start it off, but it’s a tough game to lose.”
After Inch came out of the game, the bullpen took over and put on a wonderful performance keeping this game at zeros.
Ethan Stewart (Campbell River, BC) came in relief of Inch in to start the sixth and he was virtually untouchable. He went four innings, allowing only one hit and a walk with one strikeout.
The only threat to score for the Canadians in the first nine innings came in the sixth when Ryan Clarke (Mississauga, ON) drew a leadoff walk and stole second, but he would be picked off second to end that threat.
As the game went into extras, the Canadians called on Steve McKinnon (Duncan, BC) to keep the game knotted at zero and he did just that. He allowed only one walk in two innings of work while striking out one.
“I’m just real happy with our staff, especially (Joel) Pierce who came in the end, because we’ve been working on some stuff, and it was his first time on the mound since we made those adjustments” says Pitching Coach Chris Begg. “The other guys, Inch, Mckinnon and Stewart, who threw exceptionally well, they put up 13 zeros on the board and made me look like a genius.”
The JNT had their best chance to end the game in the 13th inning when Jimmy Ralph (Raymond, AB), who came in to pinch run for Kevin Biro (Bowser, BC) at second base, who was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a Clarke ground out. With two outs, Andrew Ruck (Whitby, ON) hit a single into left and Ralph was being waved in, but he was tagged out at the plate to keep the game tied.
In the top of the 14th, Guillermo Heredia got a leadoff walk for the Cubans off of Joel Pierce (Windsor, ON) and would eventually advance to third with after the Canadians recorded the first out. With runners on second and third with one out, Pierce uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Heredia to score the only run of the game.
“It was almost fitting the way it ended considering neither team swung the bats really well today,” says JNT Manager Greg Hamilton. “We didn’t give them anything on the mound and anything we did give them we were able to cover.”
“We just need to find a way to put together some hits. We scratching and clawing to get two or three hits right now and it makes it pretty tough to win ball games when you’re putting zeros up on the board all the time.”
The Junior National Team will face off against Cuba again on Sunday, July 5th at 2 PM for game three of the Cuban exhibition series at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana.