OKOTOKS – The Junior National Team and the United States were tangled in a back and forth matchup until a couple of key errors allowed the Americans to take the lead for good as the Juniors dropped their final exhibition game by a score of 9-6.
With the game tied 5-5 going into the sixth inning, a pair of errors allowed the Americans to score four runs in the frame and take a 9-5 lead.
The Canadians would get one more run in the seventh inning when Carter Bell (Courtenay, BC) drove in Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) on a sacrifice fly, but that was all they could get.
“We’re going to be real competitive,” says JNT Manager Greg Hamilton. “Offensively, we’re going to put up some runs every night and our pitching will throw strikes and we’re going to make people beat us and we got a chance to go deep into the tournament.”
The Juniors would open the scoring in the first inning when Bell, who went 2-for-3 with four RBI in this game, would hit a two-RBI double to score James Kottaras (Markham, ON) and Lawrie to give the Canadians a 2-0 lead.
The Americans would reduce the lead to one in the second inning when Andrew Aplin hit a sacrifice fly to bring in the first run for the U.S. and make it 2-1 for Canada.
Andrew Ledger (Toronto, ON) was the starter on the mound for the Canadians and held the U.S. to one run on three hits with one strikeout in three innings of work.
In the fourth inning, the Canadians added two more runs to go ahead by three when Marcus Knecht (Toronto, ON) and Michael Crouse (Port Moody, BC) would come in to score and give the Juniors a 4-1 lead.
That lead was short lived as Wes Hatton would hit a bases loaded double for the Americans to drive in all three runners and tie the game 4-4 in the bottom of the fourth.
The Canadians would take the lead again in the fifth when Carter Bell would drive in the third of his four RBI on a single to score Luke Willson (Lasalle, ON) and give the Juniors a 5-4 advantage.
“It was a good team effort by everybody and we competed with them,” says Bell. “If you can compete with the U.S. then you can compete with anybody. We made some costly errors, but we battled in there the entire time and I think we’re just as good as they are.”
But again, the lead was short lived as the Americans put four runs across in the sixth and never looked back.
The Juniors completed their exhibition schedule with a riding high despite the loss and are now looking forward to Edmonton and get down to business. The Juniors will be looking to win the gold on home soil.
“I think we have a really good shot at winning a gold medal,” says Bell. “I’m really happy with how things are going. The entire team is swinging the bat well, our pitching is solid and I’m really happy with the way things are going.”
The Junior National Team will begin its quest for gold on Friday, July 25 against Italy. Game time is at 7:30 pm at Telus Field.