St. Petersburg, Florida- The Junior National Team, in their first action since October, faced a stiff challenge in the Seoul Nexen Heroes, a professional club from Korea. The JNT was able to keep the game close through 6 innings but eventually were blanked 8-0.
“I thought overall it was a good first outing,” said JNT Head Coach Greg Hamilton (Ottawa, ON). “Considering we were playing a professional team that is almost a month ahead of us, I thought we pitched and played defence well and battled at the plate.”
Kyle Hann (Oakville, ON) and Jerrod Bartnik (Surrey, BC) led off the top of the 1st inning with opposite field singles, and the Canadians looked poised to shake off any rust that the winter may have caused. However, both runners were quickly left stranded as the next three batters were retired in order.
Veteran JNT pitcher Tom Robson (Ladner, BC) got the start and looked in mid-season form as he held the Heroes scoreless through two innings.
“Tom’s a premium talent who was hitting 91-92 mph all day,” explained Hamilton. “He was real good for us last year and showed that he has real good touch and feel today.”
Robson was relieved on the mound by Skylar Janisse (Maidstone, ON) who picked-up right where Robson left off by tossing scoreless 3rd and 4th innings while also recording a strikeout.
“Skylar is a big kid with a real good arm,” added Hamilton. “He was able to throw strikes and stay ahead of hitter’s today.”
The JNT bats were cooled for the most part by Brandon Knight who started for the Heroes. Knight spent parts of three seasons in the big-league’s before heading to Asia.
The Heroes opened the scoring in the 5th inning off Jake Hansen (Fort Macleod, AB) who was making his debut in a Canadian uniform. Hansen gave up a bloop single to left field followed by a double off the wall to put the Heroes on the board 1-0.
After the Heroes scored another run in the 6th, the JNT showed their rust by committing 2 errors combined with a wild pitches and passed ball which allowed the Heroes to tack on four runs to increase the lead to 6-0 in the 7th inning.
Roberto Suppa (Palgrave, ON), who started the frame, was relieved by Nicholas Pivetta (Victoria, BC).
The 8th inning saw an error combined with a double off the wall to give the Heroes two more runs and a commanding eight run lead that would seal the fate of the JNT.
“It’s all about progression,” said Hamilton after the game. “I use that word (progression) often; progression is where the players start to become the players they need to be in order to be successful.”
Notes: The JNT will get right back at it on February 27th when they take on Beach State Independent (a club made up of former college and pro players) at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg with the first pitch scheduled for 1pm ET…Ethan Elias (Entwistle, AB) is expected to start…Fans can get live updates by following Baseball Canada on twitter (www.twitter.com/baseballcanada )...Attendance for the game was almost 1,000 people…Former MLB star Gary Sheffield paid the JNT a visit during the game and spent a couple of innings chatting with players and coaches in the dugout…Sheffield is a native of nearby Tampa Bay…The JNT were wearing their brand new uniforms designed by Under Armour…JNT Coach and National Team Alumni, Hyung Cho’s (Mississauga, ON) parents were born in Korea…Heroes OF Cory Aldridge also spent time in the big-league’s…Fans in the St. Petersburg area can purchase tickets by visiting: http://www.stpeteinternationalbaseball.com/tickets.htm , including the March 4th game against the Toronto Blue Jays.