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Canada reaches semis with win over Venezuela

Lagos de Moreno, Mexico-Canada earned a trip to the semi-finals at the Pan Am Games after a 4-1 win against Venezuela. The win clinches second place in Group B and Canada will now face the winner of tonight’s Group A match-up between USA and Mexico.

Canada received a solid effort on the mound from starter Kyle Lotzkar (Delta, BC) who threw 4 2/3 shutout innings that included six strikeouts.

“Kyle did a great job,” said Canadian Manager, Ernie Whitt. “He threw strikes and gave us a chance to win.”

Lotzkar also benefitted from some great defence as he got into trouble in the bottom of third after loading the bases with only one out. He managed to get out of the inning with a fine 5-4-3 double play that gave his club some life.

Canada opened the scoring in the top of the fourth inning when Jamie Romak (London, ON) walked with the bases loaded. Jimmy Van Ostrand (Richmond, BC), Canada’s leading hitter in the tournament, and Shawn Bowman (Port Moody, BC) had led the inning off with back-to-back singles, while Brock Kjeldgaard (London, ON) was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Lotzkar was removed from the game with two out in the bottom of the fifth after walking his first batter of the game.

“I told Kyle that if it was a regular season game I would have kept him in,” said Whitt. “Our bullpen has been solid and it was a must-win game so I made the change.”

Dustin Molleken (Regina, SK) entered the game and struck out the final batter of the inning.

Canada increased their lead to 3-0 with a two run fifth. Both runs scored when Bowman dropped a single into centerfield with the bases loaded.

After Tim Smith’s (Toronto, ON) RBI single in the sixth gave Canada a 4-0 lead, Molleken got out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the inning to keep the lead intact.

Chris Kissock (Trail, BC) came on for the seventh and eighth frames and only allowed one hit, while striking out two batters.

“Venezuela is a good hitting ball club,” continued Whitt. “Our pitchers did a great job keeping them off balance all game.”

Venezuela did manage one run in the bottom of the ninth off closer Jimmy Henderson (Calgary, AB), but Canada’s third double play of the game ended any hopes of a Venezuelan comeback.

“This was a huge game for us and now we’re two wins away from a gold medal,” added Whitt. “We’re taking it one game at a time, but this was a big win.”

Canada will benefit from an off-day on Sunday before facing either Mexico or USA in one of two semi-final games on Monday.

“The off-day will be good for us,” noted Whitt. “We’re not sure who will start (on the mound) for us, but everyone will be available.”

Notes: The start time for Monday’s semi-final is to be determined and will be announced on once the information becomes available…The Official Pan American Games website is providing updated box scores of each game every half inning. Please click HERE to visit their website…You can also follow all of the action from all of Canada’s games with REAL TIME updates by following Baseball Canada on Twitter (