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Juniors win thriller over Venezuela to stay unbeaten

Cartagena, Colombia-It wasn’t pretty, but the Junior National Team clinched first place in Group A with an emotional 4-3 win over previously unbeaten Venezuela. The Juniors will play Guatemala on Thursday before round two action begins on Friday at the Americas World Junior Qualification Tournament.

“There were some ups and downs today, but we battled hard and stayed together as a team,” said Head Coach Greg Hamilton. “It wasn’t easy, but we came through and won the game.”

Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Jacob Robson (Windsor, ON) belted a double to centerfield that scored Gareth Morgan (Toronto, ON). Kyle Hann (Oakville, ON) advanced to third on the play and easily tagged and scored when Brett Siddall (Windsor, ON) hit a towering fly-ball to right field.

Skylar Janisse (Maidstone, ON) started for the JNT and was effective through three innings before getting into trouble in the fourth. With a runner on third base, Janisse unleashed a wild-pitch which scored Venezuela’s first run. After a walk, Janisse was removed from the game and Adam Anderson (Georgetown, ON) came on and walked the first batter he faced before fanning the final out of the inning.

The Juniors would jump ahead 4-1 in the fourth thanks to five walks given up by Venezuela that saw Robson score on a wild-pitch and Justin Marra (Toronto, ON) walk with the bases loaded to bring in Siddall.

Robson was effective in the lead-off spot for the JNT as he went 2-for-3 with two walks, an RBI, a stolen base and a run scored.

“When you have a guy at the top of the order that can run and be a catalyst, that’s key,” explained Hamilton. “He did a super job today and he’s starting to realize the dimension he has and what he can do as a player.”

Venezuela worked their way back into the game with two runs in the fifth that saw an error, a hit batter, walk and wild-pitch lead to the runs being scored.

Anderson was relieved by Jesen Dygestile-Therrien (Montréal, QC) in the fifth who lasted until the seventh when Dayton Dawe (London, ON) came out of the bullpen.

Dawe threw two scoreless innings and his defence came up with two double plays with the Venezuelans threatening.

“We made pitches when we needed to make pitches and we made some plays on defence when we needed them,” added Hamilton. “We were sloppy at times, but I was happy with the way we got out of some situations today.”

Dawe struck out the first batter he faced in the ninth before Jake Hansen (Fort Macleod, AB) came on and got two ground ball outs to end the game.

With the first place finish in Group A, the Juniors will carry a 2-0 record into round two (wins over Venezuela and Panama carry on to round two) where they will play the top three teams in Group B.

Canada will conclude round one with a game against Guatemala tomorrow that will see Clayton Isherwood (Van Anda, BC) start on the mound.

“We want to come out tomorrow and play a solid baseball game,” said Hamilton. “We’ll get some other guys in the line-up and the key will be to not use too much pitching.”

Notes: Click on the link below for up-to-date scores, schedule and standings… Tomorrow’s game against Guatemala will be streamed LIVE on the internet: , click on ‘Beisbol 2011’ …As always, for the latest information and LIVE in-game updates, be sure to follow Baseball Canada on Twitter: ... The top four teams at the end of the tournament will qualify for the 2012 World Junior Baseball Championship in Seoul, South Korea.

Schedule, scores & standings