PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida – Connor Panas (Etobicoke, ON) knocked a pair of runs and Michael Crouse (Port Moody, BC) homered to lead Canada to a thrilling 6-5 win over Cuba at the WBSC Baseball Americas Olympic Qualifier.
The win improves Canada’s Opening Round record to 2-0 setting up a showdown for first place in Group B with unbeaten Venezuela (2-0) on Wednesday (1PM ET).
Up by three runs in the bottom of the ninth, Cuba scored twice to come within one run of the lead and brought the winning run to the plate before John Axford (Port Dover, ON) struck out Lisbon Correa to quiet the pro-Cuban crowd and end a game that was delayed nearly two hours from the scheduled start time due to rain that hit moments before the opening pitch.
“It’s a great rivalry (with Cuba), something that has built over the years and it was a another great game tonight,” said Manager Ernie Whitt. “Cuba always battles you but so do our players and we were fortunate to come out on top tonight.”
When the game finally began, Canada came out swinging starting with Eric Wood (Oshawa, ON) who doubled to the wall in left field to bring in the first run of the game in the first inning before Connor Panas (Etobicoke, ON) and Kellin Deglan (Langley, BC) delivered RBI singles.
Cuba starting pitcher Juan Carlos Viera didn’t last the inning as Canada built a three-run lead after one.
“We’ve competed in games like this before together and I think that really helped us tonight,” said Wood. “The fact that everyone’s pulling on the same side of the rope and pulling for each other is big.”
Reliever Yariel Rodriguez held Canada off the scoreboard for two innings before Panas picked up his second hit and RBI of the game with a two-out single to centre in the fourth that scored Tyson Gillies (Vancouver, BC) from second base to put Canada up by four.
On the mound, Ryan Kellogg (Whitby, ON) worked three and two-thirds innings and registered two strikeouts before giving way to Dustin Molleken (Regina, SK) in the fourth who got a ground out with Cuba threatening.
Cuba got on the scoreboard in the fifth when Roel Santos led off with a double and eventually came around to score before Molleken retired Cuba in order in the sixth.
Michael Crouse then homered with two down in the seventh to regain Canada’s four-run lead.
It didn’t last however as Cuba refused to go down quietly adding two runs in the seventh after an error and two hits with Evan Rutckyj (Windsor, ON) on the mound.
With the score 5-3, and incentive to add a much needed insurance run, JD Osborne (Whitby, ON) worked a leadoff walk in the eighth and came around to score when Jacob Robson (Windsor, ON) legged out an infield single with two out in the inning.
Scott Mathieson (Aldergove, BC) fanned two batters in a perfect eighth inning of work before giving way to Axford with two out in the ninth.
Canada will be back in West Palm Bach tomorrow to face Venezuela at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches with the first pitch set for 1PM ET.
“It’s going to be a quick turnaround for our team,” added Whitt. “We want to crossover (into the Super Round) 1-0 so we’ll have to pull out all the strings and do whatever it takes to win.”
The game can be seen on the CBC Sports streaming platform in Canada and ESPN + in the United States.
WBSC Baseball Americas Olympic Qualifier website
Follow Team Canada on Social: