STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Great pitching, solid defence and an eight run seventh inning propelled Canada to an impressive 9-1 win over Korea in their opener of the 38th IBAF Baseball World Cup.
It was a tightly battled contest at the start. Nick Bucci (Sarnia, ON) threw five shutout innings for Canada, allowing three hit and four walk with two strikeouts.
“Total team effort,” says Bucci of his first International start at the senior level. “I didn’t have my greatest stuff out there, but I battled for five and was able to give us a chance to win.”
“Bucci did a great job for us and shut them down for five innings,” says Team Canada Manager Ernie Whitt. “Pitching and defence is always the key and we were fortunate to score some runs late.”
Whenever Korea would threaten while Bucci was on the mound, some timely defensive plays would help him get out of them without any damage.
Chris Robinson (Dorchester, ON) was responsible for most of the defensive gems by throwing out two base stealers in the second and fifth innings, and a pick off at second base in the fourth when Korea had runners at first and second with nobody out.
“In international baseball you always need someone to make those big defensive plays,” says Robinson. “I guess tonight was my turn and hopefully tomorrow someone else will make the plays, and in games like this you need to be fundamentally sound.”
Canada got on the board in the bottom of the second when Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC) hit an RBI triple to cash in Robinson, who had reached on an error.
Canada held on to that lead until the top of the seventh when Korea scrambled in a run on a ground out, scoring Yong-Kyu Choi to tie the game 1-1.
But Canada responded by putting the game away in the bottom of the seventh. Tim Smith (Toronto, ON) led off with a single, and after being sacrificed over to second by Robinson, Loewen drove him in with his second hit of the game, an RBI double to put Canada back in front 2-1.
“It was a fun game to play in,” says Loewen, who was 3-for-4 in the game. “Usually Korea plays pretty good against us, so we wanted to jump on them and once we had the lead we wanted to score as many runs as possible to make it easy on our pitchers.”
“It was a well rounded game. We didn’t make any mistakes and that’s what we’ve been trying to do.”
With two outs and Loewen still on second, the flood gates opened. Adam Stern (London, ON) hit an RBI single to bring Loewen. Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) followed with a single and Rene Tosoni (Coquitlam, BC) reached on a walk to load the bases.
Then Shawn Bowman (Port Moody, BC) hit a two-run double, Cole Armstrong (Surrey, BC) pitched in with an RBI single, then Smith, who started the inning, hit a three-run home run to cap off the scoring, giving a big fist pump and high five to first base coach Larry Walker on his way around the bases.
“Anytime you’re playing for your country it means a little bit more,” says Smith of his emotional home run. “Playing with a bunch of great guys and in a fun environment, there is no reason not to get pumped up.”
Jimmy Henderson (Calgary, AB) threw 1 1/3 inning of relief and retired all four batters he faced by strikeout, and Chris Kissock (Trail, BC) pitched a one-two-three ninth inning striking out the side to end the game.
“There’s a little redemption there for us after that tough loss against these guys at the Olympics,” says Robinson of their 1-0 loss at the hand of the Koreans in Beijing. “You know you can talk about all the travelling and hanging out with the guys being good for team moral, but once you get out there and play in the first game that means something is exciting and I’m thinking some really good things about this club right now. I think we have a really good shot.”
Next up for Canada is the Netherlands Antilles on Friday, September 11th at 7 PM local time. Matt Kniginyzky (Oakville, ON) is scheduled to start on the mound for Canada. To follow the 2009 IBAF Baseball World live, click on the following link: http://hosting3.sportingpulse.com/www.2009baseballworldcup.com/index.php?id=10