BEIJING – In what was a back and forth battle, Canada fell just short of a big upset in the 2008 Olympic Summer Games, dropping their second game of the tournament to Cuba by a score of 7-6.
The start of this game was delayed by one hour and 30 minutes due to rain, but that did not slow down either one of these teams in this matchup.
Cuba opened the scoring in the second inning scoring three runs in the frame against Canadian starter Brooks McNiven (Vernon, BC). Ariel Pestano got things strated with a sacrifice fly to score Cuba’s first run, followed by an RBI double from Eduardo Paret to put the Cubans ahead by two. Paret would then score on an error to give cuba a 3-0.
Canada would cut into that lead right away in the top of the third inning on a two-run home run from Mike Saunders (Victoria, BC), his second homer of the Olympics, to get the Canadians within one.
Canada would waste no time to come all the way back as Nick Weglarz (Stevensville, ON) hit a towering home run off the top of one of the flag poles in straight away centerfield to lead off the fourth inning and tie this game up 3-3.
“It was a big momentum swing for us,” says Weglarz. “We played hard and we were able to get back into the game.”
Weglarz would be at it again in the top of the sixth inning. With Scott Thorman on base after reaching on an error, Weglarz would go deep for the second time in the game, this time giving his team a 5-3 lead.
“I was trying to move the runner over and I put a good swing on the ball and it went out,” says Weglarz, who was 4-for-4 with the two homers, three RBI and three runs scored against Cuba.
That lead however would be short lived as a pair of two-run home runs, one from Alexander Malleta and the other from Alfredo Despaigne put Cuba ahead for the second time in the game, this time by a score of 7-5.
“That was obviously a huge momentum swing for them,” says Olympic team Manager Terry Puhl. “But with this team you’re never out of it, especially a two-run defecit because we can turn things around with one swing of the bat. But this is something we will be working through.”
Canada would not go down without a fight. Weglarz would come in to score after reaching on his fourth hit of the game, scoring on Brett Lawrie’s (Langley, BC) fielder’s choice to make it 7-6. But that would be as close as they would get as the Cubans would retire the Canadians in order in the top of the ninth to hold on for the win.
“We played a heck of a game,” says Puhl. “Now we got to come back with the same intensity tomorrow. In a way this was a missed opportunity, but I’d rather have a missed opportunity early in the tournament than late.”
Next up for Canada is another tough opponent in Korea, who has already surprised some people with an upset win over the United States to open their Olympic tournament, however, Puhl is ever confident in his team.
“We’ve got a big job ahead of us, but I think we’ll come out with the same intensity as we did tonight and get the same quality at-bats as we did and if we do that we can handle them.”
Canada will take on Korea on Friday, August 15th at 6:00 pm local time in Beijing. For those watching in Canada, game time will be at 6:00 am on Friday.