TAICHUNG, Taiwan – Canada accomplished its mission in Taiwan and qualified for the Beijing Olympic Games with a 4-3 win over Korea at the Final Olympic Qualifier.
Canada came in the ninth inning with a 4-1 lead, but Korea gave the Canadians a little scare as they would score two runs on a ground out by Kab Yong Jin and a single by Joo Chan Kim to shrink the Canadian lead to one.
But with two outs in the inning and a runner on first, Mike Kusiewicz (Ottawa, ON) got In Sung Cho to hit a comebacker to the mound and Kusiewicz threw over to first baseman Jimmy VanOstrand (Richmond, BC) for the final out and the beginning of the celebration.
“This is what we’ve been pointing to for a year and a half now,” says Manager Terry Puhl. “I’ve never been in this type of baseball atmosphere. It’s very exciting.”
Korea got the first point on the board in the top of the first inning with a pair of doubles to start the game from Yong Kyu Lee and Jong Wook Lee to give the Koreans a 1-0 lead.
But the Canadians would respond quickly in the bottom of the first on Matt Rogelstad’s (New Westminster, BC) three-run homer to put Canada ahead 3-1.
From there, James Avery (Moose Jaw, SK) shut the door on the Korean lineup. He would throw four innings, allowing one run on four hits with four strikeouts.
“That was a big game for us. We wanted to take care of business today and not leave it until tomorrow,” says Avery. “We wanted to show that we’re not just here to beat the teams that we’re supposed to beat, but that we can beat the best teams.”
“I’m speechless. I don’t even know what to say. Being a part of something with 30 guys is pretty special. I’ve never been in a pile like that before. I can barely think.”
In the fourth inning, Canada added to one run to their lead on the third home run of the tourney and third in many days from Nick Weglarz (Stevensville, ON), which turned out to be the winning run.
“I guess I’m just seeing the ball well,” says Weglarz of his home run and was 2-for-3 in the game. “(Rob Ducey) told me just pretend like your swinging in your back yard. That way you don’t over think, you’re just swinging.”
“I don’t think there are words to describe how I fell right now. It’s a dream come true,” adds Weglarz of going to the Olympics.
The pitchers would then use their experience to continue to shut down the Koreans. Scott Richmond (Langley, BC) would throw four shutout innings, giving up only a pair of hits with three strikeouts in relief of Avery.
“I just wanted to make sure to follow in Avery’s footsteps and pound the zone,” says Richmond. “We just wanted to make sure we made them uncomfortable. They’ve been pretty comfortable this whole tournament and we wanted to make sure we would reverse the roles.”
T.J. Burton (Ottawa, ON) and Kusiewicz would then finish off the Koreans in the ninth for the win and a trip to Beijing.
“We had good pitching when we needed good pitching. The bullpen was outstanding and I can’t say enough about our hitters and how they took care of the left handed pitching we faced,” says Puhl.
Before Canada can prepare for their trip to the Olympics, They have one final game against Germany on Friday, March 14th at 4:30 pm.