BEIJING – Canada got their quest for gold started on the right foot as they took care of business both offensively and on the mound with a convincing 10-0, eight inning mercy win over China in their opener at the 2008 Olympic Summer Games.
There was a bit of a feeling out period for both teams to start, but Canada got things going offensively in the fourth inning on a three-run bomb from Scott Thorman (Cambridge, ON) to put Canada ahead 3-0.
“It was a situation where we were trying to be aggressive,” says Thorman about his home run. “I got a first pitch fastball. I was looking for something I could handle; got a pitch to hit and I hit it. It was great to draw first blood.”
That was more than enough for Canadian starter Chris Begg (Uxbridge, ON), who went into cruise control after being given the lead. Begg would throw six and two thirds innings of shutout baseball, allowing only six hits while striking out nine Chinese hitters.
“This is what I wanted to do and we needed a good performance on the mound,” says Begg. “My goal was to go out and let our bats come around and take over and then just try to keep putting up zeros on the board.”
Canada would keep the pedal to the metal offensively, adding a pair of runs in the fifth inning. The first run came in on a wild pitch that allowed Emmanuel Garcia (Montreal, QC) to score from third. The second run was on a bases loaded walk to Nick Weglarz (Stevensville, ON) to cash in Adam Stern (London, ON) and put Canada ahead 5-0.
The lead would increase to six in the seventh inning on a two-out RBI single from Jimmy VanOstrand (Richmond, BC) to bring in Thorman, however VanOstrand was caught trying to stretch his single to a double to end the inning.
But Canada would put this game away in the eighth, scoring four times in the frame. Two runs came in on Stern’s triple. He would later score on a Stubby Clapp (Windsor, ON) sacrifice fly, then Mike Saunders (Victoria, BC) would hit his first homer of the Olympics, putting Canada ahead by ten.
The Canadians would get themselves in a little trouble in the bottom of the eighth when China put runners on second and third with nobody out, but Rheal Cormier (Moncton, NB) would strikeout the next three batters to preserve the shutout and the mercy win.
“Begg did a wonderful job for us keeping their hitters off balance and that’s why we wanted him out there for our first one,” says Olympic team Manager Terry Puhl. “Thorman got a big hit to get us started and he is going to be a big piece for us offensively going forward.”
Canada’s next matchup at the 2008 Summer Olympics will be the powerhouse from Cuba. The last time the Canadians faced the Cuban in Olympic competition, it was in that heartbreaking 8-5 loss in the semi-finals of the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
“We’re looking forward (to play Cuba),” says Thorman. “We’re looking to get a big start and come out hitting the ball. Scoring 10 runs in the first game is a great confidence boost for us. We know what we’re capable of and we’re going to play nine hard innings and see what happens.”
“They’re beatable! Everybody makes them out to be such a great team and I’m not in that camp” proclaims Puhl about the Cubans. “If we play well and we pitch well, we can beat them. But it is going to be a dog fight.”
Canada takes on Cuba on Thursday, August 14th at 6:00pm local time in Beijing. Game time in Canada is Thursday at 6:00 am Eastern time.