TORONTO – No one saw this coming. In a must win situation, Team Canada came up short as Team Italy stunned Team Canada and eliminated the Canadians on home turf after only two games with a shocking 6-2 win at the World Baseball Classic.
Chris Denforia led the way for Team Italy with a 4-for-4 night, including a WBC single-game tying record with three doubles, while Jason Grilli pitched three and one-third innings of one hit baseball to close things out for the Italians.
It was not a good start for Team Canada as Vince Perkins (Victoria, BC) would give up a run in each of the two innings he pitched. He would also allow a double in the third before being relieved by T.J. Burton (Ottawa, ON).
All told, Perkins allowed three runs, two of which were earned, three hits, four walks and two strikeouts in his two plus innings of work. It could have been much worse as the Italians left five runners on in the first two frames and when it was all said and done, it was 3-0 for Italy after three complete.
“You know, it was tough. It was tough,” says Perkins. “Obviously some nerves played into it. That's not the way I've been throwing lately, and I was fighting myself a little bit to throw strikes.”
“I should have been able to do a little better than that.”
After Team Italy added another run in the top of the fourth to make it 4-0, Canada responded with three straight doubles by Joey Votto (Toronto, ON), Justin Morneau (New Westminster, BC) and Jason Bay (Trail, BC) in the bottom half, with Bay’s bringing around both Votto and Morneau and cutting the lead in half to 4-2.
The Italians however would get those runs back in the seventh inning. Chris Denforia led off the inning with one of his three doubles. He would move over to third on a sacrifice fly and then score on a Alex Liddi single. Then with runners on the corners and two outs, Nick Punto hit a soft grounder to short but Andrea De Santis beat out the throw to second, allowing Liddi to score from third and give the Italians back a four run lead.
The Canadians had their opportunities offensively, but were unable to cash in as they would leave a total of 11 runners stranded in the game.
“I think this is one of the toughest losses that I've been associated with, with Team Canada,” says Team Canada Manager Ernie Whitt. “In retrospect, you have to tip your hat to team Italy. They shut down a very powerful offensive team. And, you know, we definitely expected to score more than two runs.”
“We came in expecting to win this game. You know, on paper we're supposed to win it. But you don't play the game on paper,” says Justin Morneau. “They came out and they made some great plays, defensively. They hit the ball all over the place. They did a good job of taking advantage of the mistake at the beginning of game.”
“That was a game, especially being here in Toronto, that, -- something with the hometown and kind of the whole nature of this tournament, and coming here and, you know, I think that we thought we had a legitimate shot to move on. And to kind of have that ended abruptly, you know, I think it's kind of a grim reality,” says Jason Bay.
Team Canada will now be making their way back to their respective clubs. The next time the Senior National Team will get together will be for the XXXVIII IBAF World Cup which begins on September 9th in Europe.