TAICHUNG, Taiwan – In what can only be described as perhaps the wildest and perhaps biggest win in Baseball Canada history, Canada fought off a hostile crowd and a one run deficit in the top of the ninth to overcome Chinese Taipei 6-5 in ten innings at the Final Olympic Qualifier.
In what was already a heated contest with both benches clearing in the eighth inning, Canada had their backs against the wall with two out in the top of the ninth inning trailing 5-4. Then, Stubby Clapp (Windsor, ON) legged out an infield single, diving head first to the bag to beat the throw and keep the Canadians alive.
Mike Saunders (Victoria, BC) followed that up with a single to right that allowed Clapp to score and tie the game for the Canadians.
From there, Steve Green (Greenfield Park, QC) silenced the Chinese Taipei offence with a one-two-three bottom ninth, with two strikeouts, to put the game into extras.
In the tenth inning, Matt Rogelstad (New Westminster, BC) led off with a single to bring up Jimmy VanOstrand (Richmond, BC). VanOstrand would hit a double which brought around Rogelstad with the go-ahead run to the elation of the Canadian dugout.
Chinese Taipei however would not go down without a fight as they would have runners on first and second with one out in the bottom of the tenth. But Mike Kusiewicz (Ottawa, ON) got Yi Chuan Lin to ground into the game ending double play and put Canada at a 3-1 record at the tournament.
“I can’t even talk right now. Incredible the way... I mean, after what happened with that brawl the guys came out, showed alot of heart. Obviously we didn’t give up,” says Kusiewicz who got the final two outs of the game. “This is the most incredible game I’ve ever seen or been a part of. I’m just happy to be here.”
“I can’t describe it. This is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life on the baseball field,” says VanOstrand, who was 3-for-5 along with driving in the winning run.
“I was told by Terry (Puhl) that if (Rogelstad) got on that we would put on a hit and run. The count came into my favour and we put it on and... Everything happened right,” says VanOstrand of his tenth inning hit.
“Oh my God! This win ranks pretty high up there. I mean our program was on the line tonight,” says Clapp, who was 2-for-5 and scored twice, including the tying run. “If we lose that game, it would have been tough to come back and qualify. The way the guys prevailed after all the incidents... They kept their focus and I can’t say enough at how well they settled down and played the game. My hat’s off to them.”
The game would see three lead changes as Chinese Taipei opened the scoring with a pair of runs in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead.
Canada would respond in the third a pair of their own after Saunders drove in Emmanuel Garcia (Montreal, QC) with a single and Ryan Radmanovich (Calgary, AB) with a RBI single to score Adam Stern (London, ON) to tie the game, 2-2.
Canada would take the lead in the fifth when Radmanovich would drive in his second run of the game on a fielders’ choice to score Clapp. Saunders broke up a double play to allow Canada to take the lead on the play.
They would add to their lead in the sixth on a solo home run from Nick Weglarz (Stevensville, ON) to make it 4-2 Canada.
But Chinese Taipei would quickly turn things around in the bottom half of the sixth when Kuo-Hui Lo hit a three-run homer to give Taipei the lead 5-4.
Then fireworks would erupt in the eighth inning when Canada was threatening to tie. Pinch-hitter Emerson Frostad (Calgary, AB) hit a two-out single with VanOstrand trying to score from second. The throw from the outfield beat VanOstrand as he would try to run over the catcher Chun-Chang Yeh. However, Yeh held on to the ball for the out and flipped the ball directly at VanOstrand.
VanOstrand turned around to confront Yeh, which cleared the benches of both teams. From there, fans began throwing debris on the field at the Canadians, which forced the Taiwanese police to intervene. After a delay of several minutes to make sure the situation was under control with the fans, Canada would generate perhaps one of the most exciting comebacks in Baseball Canada history.
“This will go down as one of the greatest games I have ever been involved in with Team Canada,” says Manager Terry Puhl. “There are so many heroes on this team tonight, just one after another you can name them.”
Canada has an off day on Tuesday and will return to action on Wednesday, March 12 at 12:30 pm against Spain.