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JNT falls short in Cuban series opener

SAN JOSE DE LAS LAJAS, Cuba – The Cuban Junior National Team got off to a good start and the Canadian Junior National Team surged back, but it would not be enough as Canada drops the opening game of this exhibition series with Cuba by a score of 4-3.

Cuba jumped on a pair of JNT miscues to open a four run lead in the bottom of the first. Yandy Diaz, who reached on a walk, scored on a wild pitch from Canadian starter Jake Eliopoulos (Newmarket, ON). Luis Y Lao came in to score on a Jimmy Ralph (Raymond, AB) error later in the inning to make it 2-0. Then Angel Garcia, who reached on the Ralph error, and Daniel Carbonnell, who walked, both came in to score on an error by Wes Darvill (Langley, BC) to give the Cubans a 4-0 lead.

That would spell the end for Eliopoulos as he lasted one inning, allowing four runs, one earned, on one hit and four walks.

In relief came Brian Bardis (St. Constant, QC) and he was held the fort for the Canadians as he would go 5-1/3 strong innings of shutout baseball, allowing six hits and two walks in that stretch, while also striking out a pair.

“I was able to throw strikes today, let them hit the ball and the defence behind me did a good job to help us stay in it,” says Bardis.

“He did a great job, and again this why we do what we do,” says JNT Manager Greg Hamilton. “When he pitched against the U.S. I think he gave them a little too much credit, but he took what he learned from that and applied it today by going after hitters and letting them beat him.”

Bardis’ performance allowed the JNT to come up with a big inning of their own in the top of the sixth. Ryan Clarke (Mississauga, ON) got it started with a one out walk. After stealing second, Darren Kolk (Duncan, BC) drove him in with a RBI single to bring in the first Canadian run. Kolk would also steal second and advanced to third after Garcia threw the ball away to first on a Daniel Altoe (Burnaby, BC) ground ball, allowing Altoe to also move up to second.

Then, Kellin Deglan (Langley, BC) drove in Kolk with an RBI single to make it 4-2 and Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, BC) hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Altoe and cut the lead to one.

“Once we got that guy on second all we needed was one hit to start us off and I happen to get that hit, and then we got two runs in after that so it was good to spark the team and get some hits in,” says Kolk. 

But that would be as close as they would get as the Canadians were able to put a runner on with less than two outs in both the seventh and eighth innings, but both times they were left stranded.

“Once we got things going it was a much closer game,” says Kolk. “We battled them the rest of the way, but we just couldn’t get that extra hit that we needed.”

“We gave them that first inning, but I’m glad we were able to battle back and not make the game go sideways,” added Hamilton. 

The next time the Junior National Team will take the field will be Saturday, July 4th at 2 PM as they once again will take on Cuba at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana.