EDMONTON – In what was predicted to be an even matchup, the fans in the stands got to see exactly that. However the Junior National Team would get the short end of the stick and fell just short as Australia would get an upset victory over Canada by a score of 2-1 in the quarter-final of the World Junior Championship.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Canadians rallied to load the bases, beginning with Michael Crouse (Port Moody, BC) reaching on an error. Follow that up with a single from Carter Bell (Courtenay, BC) and a walk to Carter Morrison (Langley, BC) and that would bring Luke Willson (Lasalle, ON) to the plate with a chance to win it for Canada.
With the count one ball and two strikes on Willson, the pitch from Aussie reliever Jarryd Sullivan seemed to have struck Willson in the shin, which would have brought in the tying run. However the home plate umpire disagreed and Willson would eventually strikeout swinging to end the ballgame.
“I told the umpire that the ball hit me, but he said it didn’t,” says Willson. “There not much else you can do after that. I just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be called out on a questionable call and I ended up swinging over a pitch that dropped down.”
It was a tight battle throughout as both starting pitchers would go deep into the game give very little.
Stosh Wawrzasek (Langley, BC) got the start on the mound for Canada and went six and a third strong innings, allowing two runs on six hits, one walk and four strikeouts.
It was a similar line for Aussie starter Justin Erasmus as he would go seven innings, allowing one run on two hits and two walks with five strikeouts.
Australia opened the scoring in the fourth inning, scoring a pair on a single and a sacrifice fly to take the lead 2-0.
Canada responded in the sixth inning when James Kottaras (Markham, ON) came in to score on the sacrifice fly from Lionel Morrill (Edmonton, AB) to cut the lead in half. Unfortunately, that is as close as the Juniors would get.
“They played a good game against us,” says Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC). “We lost as a team today, there’s no doubt about it. It was their game today and there’s no tomorrow in this tournament, so we just have to keep our heads up high and go after it again tomorrow.”
“Sometimes in life you play for pride and that’s what we have to do,” says JNT Manager Greg Hamilton. “We came in here trying to win a medal and we thought we had a legitimate team to do it. We still do, but sometime it doesn’t go your way in a 2-1 game and now we have to go out and finish as high as we can and maintain the respect and pride we have in our program.”
The Junior National Team will begin their quest to finish in the fifth spot starting on Saturday, August 2 against Puerto Rico. Game time is at 7:00 pm at John Fry Park.