EDMONTON – It did not begin well for the Junior National Team, but they would regroup and score 16 unanswered runs on route to 18-7 win over Puerto Rico at the World Junior Championship.
All nine-hitters got at least one hit in this game. Leading the way was Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) who was a double short of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with six RBI, a triple and an inside the park home run.
“We did a good job of handling pitches and we produced with guys in scoring position,” says Lawrie. “If we can keep producing like that and cash in guys we’re going to be in good shape.”
This game would be called after seven innings due to the 10-run mercy rule which is in effect.
However, the Canadians did not get this win the easy way as Puerto Rico would erase a one run lead in the bottom of the first by scoring six runs and take a 6-1 lead.
Andrew Ledger (Toronto, ON) started on the mound for Canada and would give up five of the six first inning runs, pitching one-third of an inning. Jonathan Gilbert (St-Georges, QC) came in relief of Ledger and would give up the sixth run before settling down and getting the final two outs of the inning.
The Juniors would recover and begin chipping away by scoring two runs in the top of the second inning. Carter Bell (Courtenay, BC) and Luke Willson (Lasalle, ON) began the inning with back-to-back doubles. Carter Morrison (Langley, BC) and James Kottaras (Markham, ON) would cash them in, reducing the Puerto Ricans’ lead to three.
The Canadians opened the flood gates in the fourth inning by scoring six runs and taking a 9-6 lead. Greg Densem (Toronto, ON) drove in the first run of the frame on a double, scoring Morrison. Ivan Hartle (North Vancouver, BC) and Lionel Morrill (Edmonton, AB) would follow up by driving in each a run. Then Morrill and Brett Lawrie would score the go-ahead and what would be the winning run on a triple from Michael Crouse (Port Moody, BC). Crouse would score on a Carter Bell single.
From there Gilbert was on cruise control. He would hold Puerto Rico to one hit over the next five innings. In total, he allowed two hits with five strikeouts in 5.2 innings pitched.
“I just went in and tried to throw strikes and keep us in the game so we could comeback and win,” says Gilbert.
“(Gilbert) was outstanding,” says JNT Manager Greg Hamilton. “You had to have that. We were in a situation where we couldn’t wait any longer. Not only did he keep us in the game and give our offence the chance to take over, but he helped us save some arms we’ll need moving forward.”
The Canadians would answer their six run fourth inning with a five run fifth, highlighted by a triple from Lawrie to score three runs.
Canada would keep the pedal to the metal in the sixth by adding another four runs featuring a two-run inside the park home run from Lawrie where the center fielder lost the ball, allowing the Brewers draft pick to go around the bases.
“I knew I hit it hard,” says Lawrie. “It was one of those things where I knew he had lost it, so I just took off and kept running hard.”
“It’s been a long time,” adds Lawrie of his inside the parker. “I can’t really remember the last time I hit one.”
With the game well in hand, the Canadians turned to Mike Monster (Kelowna, BC) in the seventh to close things out. The Puerto Ricans would add an unearned run but that would be it as Monster would strikeout the Puerto Rican hitter for the final out of the game.
Next up for the Junior National Team is a date with the Czech Republic. Game time is Wednesday at 3:00 pm in St. Albert.