EDMONTON – The Junior National Team had Cuba on the ropes the entire game, but they could not hold on as a wild pitch and an error allowed two runs to score in the eighth inning and give the Cubans a 4-3 win over the Canadians.
With Canada ahead by a score of 3-2 in the top of the eighth, Cuba had men on second and third with one out when Evan Grills (Whitby, ON) uncorked a wild pitch, accompanied by an error would allowed both runners to score and give Cuba the 4-3 lead.
That wild pitch would be the only kink in Grills’ armour on this day as the 16-year-old left-hander threw eight solid innings, allowing the four runs, two of which were earned, on eight hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
“I wanted to be on the mound for this game,” says Grills. “After facing them last year (in Mexico) I wanted a second chance. I thought I pitched well today and the defense played well behind me. We just didn’t come out on top.”
After the Cubans took the lead, the Canadians would threaten in the bottom half of the inning with runners on first and second with two outs, but the Cubans got Ivan Hartle (North Vancouver, BC) to ground into a force out to end the frame.
Brandon Petite (Glace Bay, NS) pitched the ninth inning and kept the Cubans at bay with some help from his defense as Michael Crouse (Port Moody, BC) and Lionel Morrill (Edmonton, AB) both made spectacular catches in the outfield. Crouse made a diving grab in center for the second out, while Morrill made a leaping catch at the wall in left for the third out.
Unfortunately, there were no comebacks like the night before as the Canadians could not get anything started in the ninth and they would go down in order to end the game.
“It was a good ball game by both teams,” says JNT Manager Greg Hamilton. “Neither team gave in and the difference between these two teams is very small.”
“I think we showed that we can beat them,” adds Grills. “One play was the difference in the end.”
The game started with the Cubans getting on the board first in the top of the first inning on a RBI single to make it 1-0.
Canada responded in the bottom of the second by scoring a pair of runs to take a 2-1 lead. Carter Morrison (Langley, BC) scored on a wild pitch and Marcus Knecht (Toronto, ON) crossed home plate on a throwing error.
Cuba would tie it up in the third with another RBI single, but Canada regained the lead in the fifth on a RBI triple from Morrison.
Canada had their chances to put the game away, but ended up leaving ten runners stranded.
The Junior National Team will enjoy a day off on Monday and will return to action on Tuesday, July 29th at 7:05 pm against Puerto Rico at Telus Field.