THUNDER BAY – The Junior National Team open its pre-world Canadian tour with a sweep of the Thunder Bay Selects and Chinese Taipei with a 6-2 win in game one and a 8-4 win in game two.
Game one saw Lionel Morrill (Edmonton, AB) hit a walk off grand slam to give the Canadians the win over the Thunder Bay Selects.
The scheduled seven inning game went into extras tied 2-2. In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Juniors loaded the bases on two singles, a fielder’s choice and an intentional walk bringing Morrill to the plate. He would promptly deposit the ball over the left-center field fence to the jubilation of the Canadian dugout.
“It was the first time I had ever done that and I’m at a loss for words,” says Morrill. “It was pretty cool.”
The Canadians opened the scoring in the first inning when Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) went deep in straight away center field to give Canada the 1-0 lead.
The Thunder Bay Selects would respond in the third and fourth innings, scoring one run in each frame to jump ahead 2-1.
The Juniors would tie it up in the bottom half of the fourth when Luke Willson (Lasalle, ON) doubled in Lawrie, who reached on an error, to make it 2-2.
Some solid pitching on both sides would keep the game knotted at two until Morrill’s heroics in the bottom of the eighth.
Danny Britton-Foster (Ladysmith, BC) started on the mound for the Canadians and went three strong innings, allowing one run on three hits and one walk with two strikeouts.
Benson Merritt (Smithville, ON) followed with two innings of no-hit ball, allowing one run thru a walk and a sacrifice fly. He would walk a pair and strikeout three.
Brandon Petite (Glace Bay, NS) closed things out for Canada throwing three no-hit innings, allowing only two walks in his outing.
In game two, Chinese Taipei got on the board first in the opening frame with a sacrifice fly to put them ahead 1-0.
Canada responded in the third inning when Michael Crouse (Port Moody, BC) came in to score on a ground out.
Then the Juniors broke it open in the fourth inning starting with a lead-off solo home run from Carter Bell (Courtenay, BC) to put Canada ahead 2-1. They would add three more runs in the inning after four consecutive singles, finished off by Ivan Hartle’s (North Vancouver, BC) two-run hit.
In the fifth inning, Lawrie would hit his second homer of the day to lead off the frame and put Canada ahead 6-1.
“Today was a plus day,” says Lawrie. “We swung the bats real well. We picked it up against Chinese Taipei. We weren’t trying to do too much and it was a real good day.”
Chinese Taipei made it interesting in the eighth inning when they would score a pair on Yu-Hsiang Chen’s double, however he would be gunned down at third trying to stretch his hit to a triple for the final out of the inning.
The Canadians would get those runs back in the bottom half of the frame, highlighted by the RBI triple by Morrill who slammed the brakes at third after thinking of a possible inside the park home run.
In the top of the ninth inning and the score at 8-4 with one out, the game was called due to lightning in the area.
“In a lot of ways it was a good day,” says JNT Manager Greg Hamilton. “We swung the bats well. We got some offensive dimension to our game. We can do some different things offensively. For the first day I was happy.”
The Junior National Team will take the field again on Wednesday, July 16 at 7:30 pm when Canada takes on Chinese Taipei in Thunder Bay.