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Juniors Tee Off on Czechs

EDMONTON – This one was never in doubt as the Junior National Team made quick work of the Czech Republic, winning by a score of 25-1 in seven innings at the World Junior Championship.

The Canadians pounded out 23 hits as everyone in the lineup would get at least one hit, including five home runs from five different players.

The flood gates were opened early as Canada would score seven runs in the top of the first inning, highlighted by Brett Lawrie’s (Langley, BC) three-run homer and James Kottaras’ (Markham, ON) RBI triple.

The Juniors added one run in the second inning on Kottaras’ second RBI of the game to score Carter Bell (Courtenay, BC).

Luke Willson (Lasalle, ON), who was a triple short of the cycle, hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning to put Canada ahead by ten.

“In games like this, you just want to make sure you don’t do anything crazy,” says Willson, who was 5-for-5 with six RBI.

The Czech Republic scored their only run of the game in the bottom half of the fourth, when Mates Hejma went deep off of Canadian starter François Lafreniere (St. Bruno, QC).

That would be the only blemish of Lafreniere’s day as the right-hander would throw the complete game, allowing the one run on four hits, one walk and 12 strikeouts.

“I knew that I couldn’t take these guys lightly,” says Lafreniere. “I just had to go out there and throw strikes and that’s what I did and it went well.”

The Canadians kept their foot on the gas as they would add another five runs in the fifth inning, featuring a pair of home runs, one from Ivan Hartle (North Vancouver, BC) and one from Jonathan Gilbert (St-Georges, QC).

Then Canada would put 10 more runs on the board in the sixth inning. The Juniors would collect eight hits in the frame, including a grand-slam home run from Marcus Knecht (Toronto, ON).

“We did a good job offensively today, in that we didn’t try to pull off pitches,” says JNT coach Les MacTavish. “(Lafreniere) did a tremendous job on the mound today and I think that was the key to the ball game. We were able to save our arms and now we’ll be fresh and healthy for the playoffs.”

Canada will open the playoffs against Australia on Friday, August 1. The Canadians can expect a far tougher test against the Aussies than they did today.

“We just need to worry about ourselves and play our game,” says MacTavish. “We’ve got balance up and down our lineup and we’ve got arms that can keep you honest and I think if we play our game we have a great chance to be successful.”

The quarter-final matchup between Canada and Australia is scheduled for 7:05 pm at Telus Field.