OKOTOKS – The pitching was once again the story for the Junior National Team as the Canadian hurlers would combine to allow one run on four hits and Canada would win its second in a row in Okotoks by a score of 6-1 over Chinese Taipei.
François Lafreniere (St. Bruno, QC) got the start for the Canadians and had the Taiwanese hitters baffled as Taipei could only get two hits off Lafreniere. The right-hander would strikeout a pair and walk none over four innings of work.
“I just tried to do what I did last time against these guys and that’s keep the ball low and make them hit it,” says Lafreniere. “I think it went well today and the defense did its job behind me.”
Jake Eliopoulos (Newmarket, ON) took over for Lafreniere in the fifth inning and continued where he left off. The left-hander would pitch three innings, allowing one run in the sixth inning. He gave up two hits and struck out three in his outing.
The Canadians ran into a little trouble in the eighth when Taipei loaded the bases with two outs, but Benson Merritt (Smithville, ON) got his team out of the inning by striking out Chia-Liang Hung for the third out of the inning.
To close things out in the ninth inning was Jonathan Gilbert (St-Georges, QC) and he disposed of the Taiwanese in quick fashion with a one-two-three inning and giving Canada the win.
“We’re starting to roll out what our lineup will be and obviously were starting to shorten things and have the lineup in place and the last couple of days have been starting to show that,” says JNT Manager Greg Hamilton.
On the offensive side, the Juniors once again got on the board early and for the second day in a row it was Luke Willson (Lasalle, ON) who got things started with a solo-home run to lead off the second inning and put Canada ahead 1-0.
“Ever since my first road trip with Team Canada, coach Hamilton been trying to fix up some technique issues I’ve been having and I’m finally getting it and it feels good and it’s showing,” says Willson.
With a 2-0 lead entering the fifth inning, Canada added three more runs when James Kottaras (Markham, ON) and Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) each drove in a run and Kottaras would score on a passed ball to give the Canadians a 5-0 lead.
Canada would score its sixth and final run in the eighth when Michael Crouse (Port Moody, BC) hit a two-out single to drive in Lawrie, who had been hit by a pitch to lead off the inning.
The Junior National Team will play its final game in Okotoks on Wednesday before heading out to Edmonton to begin the World Junior Baseball Championship. Canada will take on the United States at noon at Seaman Stadium.