EDMONTON – In what was a back and forth tilt with Chinese Taipei, the Junior National Team pulled off one of its most exciting wins to date when Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) hit a walk off triple to break a 6-6 tie in the bottom of the ninth inning to win their second game at the World Junior Championship by a score of 7-6.
Lawrie’s third triple of the game with one out in the bottom of the ninth brought in James Kottaras (Markham, ON) to score the winning run in what turned out to be a wild affair.
“I love being put in a game breaking situation,” says Lawrie, who was 3-for-4 with three triples and three RBI. “I just kept my composure and I was able to drive a fastball on the outer half into the gap and we ended up winning the game. It was fun.”
With the score 6-4 for Canada heading into the top of the ninth, Chinese Taipei were able to load the bases with only one out on Mike Monster (Kelowna, BC) when he hit Ming-Yen Kan to bring in a run and make it 6-5.
Evan Grills (Whitby, ON) was then brought in to relieve Monster with the bases still loaded. Fu-Lin Kuo would hit a single to center to bring in the tying run and Chun-Yi Wu was waved in to try and score the go-ahead run.
The throw from center beat Wu to the plate with catcher Greg Densem (Toronto, ON) waiting to apply the tag. Wu would then virtually dropkick Densem, striking his spikes in the catcher’s mask.
This incident would clear both benches, but the situation was diffused before there were any further altercations. Wu was ejected from the game and could face a possible suspension.
The fireworks in the top half of the frame setup what was a dramatic finish in favour of the Canadians.
“That’s international baseball. You got to play as a team,” says JNT Manager Greg Hamilton. “Everyone has to pull for one another. You got to pick everybody up and have a never say die attitude. We got some guys who will compete really hard and it’s never over until it’s over.”
“We were able to bring the guys together and dial it down a little bit,” adds Hamilton, referring to the incident at the plate. “We got them to understand that there is potentially a lot more baseball still to be played and we wanted to keep our heads above and not let it get away.
The incident at the plate and the heroics in the bottom of the ninth overshadowed what was a great back and forth battle between these two teams.
The Juniors opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning by scoring a pair of runs, highlighted by Lawrie’s first triple of the game to drive Canada’s first run.
Nick Bucci (Sarnia, ON) got the start on the hill for Canada and took care of Chinese Taipei in order in the first inning. He would retire the side in order again in the third on route to a five inning outing, allowing three runs and two walks with five strikeouts.
“I wanted to give six strong innings. I couldn’t get that done, but the team came thru in the clutch,” says Bucci. “This is the biggest win in my life. The best game I’ve ever played in.”
With the score 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth, Lawrie hit his second triple to drive in Kottaras for the Juniors’ fourth run.
Taipei would make it 4-3 in the sixth, but Canada would respond in the bottom half of the inning on a sacrifice fly from Marcus Knecht (Toronto, ON) to score Carter Morrison (Langley, BC), who had reached with a triple.
Taipei would once again make it a one run game in the seventh, but Canada brought their lead back up to two in the eighth when Carter Bell (Courtenay, BC) would score on a fielder’s choice, setting up what would be an exciting final frame.
The Junior National Team will now face one of its biggest challenges in the tournament when they take on Cuba on Sunday, July 27 at 3:00 pm at Telus Field.