OKINAWA, Japan –The Canadian Men’s Baseball Team used a six-run second inning and hung on to defeat world No. 1 ranked Japan, 6-5, in game one of the ENEOS SAMURAI JAPAN SERIES, a two-game exhibition series in preparation for the upcoming World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12.
“Anytime we take the field we want to win so to do so against a quality team like Japan is a bonus for us,” said Canadian Manager Ernie Whitt following the game. “To have the opportunity to play Japan, one of the top teams in the world, and compete with them and beat them is quite pleasing.”
After a scoreless first inning Canada got to Japan starting pitcher Shun Yamaguchi in the second inning sending 11 men to the plate and using four hits including a three-run double off the bat of Eric Wood to jump out to a 6-0 lead.
Jordan Lennerton (Langley, BC) got things going with single to left to score Michael Saunders (Victoria, BC) before Rene Tosoni (Port Coquitlam, BC) walked with the bases loaded and Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, ON) contributed an RBI single to right field to put Canada up by three.
“I thought our hitters handled (Yamaguchi) well in laying off some of his pitches and waiting to hit strikes,” explained Whitt. “Anytime you can score six runs in a game it’s very beneficial.”
Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, QC) showed little in the way of rust since his last competitive starting assignment two months ago as the right-hander worked three scoreless innings allowing just one hit while walking two and striking out one batter.
Japan scored their first runs of the game in the fourth using back-to-back doubles off reliever Scott Richmond (Vancouver, BC) to score one run before an RBI groundout brought in the second run of the frame.
A sacrifice fly in the fifth brought Japan to within three as Richmond left the game with two runners on and two out with Brandon Marklund (North Vancouver, BC) coming out of the bullpen. Marklund was able to keep Japan off the scoreboard for an inning and a third before giving way to a trio of relievers as Canada used six pitchers in the ballgame.
A pair of errors with Evan Rutckyj (Windsor, ON) on the mound in the seventh brought in one run while they added on an unearned run in the ninth before Scott Mathieson (Aldergrove, BC) nailed down the save.
Mathieson, who recently announced his retirement from professional baseball after eight seasons with Japan’s Yomiuri Giants, was thrilled to be pitching for Canada against some familiar opponents.
“It’s an honour to play for my country and pitch against the best that Japan has,” he said. “I love playing for Team Canada and I hope that I can play against Japan again in the (Premier12) Super Round.”
For the most part, Whitt was pleased with his team’s performance but knows there is still work to do before the Premier12 opener on November 6th.
“We made four errors and messed up a bunt play so that’s something that we’re going to have to address,” he said. “But considering a lot of (our) players haven’t played in a while there were a lot of positives to take from tonight’s game.”
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