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Youth leads Canada past Puerto Rico in third round opener

NETTUNO, Italy – Nick Bucci (Sarnia, ON) threw five no-hit innings and Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) came up with the big hit in the top of the ninth to lead Canada to a 3-0 win over Puerto Rico in the opening game of the third round of the 38th Baseball World Cup.

It was a pitcher’s duel throughout, but the Canadian hurlers were just that much better than their counterparts as Team Canada held Puerto Rico to just one hit for the ballgame.

“I can’t say enough about our pitchers, they’ve done a great job,” says Team Canada Manager Ernie Whitt. “I’m really proud of Bucci. Here is a young pitcher facing some really good international competition and you see him develop every game.”

Bucci, a 19-year-old right hander, was lights out in his five innings on the mound. He only allowed two walks and struck out two during his outing.

This was the third start for Bucci in this tournament and as the competition has gotten fiercer, so has Bucci.

“My confidence has really been growing,” says Bucci, “but I just wanted to go out tonight and set a tempo to start this round. We went out there and battled. Their guys were putting up zeros and I just wanted to go out there and do the same.”

The Canadians had their chances to score throughout the game, scraping together four hits with each reaching third base between the fourth and seventh innings. But they could not cash in on any of those opportunities.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico registered their only hit in the bottom of the seventh when Jose Valentin hit a shallow flare that landed just in front of a diving Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC) in left field. However, Trystan Magnuson (Vancouver, BC) would get out of the inning by striking out Alex Cintron for the third out when Puerto Rico had runners on first and second.

The game was still scoreless in the top of the ninth when Lawrie, another 19-year-old, hit a moon shot over the left field wall to put Canada in front 1-0.

“I saw that their pitcher was challenging us with fastballs, so I was out there looking for a fastball,” says Lawrie. “He threw the first two low and outside and the third one I was able to turn on it.”

Team Canada would add some insurance when Rene Tosoni (Coquitlam, BC) hit a two-run double, bringing in Chris Robinson (Dorchester, ON) and Adam Stern (London, ON) to give the Canadians a three run cushion.

Jim Henderson (Calgary, AB) pitched a one-two-three bottom of the ninth to earn the save. Dustin Molleken (Regina, SK) picked up the win after pitching a scoreless eighth inning.

“That was one of those games where it seemed that you just needed to get something going,” says Robinson, who was 3-for-4 in the game. “The way we pitched tonight was the way we’ve been pitching all tournament. We were able to add two more runs in the end, but the way things were going it looked like one was going to be enough.”

Next up for Canada is a matchup with Venezuela on Wednesday, September 23rd, at 8 PM in Chieti, Italy. To follow the 2009 IBAF Baseball World Cup live on the web, click on the following link: