THUNDER BAY – After trailing the Czech Republic the entire game, the Junior National Team clinched first place in their pool when Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, ON) who started the game on the bench, hit a 2-0 fastball over the left fielder’s head to score Philip Diedrick (Ajax, ON) and Jalen Harris (Toronto, ON) giving the JNT an 8-7 win.
“I was just trying to stay calm,” said Pompey. “I knew we had tied the game (with at least a sac fly) but then the ball started to drift away from the fielder and I knew it was over.”
Earlier in the day the upset of the tournament was recorded when the Netherlands edged Cuba in extra innings by a score of 9-8. That result combined with the JNT’s win gave the Canadian boy’s 1st place in Pool B setting up a quarter final game with Italy.
Once the JNT received the news that a victory over the winless Czech’s would secure 1st place, they may have suffered from looking too far ahead.
“We thought we were going to walk all over them,” admitted Pompey. “But it shows that you can’t take any team for granted.”
Things started out well for the JNT scoring a run in the bottom of the 1st inning when Emmanuel Forcier (St-Hyacinthe, QC) who doubled, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch and scored on a fielder’s choice.
The Czech’s got even in the 2nd but put a real scare into the Canadian’s when Martin Cervenka hit a 3-run homer in the 3rd off JNT starter Jesen Dygestile-Therrien (Montreal, QC). The homer lifted the Czech’s to a 3-run lead and quieted the capacity crowd at Port Arthur Stadium. This also gave the Czech’s a lead that they would hold on to until Pompey’s magic in the 9th.
Alex Calbick (Burnaby, BC) scored in the 4th inning off a Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, BC) sacrifice fly to close the gap to 4-2. The Czech’s would respond in the 5th with 2 more runs to end Therrien’s night. In total, Therrien lasted 4 and 1/3 innings giving up 6 runs (3 earned) on 5 hits, walking 3 while striking out 8.
Brian Bardis (St. Constant, QC) was given the task of shutting down the Czech bats who would record 8 hits on the night. Although Bardis had pitched the night before he was asked by Pitching Coach Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, ON) if he could go.
“I had Brian come and check with me after each inning,” said Quantrill. “Each time I asked him he said he was good to go back out there.”
Bardis responded to the challenge by striking out the first batter he faced and holding the Czech’s scoreless for the next 3 innings.
It looked as though the JNT were going to make their way back into the game and take the lead in the 6th inning when they loaded the bases with nobody out. Calbick, who is having a fantastic tournament offensively, led the inning off with a single followed by Diedrick who also singled and Harris was hit by a pitch. However, the JNT were only able to cash in 1 of those runners that came when Justin Atkinson (Surrey, BC) walked to make the score 6-3.
With the crowd getting nervous the JNT delivered in the 7th inning putting across 3-runs to tie the score. Forcier got things started using his speed to beat out an infield hit. Following a Brandon Dailey (Brantford, ON) walk, Calbick hit an opposite field double to left to score Forcier. The hit was Calbick’s third of the night. The JNT would score 2 more runs in the inning to tie the game when Harris singled and Wick reached on an error. During the inning the crowd roared as each run crossed home plate, which made a huge difference for the home team.
“We certainly needed that extra guy tonight,” said Head Coach Greg Hamilton (Ottawa, ON) when asked about the crowd. “They’re outstanding, they’ve been great the whole tournament.”
With the momentum on their side and with Bardis having his way on the mound, the pesky Czech’s put a run across the plate in the 9th sending shockwaves through the crowd. This would end Bardis’ night and in came Mike Ellis (Surrey, BC) with 2 runners on and the Czech’s looking to add to their lead. Ellis, who had worked 4 innings the previous night promptly struck-out the only batter he would face on three pitches.
The stage was set in the bottom of the 9th for a dramatic comeback win when the first three JNT batters reached base. Atkinson stuck out for the first out of the inning bringing Pompey to the plate. As soon as the ball left his bat and began carrying away from the fielder the Canadian team raced to the field to maul their teammates, much to the delight of the boisterous crowd.
“Never in doubt,” said Hamilton with a grin when asked if he scripted the victory. “Having come away and escape tonight, it makes it real easy to let the guys know that you can’t take anything for granted.”
Notes: The JNT will face Italy in the quarter-finals on July 30th at Port Arthur Stadium with the first pitch scheduled for 7pm ET. …The other quarter-final match-ups are: Cuba vs. USA, Australia vs. Korea and Netherlands vs. Chinese Taipei. … For live scores, stats and standings of the 2010 World Junior Baseball Championships please visit: http://www.scorekeepers.org/tornei/2010/canada/schedule.php . … Fans can also receive wall-to-wall coverage of the tournament by visiting: http://www.slnsports.com/world-juniors
The 2010 IBAF World Junior (18U) Baseball Championship will host national teams from Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Korea, Netherlands, Panama, Venezuela and the United States. Teams will begin qualifying games on July 23rd and the tournament will culminate in the Gold Medal game on August 1st at the Port Arthur Stadium in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Visit the website at www.worldbaseball2010.com. For tickets, please call Toll Free 1-877-422-3201.