THUNDER BAY – The Junior National Team booked their ticket to the semi-finals of the World Junior Baseball Championships with an 11-1 mercy-win over Italy. The game was never in doubt as the JNT offence put on their finest display of the tournament. The win propels the JNT into a semi-final match with Chinese Taipei who earlier in the day knocked off the Netherlands.
Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, BC) hit two, 2-run homeruns the second of which was a monster shot that landed way beyond the fence in right-centre field. Brandon Dailey (Brantford, ON) also went deep with a solo blast in the 7th that ultimately ended the game with the 10-run mercy rule.
Italy jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the 1st inning off JNT starter Jonathan Paquet (Ancienne Lorette, QC). After the lead-off batter singled and stole second base, he was later singled home to plate the first run of the ball game.
The lead was short lived as the JNT would go on to score 5 runs of their own in the bottom of the frame to take a commanding lead. Philip Diedrick (Ajax, ON) smoked a bases loaded double off the wall in right-centre field that cleared the bases. Diedrick would score when Wick hit his first homerun of the game, a shot to right that just made its way on the right side of the foul pole.
From there Paquet turned in a dominant performance which saw him last 6 innings. Paquet was able to stay ahead of hitters and throw his fastball for strikes all night.
“It was great to pitch in an important game like that,” said Paquet. “You can’t compare pitching in the World Championships to any other outings I’ve had.”
Paquet’s line for the evening saw him go 6 complete innings, giving up 4 hits, 1 walk while striking out 9.
“I went straight at these guy’s (the Italian’s),” added Paquet. “I knew if I did my job we would have a great chance to win.”
The JNT would add to their lead in the 4th when Jimmy Ralph (Raymond, AB) advanced to 2nd base on a throwing error. He would later score on a single from Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, ON).
In an evening where four players had multi-hit games the JNT totalled 13 hits. In the 5th inning Jalen Harris (Toronto, ON) walked setting the table for Wick’s second homer of the night.
Two more JNT runs came in the 6th inning which put the game completely out of reach for the Italians. The inning was highlighted by a Justin Atkinson (Surrey, BC) double that scored 2 runs, giving the Canadians a 10-1 lead.
Joel Pierce (Windsor, ON) came on to pitch the 7th inning and he picked up where Paquet left off inducing three ground ball outs.
In the 7th inning with JNT looking to enforce the mercy rule Dailey stepped to the dish and homered to left field sending the capacity crowd of 4,800 at Port Arthur Stadium into a state of euphoria.
Head Coach Greg Hamilton (Ottawa, ON) points to the 1st inning as a crucial point in the game for his team.
“That was the key (1st inning),” explained Hamilton. “We took any life or enthusiasm that they had out of the equation. I was really happy that we were able to do that.”
Hamilton also commented after the game about the upcoming semi-final with Chinese Taipei.
“They’re pretty tough. They pitch, they do the little things right on the field and they pick you apart offensively, so we have to be ready to play. They are a very good team.”
Notes: The semi-final game will take place on July 31st at Port Arthur Stadium with the start time scheduled for 7pm ET. …Earlier in the day two upsets were recorded in quarter-final action with Cuba beating the previously unbeaten United States by a score of 3-2. Cuba will take on Australia who got by two-time defending champion Korea 5-4. Chinese Taipei earned their ticket to the semis with a 4-2 victory over the Netherlands. …Fans can follow coverage of the JNT semi-final as well as the Bronze and Gold Medal games by visiting: http://ibaf.prod.kgroup.eu/en/article-detail.aspx?id=dcefe7cf-af1a-4891-abf3-2f25bcd59461