A memorable week for Canada at the 2018 WBSC Junior Men’s Softball World Championship came to a close a day earlier then expected.
The host team saw their medal hopes disappear Saturday night at Rotary Field as they dropped a 5-2 decision to New Zealand in a quarter-final contest.
“It stings right now,” Canadian first baseman and Warman native Troy Kosmynka said. “We played hard and we battled right to the end. We got it close late but we couldn’t get it done.
“We just couldn’t bury our scoring opportunities. It was a great week, but this wasn’t the result that we wanted.”
Canada will finish the tournament in fourth place, which was one spot lower than their bronze medal result two years ago in Midland, Mich.
A host nation hasn’t reached the podium at the event since Argentina won on home soil in 2012.
“We went 6-2 for the week and the guys competed well,” Canada coach Jeff Ellsworth said. “They came to play every night, but it didn’t quite work out in our favour.”
As they had done a night earlier against Australia, Canada was able to get runners on base in the opening innings but were unable to bring anyone home.
“That’s just the nature of the beast,” Ellsworth said. “It’s not an easy skill to make hits at the right time, and that was an Achilles heel for us in our two playoff losses.”
After leaving a pair of runners on third base in the first two frames, New Zealand struck in the top of the third as Harrison Valk hit an RBI triple and Kaleb Rona drove Valk home with a single.
In the fourth inning, New Zealand doubled up their lead on a passed ball as Kody Clueard was safe after colliding with Canadian reliever David Watson and Seth Gibson was able to beat out the tag from catcher Brendan Hagerman.
Ellsworth would come out to argue the call with the umpires, but the runs stood to give the Kiwis a 4-0 lead.
“There was a difference of opinion there but I can’t elaborate on it too much as it will get me into trouble,” Ellsworth smirked.
Valk would continue his impressive evening in the top of the fifth as he hit a solo shot to left field to give his team a five-run cushion.
“I had a terrible game against Japan Friday so I was happy to get me eye back at the plate,” Valk said.
“I wasn’t totally sure that was a home run when I hit it. I looked up and saw that the ball was hit high and I thought it would end up being a pop fly, but it ended up going over the fence.”
Canada would get on the scoreboard with a two-run shot from Isaac Lefebvre in the sixth inning, but that would be as close as they would get as they were unable to build off of the momentum from their 6-4 win over Argentina earlier in the day.
“It was nice get the boys’ energy level up a bit with that homer, but at the end of the day it wasn’t quite enough,” Lefebvre said.
“Both teams played well…but they were just a little bit better tonight.”
Jordan Pomeroy and Noah Baker had the other two hits for Canada, while starter Owen Torrie gave up two runs and struck out three batters in two innings of work.
After falling 6-4 to Japan Friday, New Zealand bounced back with an 8-0 win over Mexico earlier in the day Saturday and gained a measure of revenge against Canada after losing an 8-5 battle Tuesday in round-robin play.
“We got on the scoreboard early and we were able to quiet the crowd down, which is something we didn’t do Tuesday,” Valk said.
“Everyone’s really gelling together right now. We’ve had a few guys pop off here and there for great individual performances, but this was a total team effort.”
Valk led the way at the plate with three hits and a pair of RBI’s, while pitchers Reilly Makea and Joshua Kelly combined for 13 strikeouts.
New Zealand will now prepare for a semifinal tilt with Japan at noon Sunday, which is a rematch of the 2016 gold medal game that Japan won 2-1.
Meanwhile, Australia is preparing to face the winner of that matchup in the championship contest at 3 p.m. after they picked up a 4-2 victory over Japan in a semifinal contest Saturday evening.
Having last reached the podium in 2012 with a bronze medal, Australia is now a win away from winning their first gold medal since they took home their fourth straight tournament title in 2008.
“We lost to Japan a couple of days ago in the round-robin, so we are really happy about being able to beat them today and have a chance to win the gold,” left fielder Blake Jackson said.
“We had some luck on our side, but we used our bats a lot more today and I think that was a big difference.
After Japan closed to within a run in bottom of the sixth inning, Jackson helped his team out at the start of the seventh as he hit a solo shot to regain Australia’s two-run cushion.
“Even though Japan had closed in, the boys on the bench were staying focussed and ready to go,” Jackson said.
“I had struck out twice against their pitcher (Yugo Kitagawa) on Thursday so I was eager to get another chance against him. I had a good count at 3-1 so I was ready to hit anything that came in the strike zone.”
Shortstop Jeremy Waters helped to get Australia’s offence going with a two-run homer in the third inning and pitcher Shaun Lanaghan struck out six batters in seven innings of work.
Ayumu Nishimori had an RBI triple in the loss for Japan, who left six runners on base.
Meanwhile, India assured themselves of a ninth place finish in the final standings after picking up 1-0 and 4-1 wins over Guatemala and South Africa respectively in placement round games Saturday.
South Africa finished in 10th place after beating Hong Kong and Guatemala by scores of 5-3 and 10-2.
- 12 p.m. – New Zealand vs. Japan – Rotary Field (Semifinal Game)
- 3 p.m. – New Zealand/Japan Winner vs. Australia – Rotary Field (Championship Game)