Sept 13,2014(ISN) – LA PAZ, Mexico- Emotions were running high tonight at Arturo C. Nahl Stadium as Canada came out on the right side of a 6-4 decision in a game that featured an electric atmosphere with a sold-out stadium wildly cheering for their country.
Josh Naylor (Mississauga, ON) and LP Pelletier (Montréal, QC) each homered, while JP Stevenson (Hunter River, PE) and Zach Pop (Brampton, ON) each turned in gutsy performances on the mound.
Both teams had identical 5-1 records coming into the contest meaning Canada’s game tomorrow against Cuba will have a spot in Sunday’s gold match-up game riding on it.
“That’s what (international baseball) is all about,” said Head Coach Greg Hamilton. “You had two teams (tonight) not giving an inch and grinding right to the end with a ton of emotion, obviously.
“We were on the opposite side of the fans tonight and you have to deal with all that too. It was a great win for our guys.”
The boisterous crowd of 3,000 plus played a factor in the contest cheering on their team and voicing their displeasure at other times when they saw fit. They weren’t pleased in the top of the seventh when Gareth Morgan (Toronto, ON) threw his helmet after flying out and was ejected from the game, and became even more vocal when Head Coach Greg Hamilton was tossed by the first base umpire for arguing the call.
Once things calmed down and with Canada clinging to a one-run lead, Mexico got runners on the corners with only one out, but JP Stevenson dug deep getting a strikeout and a nice catch by second baseman LP Pelletier to end the inning.
Canada added an insurance run in the eighth with Pelletier coming through with a sacrifice fly and Zach Pop came out of the bullpen recording two scoreless frames including a perfect ninth to earn the save.
“JP has a lot of composure and is the type of guy to feed off the crowd so we were real comfortable going with him tonight,” said Hamilton. “Zach’s stuff with heavy sink was very effective tonight and he did a great job.”
Stevenson allowed two unearned runs in the bottom of the first but settled in nicely after that at one point retiring nine hitters in a row. He was a strike away from getting out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth, but a two-out double to left scored two.
Offensively, Canada struck for four runs in the top of the third with the big blow coming courtesy of Josh Naylor when he drilled a fastball well over the wall in left for an opposite field, two-run homer. In the top of the fifth, LP Pelletier led off the inning with a solo blast that left the park in left-centre.
After such an emotional win, Canada must quickly shift their focus to a date with Cuba tomorrow where a win will put them in the gold medal contest.
“I think (tonight’s win) galvanizes everybody and you realize that you can (win),” he said. “Games like tonight give you a sense of what it’s like internationally and we know what’s in front of us tomorrow, it’s (Cuba) a good team and we’re going to have to play well to beat them.”
UP NEXT: Tomorrow’s game against Cuba is set for 2pm MDT/4pm EDT at Arturo C. Nahl Stadium in La Paz.