* The Canadian Junior National Team, thanks to a key hit from veteran Gareth Morgan, defeated Mexico 9-7 to earn a bronze medal at the 18U Pan American Championships. (Photo: Baseball Canada). …. 

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JNT Pan Am Trip: Canucks fall to Cuba in semi …. Canada beats Mexico …. Canucks qualify …. CG for Bumstead …. Win over Ecuador …. Horanski 5-for-5 …. Lopsided loss to USA …. Jrs arrive …. USA completes sweep …. USA whips Jrs. …. Humbled at Minute Maid …. Soroka impresses .… Jrs drop opener …. Jrs gather.

18U Pan Ams: Canada wins bronze medal with thrilling win over Mexico

By Adam Morissette

LA PAZ, Mexico – Gareth Morgan’s (Toronto, Ont.) single up the middle in the bottom of the eighth scored two runs breaking a 6-6 tie and Canada would go on to add one more run before neutralizing a threat in the top of the ninth to hang on for a 9-7 win over Mexico and a bronze medal at the 18U Pan American Championship.

“I’m really proud of our group, it was a gritty win,” said Head Coach Greg Hamilton.

Canada trailed 4-0 after five and a half innings before striking for five runs in the home half of the sixth. Mexico tied the score with a run in the seventh, but Morgan led off the bottom of the inning with a solo blast over the wall in right-centre only to see Mexico come back with a run in the eighth.

“You go down 4-0, you grind your way back and you never give up,” added Hamilton. “As I said to the guys (following the game), this is a special win, it’s what international baseball is all about.”

Mexico opened the scoring with a run on sacrifice –fly and the bases loaded in the top of the third, but it could’ve been much worse if not for a running catch by Morgan that saved extra bases, and a big strikeout from starter Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) to end the inning with two runners on base.

Soroka turned in a gutsy performance tossing five innings on only two days rest, but gave up three runs in the fifth, all with two out, including a two-run homer from Erick Meza.

Canada would pick up their starter, however, and give some support to reliever Colton Wood (Victoria, B.C.), with a five-run outburst in the sixth.

Morgan started things off with a walk and after a Josh Naylor’s (Mississauga, Ont.) single was followed by a wild pitch, Robert Byckowski (Georgetown, Ont.) singled to score Morgan and put Canada on the scoreboard.

Canada was just getting started as a double from Mitch Bigras (Sarnia, Ont.) and a pinch-hit triple by Matt Lloyd (Okotoks, Alta.) brought in three more runs to tie the score before Mitch Robinson’s (Surrey, B.C.) single to left scored the go ahead run.

Wood came out firing retiring five straight before giving up a two out single in the seventh that saw Mexico add two more singles that tied the game at five.

After Morgan’s homer gave Canada another one-run lead, an RBI single that got past third baseman Mitch Robinson brought in the tying run which spelled the end for Wood.

Zach Pop (Brampton, Ont.) struck out the first batter he faced before limiting Mexico to a run in the ninth after Canada had put three across in the bottom of the eighth.

The win came in front of a nearly full Arturo C. Nahl Stadium where momentum shifts were a plenty and no lead was safe. Hamilton says that this experience can do nothing but help his players as they move forward in their careers.

“I think (as a player) you grow up immensely,” he said. “You can’t replicate (this environment), you have an adversarial crowd and an up-and-down game. You think you have something going, but they bounce right back. It’s easy to lose your composure.”

For Morgan, he ended his four-year career with the Junior National Team program on a winning note. One of only two players to start their career with the program at 14 years of age, Morgan will now move on to his professional career with the Seattle Mariners organization.

“It’s bittersweet, for sure,” he said. “I’m really happy we got the win and to contribute with some key hits is something that I will take with me forever.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be on some good teams in the past, but this win is extra special because of the way we won.”

“It’s great when he can go out this way, provide leadership and come up with big hits,” added Hamilton. “He’ll carry that into the pro game which will be important.”

Without Morgan and 14 other players who are graduating to college baseball, the Junior National Team program will now focus on the 2015 IBAF 18U World Cup in Japan beginning with the annual Fall Instructional League Camp that will take place from October 2nd-12th at ESPN Wide World of Sports in lake Buena Vista, Florida.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Hamilton. “I was just telling our returning players that they need to come focused to Florida.

“(The World Cup) will be here quickly and they’re a core of what we’re about next year.”

UP NEXT: Due to Hurricane Odile, the planned flights back home tomorrow have been delayed as a result of airport and road closures. Updated information will be provided at www.twitter.com/baseballcanada as soon as it’s available.