Canada goes for gold
*Shawn Hill (Georgetown, Ont.) worked five innings and then Dustin Molleken, (Regina, Sask.) and Chris Kissock (Fruitvale, BC) took over to beat Mexico in the Pan-Am semi-final. Canada plays Team USA Tuesday night ….
By Adam Morrissette
A 5-3, semi-final win over host Mexico has propelled Canada into Tuesday’s gold medal contest at the Pan Am Games. Canada will take-on the Team Canada’s first ever gold medal in a major international baseball event at the senior level.
With lefty Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.), a Minnesota Twins farmhand, on the mound, Canada will wind up with either a gold or silver medal, not a bad way to go into the 2015 Pan Am Games set for Toronto and Hamilton. The best previous finish for Canada was a bronze at the 1999 Pan Ams in Winnipeg.
Over 5,000 raucous Mexican fans were sent home disappointed as the Canadians celebrated the victory.
“It feels great,” said Canadian manager, Ernie Whitt of the win over Mexico. “Our goal at the beginning of the tournament was to win gold and we’ve put ourselves in a position to do so.”
Things did not start well for Canada as Mexico took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on the strength of a three-run homer off Canadian starter, Shawn Hill (Georgetown, Ont.).
“You hate to get behind that early, but we had the confidence to come back,” explained Whitt. “We knew that we had eight more innings left to play.”
Canada answered back in the top of the second with two runs to cut the lead to one. With two runners on, Jamie Romak (London, Ont.) of the in the Kansas City Royals system, ripped a double to left field to bring in a run and a wild-pitch followed that scored Brock Kjeldgaard (London, Ont.) from third base.
Hill, who didn’t pitch pro this season, shook off the homerun he let up in the first and settled in nicely allowing only two base runners during the remainder of his outing. Hill threw five innings total and fanned three batters along the way.
“Pitching is about throwing a hitters timing off and Shawn did that tonight,” said Whitt.
Before Hill’s outing was complete, Canada had taken a 4-3 lead in the top of the fifth. Chris Robinson (Dorchester, Ont.) and the Chicago Cubs and Tim Smith (Toronto, Ont.), Royals system, hit back-to-back singles and Jimmy VanOstrand (Richmond, BC), of the Astros, walked to load the bases.
Mexico decided to make a pitching change and Shawn Bowman (Port Moody, BC), who played in the Atlanta Braves system, greeted the new pitcher with a single to centre to score Robinson with the tying run. With Smith now standing on third, a wild-pitch allowed him to score the go ahead run to quiet the Mexican crowd.
Canada added another run in the sixth when Skyler Stromsmoe (Bow Island, Alta.) belted a solo homerun over the fence in right field.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit so it was nice to get that one,” said Stromsmoe, a San Francisco Giants minor leaguer. ”It gave us a little momentum and shut theirs down.”
Dustin Molleken (Regina, Sask.), who pitched in the Colorado Rockies system, came on in relief of Hill and provided Canada with two solid innings on the mound. Molleken worked his way out of a jam in the sixth where runners were on the corners with two out by getting an infield pop-up that was caught by Bowman.
After Molleken threw a scoreless seventh Chris Kissock (Trail, BC), Philadelphia Phillies farmhand, came on and pitched a three-up, three-down eighth that saw Stromsmoe make a defensive gem for the second out of the inning that saved a sure hit.
In the ninth with the Mexican crowd at their feet in the ninth, the lead-off hitter reached first base when Jonathan Malo (Joliette, QC) committed an error at shortstop. Malo redeemed himself on the very next play as he fielded a ball and flipped to Stromsmoe to start a double play.
Kissock then caught a comebacker to the mound, threw to first to end the game and send Canada to tomorrow’s gold medal final.
Down 3-0 in the first and then eight zeros.
Smith led the way with three of Canada’s 10 hits, while Bowman had a pair. The others went to Malo, Robinson, VanOstrand, Romak and Stromsmoe.
“The US has been swinging the bat extremely well lately,” commented Whitt. “We’re going to have to pitch well, play sound defence and hopefully our hitters will come through.”
Notes: The gold medal game which gets underway at 7 pm CT … Unfortunately there is no television coverage or live streaming of the gold medal game in Canada, however, you can view it at the Pan-Am site if you live elsewhere … Live scoring can be found by visiting www.usabaseball.com … You can also receive LIVE in-game updated by following Baseball Canada on Twitter: www.twitter.com/baseballcanada