Hodges’ hits 2-run HR in 9th, scores in 10th as Canada upsets Japan
* That’s Gareth Morgan (44) towering above the crowd in the home-plate celebration as Canada upset Japan 6-5 in the bottom of the 10th. Somewhere in the bottom of the pile is Jesse Hodges, who scored the game winner on a wild pitch after hitting a two-run homer with two out in the ninth. Photo: Adam Morissette ….
By Adam Morissette
Seoul, Korea — Jesse Hodges (Victoria, BC) had a day that he will never forget hitting a game tying, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth and scoring the winning run in the 10th on a wild-pitch as Canada opened the IBAF 18U World Championship with a dramatic 6-5 win over Japan.
“These are the types of games that you dream for as a kid,” said Hodges moments after the game. “Hitting a home run to tie the game in the ninth for your country is the best feeling in the world.”
Down 5-3 with two-out in the ninth and Daniel Pinero (Toronto, Ont.) on first base, Hodges ripped a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left field to tie the game and send the Canadian dugout into a frenzy.
“I was looking for something inside with two out and I wanted to drive the ball,” saiid Hodges. “I kept my top hand strong, hit it as hard as I could and it left the ballpark.”
Japan had opened the scoring in the top of the first inning as two singles given up by Canadian starter Ryan Kellogg (Whitby, Ont.) and a sacrifice-fly brought in the game’s first run. A base-hit to left field followed and Japan was quickly in front by two.
With his team having not played a game in six days, coach Greg Hamilton knew that it might take a while for his club to get rolling.
“I was concerned that we may not be as sharp as we should be with the long layoff,” he said. “You like to play every day and stay in a good routine.”
It didn’t take Kellogg long to rebound after giving up the two runs in the first as he was very effective shutting Japan down throughout his outing that last 6 2/3 innings.
Kellogg had a string going where he retired nine Japanese players in a row and almost lasted seven full innings before coming out of the game with two out in the seventh.
“He really settled down and got into a rhythm after the first,” said Hamilton. “He’s a competitor and if you’re going to beat him you’ll have to come by it honestly.
Canada scored their first run in third which came off their first hit of the game. Kyle Hann (Oakville, Ont.) laced a single to centre which scored Jacob Robson (Windsor, Ont.) from third base.
Robson had reached on a fielder’s choice and quickly stole second without a throw from the Japanese catcher, before taking third on a wild-pitch.
In the fourth, Canada took their first lead of the game with RBI singles from Owen Spiwak (Mississauga, Ont.) and Hodges.
They held the lead until the seventh where Japan scored three runs to take a 5-3 lead. All three runs came with two out with the first coming off a costly Canadian error and the tying and go ahead runs coming on RBI singles.
Kellogg was removed in the seventh in favour of Travis Seabrooke (Peterborough, Ont.) who got a pop-out to end the inning.
Dayton Dawe (London, Ont.) pitched a scoreless eighth and Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) tossed a scoreless ninth which set the stage for the comeback.
After Hodges’ dramatics in the bottom of the ninth the IBAF extra innings rule was instituted where a team begins the inning with runners on first and second base.
Logan Seifrit (Spruce Grove, Alta.) came out to pitch and the Canadians caught a break early when the ball squirted by catcher Chris Shaw (Winnipeg, Man.) who quickly scooped it up and fired to third to get the runner trying to advance.
With one out, Seifrit got two groundball outs which gave the Canadians a spark they needed to deliver in the home half of the 10th.
Hann led off the inning with a perfectly executed bunt which put Hodges on third and Robson on second.
With two-out and Brett Siddall at the plate, a wild-pitch got to the backstop which brought Hodges home with the winning run and sent the Canadian players into a massive on-field celebration.
“That’s what international baseball is,” added Hamilton when speaking about his team’s victory. “You’ve got to find a way (to win), stay together as a group of twenty and compete.”
Notes: Canada will turn around quickly and play Italy tomorrow at 10am local time (9pm ET on August 31st) … Follow all tournament games LIVE on Game Tracker … Tournament schedule, rosters, stats and standings are also available … The Korean Baseball Federation also has created a tournament site for info … And news, notes and updates directly from Seoul, please follow Baseball Canada on Twitter.