By Bob Elliott
In 2011 eight countries gathered for the Pan American Games in Lagos de Moreno, Mex.
The format consisted of two pools of four, round robin play then the semi-final crossovers, the bronze and gold medal games.
This year in Ajax there will be 12 teams -- seven on the mens side and five on the women’s.
There will be round-robin play, the semi-final cross overs next Saturday and the medal-deciding games next Sunday.
The men begin play Saturday as Colombia plays Cuba at noon at President’s Choice Park in Ajax.
Then, Team USA meets Puerto Rico at 3:30 and the host country faces the Dominican at 7 pm. Nicaragua gets the Day 1 bye.
While it was four years ago, it was Canada won its first Pan Am gold and it’s worth a look back at the game-by-game heros ...
Canada 5, Puerto Rico 4
Right fielder Tim Smith hit a solo homer and reliever Dustin Molleken retired the final out for the save. Canada took a three-run lead into the bottom of the ninth before Puerto Rico scored once and had the bases loaded with two outs. After hitting a batter to cut the lead to one Molleken got a grounder to first for the final out.
Right-hander Shawn Hill started, pitching five innings allowing one run and leaving with a 2-1 lead. Lefty Andrew Albers took over working three innings allowing one run. Righty Jim Henderson allowed two runs -- one earned -- in 2/3 of an inning in the ninth before Molleken arrived.
Third baseman Shawn Bowman hit a pair of doubles, first baseman Jimmy Van Ostrand and shortstop Jonathan Malo each doubled and singled.
Cuba 9, Canada 5
Canada fell to 1-1 as starter Mike Johnson allowed a two-run homer in the first to Fredrich Cepeda and Scott Richmond came on in relief and gave up a grand slam to Dariel Abreu.
Down 7-0 in the fourth, Brock Kjeldgaard doubled and later scored on an error. After Mark Hardy worked three innings allowing a run, Van Ostrand singled to right scoring Skyler Stromsmoe, who had doubled. Jamie Romak hit a fly ball to knock in another run.
Van Ostrand had three hits and knocked in a run, while Malo tripled and singled as Kjeldgaard doubled and singled.
Canada 4, Venezuela 1
Kyle Lotzkar pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings allowing three hits and striking out six. He had the bases loaded in the third when Bowman and Stromsmoe turned a 5-4-3 double play.
Next, Molleken (1 1/3 innings) and Chris Kissock (two) had scoreless outings before Venezuela scored in the ninth off Henderson.
Van Ostrand and Bowman opened the fourth with singles and Kjeldgaard was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Romak worked a walk to force in a run.
Bowman hit a two-run single in the fifth and Smith singled in the sixth for a 4-0 lead.
Chris Robinson, Van Ostrand and Bowman each had a pair of hits.
Canada 5, Mexico 3
The hometown team went up 3-0 in the first against Hill at Pan American Stadium before 3,342 fans.
Romak doubled in a run and Kjeldgaard scored on a wild pitch in the second. Canada took a 4-3 lead in the fifth as Robinson and Smith singled and Van Ostrand walked loading the bases.
Bowman greeted the reliever with a single and a wild pitch put Canada up. Stromsmoe hit a solo homer in the sixth.
Molleken pitched two scoreless inings, Kissock threw a scoreless eighth thanks to Stromsmoe’s fine play in the field.
In the ninth the lead-off hitter reached on a Malo error, but he fielded the next grounder and flipped to Stromsmoe to start a double play.
Kissock then fielded a comebacker and Canada was off to the gold medal game.
Smith had three hits, including a double, while Bowman had two hits.
Canada 2, Team USA 1
Van Ostrand’s two-out, sixth-inning double off Andy Van Hekken from triple-A Round Rock in the Houston Astros system, gave Canada the win, but it was Albers and Richmond who were responsible for the win before 3,778 fans.
Albers pitched 6 2/3 innings allowing six hits, striking out eight and walking none. Richmond came on in the seventh with two out and runners on the corners getting a fly ball to right.
Richmond was perfect the rest of the way and fanned the final batter of the game sending Canadian players off in a wild, on-field celebration.
Robinson and Smith had hits to be in place so that they come around on Van Ostrand’s double. Robinson doubled and singled, while Stromsmoe had two hits, with the other going to Kjeldgaard.
Canada won bronze at the IBAF Baseball World Cup in Panama two weeks ago making this team the most successful in Baseball Canada’s history.