By Bob Elliott
AJAX _ Manager Jim Tracy used three different pitchers to face three different hitters in the sixth inning.
You’d almost think his Team USA was in trouble.
Tracy, the former Colorado Rockies and Pittsburgh Pirates manager, was making moves like his pants were on fire, so his team could live to play another day.
And thanks to the manager Tracy and his moves, USA advances to Saturday’s semi-final with a 4-1 win over Canada Saturday night at President’s Choice Field.
With the win, USA (4-2) advances to the afternoon semi-final Saturday and will face Cuba (4-2).
Canada (5-1) meets Puerto Rico (4-2) Saturday night with Gatineau right-hander Phillippe Aumont on the mound.
The winners advance to Sunday night’s gold medal game as Canada tries to defend its title won four years ago in Mexico.
Had Canada rallied to win and finish pool play undefeated at 6-0, USA would have been eliminated and the Dominican Republic would have advanced.
Rene Tosoni started the sixth-inning dramatics and the left-left, right-right series of Tracy match ups with a two-out double down the left-field line off lefty starter Nate Smith.
Out came Tracy and on came right-hander Casey Coleman to face Brock Kjeldgaard, who worked a walk.
Out came Tracy to bring on lefty Buddy Baumann for left-handed hitting Tim Smith. After a ball in the dirt advanced the runners, Smith bounced to short.
And there were two more pitching changes in the seventh as Brian Ellington recorded the first out, then walked Skyler Stromsmoe and allowed a single to Sean Jamieson.
Out came Tracy and on came lefty David Huff, who retired Peter Orr on a bouncer to third, walked Tyler O’Neill to load the bases and then struck out clean-up hitter Jordan Lennerton.
Huff and Jake Barrett pitched the eighth.
Paul Sewald pitched the ninth ... the sixth reliever used to get the final 10 outs and the needed win.
Dawson does it: Lefty Shane Dawson has an impressive 11 wins at class-A Lansing in the Blue Jays system. He took over in the fourth and worked 5 1/3 innings against former big leaguers, triple-A and double-A players, allowing two singles. It was a coming out party.
He struck out Brian Bogusevic (773 plate appearances in the majors) and Tyler Pastornicky (268 in the majors) and Patrick Kivlehan, who is at triple-A Tacoma.
Full to overflowing: Three of Canada’s five games at the 4,500-seat President’s Choice Field were sellouts. Canada also sold out is lone game at the 1,500-seat Field 2 where it drew 1,535 fans. On the big field Canada has drawn 4,327, 4,638, 4,127, 4,727 and 4,761 for an average of 4,516 fans. Durham has baseball fever.
In Game: Jared Mortensen had a 1-0 lead until the third when singles by Albert Almora, Travis Jankowski and Andrew Parrino evened the score. After a walk former Blue Jays farm hand Pastornicky lined a two-run single up the middle. Mortensen allowed four runs in 3 2/3 innings striking out five ... Canada scored on a singles by Tosoni and Smith and a Stromsmoe double inside the bag at third ... Third baseman Peter Orr made a leaping catch and Tosoni made a grab on the track in left, both in the second ... Second baseman Stromsmoe ranged far to his right for the first out of the eighth.
Lineup changes: Manager Ernie Whitt gave centre fielder Tyson Gillies and catcher Kellin Deglan their first off days of the tourney. O’Neill took over in centre and had a pair of high throws. Meanwhile, veteran Chris Robinson made his first start behind the plate and had a throwing error.