By Adam Morissette
THUNDER BAY, Ontario – Canada will play for a medal at the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup.
Canada prevailed over Japan, 6-4, on Friday at Port Arthur Stadium to guarantee a spot in Sunday’s bronze medal game against either Korea or Japan.
Down by a run in the seventh, Canada rallied to score three runs while reliever Harley Gollert (Toronto, Ont.) followed with three scoreless innings to record a three-inning save.
“It feels awesome,” said Gollert of the win. “The atmosphere was amazing and I really fed off the energy of the crowd.”
In the seventh, Archer Brookman’s (Pointe-Claire, Que.) single to left allowed Noah Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) to score on a tremendous slide at home avoiding the tag from the Japanese catcher on a throw from left that clearly beat him to the plate. From there, Jason Willow (Victoria, B.C.) reached on a dropped third strike before Brookman scored the go ahead run on a wild pitch. Victor Cerny’s (Winnipeg, Man.) base hit to left allowed Willow to score from second and put Canada in front by two.
“Obviously that inning was huge for us,” said Canadian manager Greg Hamilton. “We have a tremendous amount of respect for Japan and were fortunate to take advantage when they made some mistakes.”
Canada received a solid effort on the mound from starter Ben Abram (Georgetown, Ont.) who was pulled with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth before Griffin Hassall (Newmarket, Ont.) got a fly out to right to end the threat.
“We needed some innings from Ben tonight and he delivered,” said Hamilton. “With games remaining it was important to get some length out of our starter which will help our (pitching) staff with two games remaining."
Canada opened the scoring in the second after Dondrae Bremner (Toronto, Ont.) roped a single to centre that brought in Michael Stovman (Maple Ridge, B.C.) and Willow before a two-out single off Abram put Japan on the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning.
Abram worked his way out of trouble in the fourth after an error, single and sac bunt put runners on second and third with only one out. Naylor then nabbed a runner breaking for home on a chopper to third base before fielding a grounder at third and firing to first for the third out of the inning.
Already having chased Japanese starter Soma Tokuyama from the game, they went to their bullpen with two out and the bases loaded in the fifth bringing in Kento Kawabata who hit Willow with his first pitch to put Canada in front, 3-1.
Japan got a run back with two out in the bottom of the inning as cleanup hitter Kotaro Kiyomiya hit a solo shot to centre before a walk and a couple of errors gave Japan a temporary lead in the sixth.
Canada will close out Super Round play on Saturday against Cuba (0-4) at 5 p.m. E.T.
Live streaming for tomorrow’s game will be available via the WBSC’s YouTube channel.