By Adam Morissette
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida - Cesar Valero (Calgary, Alta.) belted a two-run double as part of a 2-for-3 day at the plate while TJ Schofield-Sam (Brampton, Ont.) went 2-for-3 with a stolen base but it wasn’t enough as the Junior National Team’s late rally came up short against a team of Pittsburgh Pirates prospects in an 8-3 loss.
Connor Sparks (Saskatoon, Sask.) gave the juniors three solid innings on the mound allowing just one run on three hits and two walks. The run came in the form of a solo home run to start the second inning before Sparks recorded three straight outs to end the frame.
Sparks worked his way out of a bases loaded jam in the first getting an infield fly and a fly out to right before stranding a one-out single in the third to end his three-inning outing.
Keegan Pulford-Thorpe (Newmarket, Ont.) took over for Sparks in the fourth and got into walk trouble early, issuing four free passes to the first five he faced that brought in another Pirates’ run.
The Pirates used a two-run single in the fifth and added a two-out RBI single in the sixth to increase their lead to 5-0.
In the seventh, with reliever Griffin Hassall (Newmarket, Ont.) on the mound, the Pirates struck for three more runs coming on three hits, a walk and an error. Two of the runs scored were charged to Hassall.
Offensively, the juniors ended the shutout bid when Noah Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) drilled a two-out double to right that brought in Denzel Clarke (Pickering, Ont.) before Valero’s two-run double in the eighth.
The juniors matched the Pirates in the hit department with nine apiece with seven different players recording at least one single.
UP NEXT: The juniors will be back at ESPN Wide World of Sports on Thursday for a 1 p.m. E.T. contest against the Atlanta Braves…RHP Eric Cerantola (Oakville, Ont.) is scheduled to start on the mound.