By David Rouben
Canadian Baseball Network
TORONTO – For the winless Ontario Black, this tie sure felt like a win.
For six-and-a-half innings, Ontario Black (0-2-1) was down 4-1 and showed no signs of a team that could string together runs. Defensively, they had committed four fielding errors and gave up two scores before allowing a hit.
An RBI single by Alfonso Villalobos (Kirkland, Que.) in the top of the seventh seemed to be Ontario’s final nail in the coffin for a Quebec (2-1-1) team that entered this game atop the Pool B standings.
But Ontario roared back with three unanswered runs in the bottom for the tie.
Third baseman Leo Markotic (Mississauga, Ont.) played the role of the hero as he tied the game on a two-run RBI single.
“On the dugout, everyone was pretty (bummed out) and everything, so I was trying to get all the boys hyped,” Markotic said after the game. “I knew the [Quebec] pitcher (Edouard Savoie), I saw him in my first at-bat, I knew what he had, what he was gonna come with and everything, so I had a pretty good approach.
“Kept it simple, tried to put it in the gap, and just get the boys going.”
Even though Ontario Black has no shot of playing in the semi-finals, this tie brought up their spirits.
“Losing the first two, that was pretty sad and everything so hopefully this game brings everyone up and we come out and take one last win for the Tournament,” Markotic said.
For Quebec, it was a wasted performance from their starter Alexis Rioux (Laval, Que.), who went five innings, striking out seven and walking four. He didn’t give up a hit until the fifth, but once he did, he found himself facing two bases loaded jams.
Rioux kept his composure and only allowed one run before getting pulled.
“If Rioux would’ve had a clean fifth inning, he would’ve gone the sixth,” said Quebec coach Alex Agostino, who’s also part of the Philadelphia Phillies’ scouting department. “We had a 65 maximum, 70 maximum pitch count on him.
“He hadn’t pitched in a while, so we had to be careful. But it’s more important what he’s going to do in the future than what he’s doing today.”
Rioux finished the game with 66 pitches thrown, and a no-decision.
The tie was enough to get Quebec Blue into the semifinal stage, where they’ll await their next opponent. But Agostino’s mantra is that Tournament 12 is a showcase, and that they’re not coaching to win.
“You don’t want to abuse a 16- or 17-year-old arm because you want to make sure they stay fresh," Agostino said about the decision to pull Rioux. “It’s more important what he’s going to do in the future than what he’s doing today.”
He added that Edouard Savoie (St-Eustache, Que.), the pitcher who blew the save, had played as a shortstop for seven innings.
This tie was the second game of the day for Quebec Blue. They played Atlantic Maroon early on and beat them 4-1. With fatigue perhaps playing a factor in this tie, Quebec is happy to get some much-needed rest before coming back and playing on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, for Ontario Black, this was a good bounce-back game after they surrendered three straight runs in the top of the seventh to Ontario Green and lost the previous contest 5-3.