Team Canada is three wins away from softball glory.
The defending champs finished the round robin as the only undefeated team and are heading into the playoffs as a favourite at the 2017 WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship in Whitehorse.
As one of the top two teams in their pool, Canada will have to lose their first two playoff games to be taken out of medal contention.
“One of our goals was to finish at the top of our pool and get a double life and we’ve done that,” said Canada head coach John Stuart. “I told the guys after the game it doesn’t matter what we’ve done till now. Tomorrow is a brand new day and what we’ve done in the past doesn’t matter. Everyone has to pick it up one extra notch — it gets much harder starting tomorrow.”
Canada finished the round robin with a 7-0 record, just as the team did in 2015 en route to winning the country’s fourth title.
The home team capped their immaculate round robin run with an 11-0 win over India on July 13. They scored all their runs in the first inning and the game was truncated by the mercy rule after the fourth.
Outfielder Mathieu Roy and designated player Stephen Mullaley both scored twice, as did first baseman Andrew Skelton who cleared the bases with a grand slam. Pitcher Colin Walsh allowed just one hit and struck out 10 over four innings.
India and Turkey are making their debut at the biennial championships this week. Both went winless in the round robin.
“We’ve enjoyed it a lot — and we’ve learned a lot,” said India head coach Sikander Kuril. “We’re learning something from here and we’ll definitely work on it.”
Though India was shutout in five games, their other two were close. They lost 2-1 to Hong Kong on July 8 and 6-2 loss to South Africa on July 12.
“The goal is just to improve our game,” said Kuril. “I think we played well for our first time.”
“It’s a growing sport in India. There are 29 territories in India and they all play softball — we have a national championship of softball.”
Canada will next face Japan, the second place B Pool team, Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Like Canada, Japan has never missed the world championships but is still striving for its first title. The team’s best finish to date was silver in 2000 and they placed sixth at the last championship in 2015.
“We don’t know a lot about Japan, to be honest,” said Stuart. “I’m sure they’re going to give us a great game.”
If Canada wins against Japan, on Saturday at 4 p.m. they’ll face the winner of a New Zealand-Australia game, the winner of which will head directly into the gold medal game on Sunday.
If Canada loses against Japan, on Saturday at 11 a.m. they’ll play the winner of an Argentina-Botswana match up — needing a win to stay in the medal hunt.
New Zealand took the top spot in the B Pool with a 7-1 record and will face Australia tonight at 7 p.m.
New Zealand has the most titles with six — the last coming in 2013 — and was runner-up to Canada at the last championship in 2015. Canada defeated the Kiwis at the warm-up tournament in Vancouver two weeks ago.
The bronze game will take place Sunday at 1 p.m., the loser of which gets the bronze while the winner advances to the gold medal game at 4 p.m.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Final round robin standings
1st Canada (7-0)
2nd Australia (5-2)
3rd Argentina (5-2)
4th United States (5-2)
5th Dominican Republic (3-4)
6th South Africa (2-5)
7th Hong Kong (1-6)
8th India (0-7)
1st New Zealand (6-1)
2nd Japan (6-1)
3rd Venezuela (6-1)
4th Botswana (3-4)
5th Czech Republic (3-4)
6th Denmark (3-4)
7th Great Britain (1-6)
8th Turkey (0-7)