Top of the seventh, one out, Canada up by six runs. The stands began to quiet as spectators tried to remember where they parked their cars and decided if it was too late for another hot dog before leaving.
Little did they know, things were about to get crazy. There was plenty more ball to be played.
Team United States rallied with seven runs to take the lead before Canada logged two in the bottom of the inning for a 9-8 win at the 2014 ISF Junior Men’s World Softball Championship in Whitehorse’s Pepsi Softball Centre on Sunday.
“It takes 21 outs and until you get them, the game’s not over,” said Canada head coach Jim Jones. “I can’t say it enough: these kids play in front of 50 people most nights. To have a crowd cheering and stuff like that, we had a bit of the jitters.”
“It turned out all good, but we have to have some adversity if we plan to win a gold medal here,” he added.
Canada got four of its first five runs on U.S. errors, but at the top of the seventh it was the Americans’ turn for lucky breaks.
The U.S.’s seven-run slew began with a run scored on a throwing error to first. A couple runs later the bases filled as Canada pitcher Tyler Randerson struggled to find the strike zone and a run was walked in to make it 7-4.
U.S. outfielder Tristan Sensenig hit a chopper to Randerson, but a wild throw home allowed two more in.
The beleaguered Randerson, who threw a no-hitter through six, was yanked and replaced by Eric Healey.
“I was a little disappointed, but I think it was the right move by coach,” said Randerson. “I had lost momentum a little bit.”
“I thought my pitching was good through six innings. Seven was a little bit of a tough one. A few defensive slips and bad pitches, some calls that didn’t go our way, led to the way things turned out.”
Healy opened with a strikeout, but the hemorrhage continued when he fumbled a languid grounder from Blaine Milheim, allowing the tying run. An error at first base on a single from Tyler Stoffel provided the U.S.’s first lead of the game.
“We talked to the kids about being aggressive in the zone, put the ball in play, see if they can make some plays, and it worked for us,” said U.S. head coach Tim Lyon. “They made a few mistakes, (we) felt a little momentum, and it was nice.”
Canada got back on track with a ground-rule double from catcher Taylor Schubada, the team’s only returner from the 2012 championships, to start the bottom of the seventh.
Schubada crossed the plate on a grounder up the middle from third baseman Curtis Piecowye.
After a pair of hits loaded the bases, second baseman Tyson Zehr knocked it deep to left field, giving his team the win and a 2-1 record at the championships.
“I just wanted to get the ball deep,” said Zehr. “With a guy on third base, I knew if I got it over some heads, he’d get in for sure – even with a fly ball he’d get in.
“It was amazing. I looked back at the bench and all the guys were smiling ear to ear. It was just good to do it for the guys. That hit wouldn’t have meant anything if the guys before me didn’t get on base.”
Canada’s Nick Penner and Samuel Bedard-Desmarais scored on a dropped foul ball off the bat of Piecowye in the third inning to make it 3-0. Penner and Tyler Pauli got home in the fifth on a grounder from Piecowye. Teammate Francois-Charles Rene hit a two-run homer to right field in the sixth to set it at 7-1.
U.S.’s Justin Perez put his team on the board with a solo shot in the sixth.
Pauli and Piecowye are currently second and third in the tournament at the plate with .556 and .500 batting averages.
Canada opened the championship with a 7-0 win over the Czech Republic on Friday before a 7-0 loss to defending champs Argentina on Saturday.
Three teams remain undefeated as of Monday. Argentina is 4-0 while New Zealand and Japan, the 2012 silver medalist, are at 3-0. Singapore and the Czechs are winless at 0-4.
Canada will face New Zealand tonight at 7:30 p.m.
“Canada has a rivalry with the U.S. in every sport, so this one felt good to win,” added Zehr. “They wanted to win it just as badly as we did.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com