Canada out of medal contention with loss to Japan

Team Canada is out of the running for a medal at the 2014 ISF Junior Men's World Softball Championship. The home team suffered a 7-0 loss to Japan.

Team Canada is out of the running for a medal at the 2014 ISF Junior Men’s World Softball Championship.

The home team suffered a 7-0 loss to Japan at Whitehorse’s Pepsi Softball Centre last night. Along with Australia’s 4-2 win over Czech Republic, there is no way Canada will finish top-four in the round robin and advance to the playoff this weekend. Canada now sits at three wins and five losses.

Japan hit three home runs against Canada, the most the team has hit in a game at the championships. The final homer truncated the game in the sixth inning through the mercy rule.

“It’s too bad, but it’s just the way it is,” said Canada head coach Jim Jones.

“It’s kind of funny because the last time we played Japan we played them in an exhibition game and they bunted us and got three of four hits off bunts. So we played the bunt defence and they hit three home runs …

“Kudos to them, they’re a good team. (Japan pitcher Kento Okazaki), I think, is one of the top three pitchers in this tournament and we just couldn’t catch up with him and couldn’t score any runs.”

Okazaki gave Canada no quarter through six innings, delivering seven strike-outs and allowing just two hits. He was also fierce at the plate with two hits and a two-run homer.

“As a pitcher, this was a very important game and played very well, very tightly and was excellent,” said Japan head coach Yamaguchi Yoshio, through an interpreter. “As far as his batting is concerned … he hit a home run and that was great.”

Canada pitcher Jonathan Baker got the start and was pulled after Okazaki’s two-run shot in the fifth. In came teammate Tyler Randerson, who let in single runs each inning till the end.

“They were all right,” said Jones. “We were asking Johnny Baker, who probably isn’t one of our top pitchers, but he has all the pitches …

“What we were planning on doing is if we could get three or four innings maximum out of Johnny, then we’d go to someone else, try to mix it up a bit. Try to keep them a bit off balance. But what ended up happening was after we moved Johnny, they got two runs off Randerson. Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re not. We weren’t right and Japan was better than us.”

Japan, like Canada, was in a do-or-die situation. They needed the win to keep playoff hopes alive.

“If we lost this one, it was basically over, and we were thinking that,” said Yoshio.

Japan, Australia and the United States are each at 5-3 in a three-way tie for third.

At least on paper, Japan should get through to the medal rounds with a win over the 2-6 Czech Republic tonight.

The U.S. and Australia will face off tonight in a game that will determine the top four.

Japan has to win or have Australia lose to make the playoffs. Australia has to win or it’s curtains.

“We play U.S.A. tomorrow night and it’s a must-win game,” said Australia head coach Wayne Saunders. “If we win that, we’ll be through to the playoffs.

“Our goals are still intact, our tournament is still intact and we’re not relying on other results, and that’s what we’re happy about.

“We’ll just have to come out sharp and play our best game.”

Defending champs Argentina have a lock on a playoff spot at 8-0 – outscoring the competition 47-3 so far in the round robin. New Zealand has also bagged a playoff spot at 7-1.

Canada will face-off against Singapore tonight at 5 p.m. to finish the robin. The Canadians can still leave Whitehorse with a respectable fifth-place finish.

“We want to beat Singapore tomorrow and finish as high as we can,” said Jones. “We’ve got to regroup – the boys are pretty down – and get back up to play.”

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