A downpour didn’t just delay Canada’s game against New Zealand at the 2017 WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship July 15 in Whitehorse. The rain seemed to extinguish the fire in the bellies of Team Canada.
The home team took the bronze with a lacklustre performance in the third-place game, losing 7-3 to Australia on July 16.
“It’s disappointing to end this way,” said Canada head coach John Stuart. “Our goal was to come here and defend our world championship.
“That game last night, that four-hour game, took a lot out of us. It was tough to come back and we fought right till the end and I’m proud of all our guys. It’s just one of those things. Last night’s game was a little weird and different from games I’ve been a part of and it took a toll.”
Canada was the only team to go undefeated in the round robin at 7-0, with a 9-4 win over Australia on July 11.
They then beat Japan 2-0 in their first playoff game on July 14 before their momentum fizzled with a heartbreaking 12-11 loss to New Zealand.
In the loss Canada took a commanding 9-2 lead before a lengthy rain delay. New Zealand then logged eight runs in the inning after play resumed. Canada tied it in the fifth before New Zealand logged two more runs in the sixth and held Canada to one in the seventh.
“It was an emotional game,” said Canada first baseman Stephen Mullaley. “Normally a 9-2 lead lasts. That wasn’t a normal game. Both teams had to battle through the weather. There was one inning that kind of shifted the momentum a little bit but we battled back to tie it at 10. We gave ourselves a chance but they came out on top.
“I won’t forget that game, but you learn from it.”
In the bronze game Australia took a 3-1 lead after two innings. The Aussies widened their lead in the fifth when infielder James Todhunter hit a three-run homer before infielder Nick Shailes knocked a solo shot out of the park to make it 7-1.
Canada’s three runs all came from solo home runs with one from Mullaley in the sixth inning and two from designated player Derek Mayson in the second and sixth.
“We just didn’t get the big hits when we needed to get them,” said Stuart. “We had some big hits, but we just didn’t have guys on base. I wish we could have scored a little earlier and put some pressure on them a little bit, but it just didn’t happen. Roster wise or line-up wise, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”
With the two homers, Mayson, who is co-captain and a returner from Canada’s 2015 champion team, finished the championship with his team’s highest batting average at .500.
“I just wanted to lead by example with a little more intense focus and give the team a bit of a spark — whatever it took,” said Mayson. “I was lucky to get a few over the plate that went out.”
“We had one goal going into this and that was to make it back to the gold medal game and repeat,” he added. “Anytime you come up short of your goal of two years in the making, it’s a lot at one time. We’re just processing that and sticking together as a team.”
Canada’s Mark Johnson and Ryan Boland led the team in RBIs with 11 each over the tournament. Johnson was also tops for total bases with 17.
Bradley Ezekiel led the team in hits with 10, resulting in a .435 batting average.
“It’s disappointing because we did feel we had the best team here, but that’s the way it goes,” said Mullaley. “Last night was an emotional game. It was one of the weirdest games I’ve ever been a part of, but both teams had to take part, so we tip our cap to the teams that got there. There’s two good teams in the final.”
With the win over Canada, Australia advanced to the gold medal game.
New Zealand went on to capture a record seventh title with a 6-4 win over Australia on July 16. (See coverage in Wednesday’s Yukon News.)
The next men’s world championships will take place in the Czech Republic in 2019.
“I loved being here, I’m proud of the guys, Whitehorse did a great job — I wish the weather was a little bit better, but other than that it was a great experience,” added Stuart.
“Excellent fans, the support was unbelievable — phenomenal. They lifted us up when we needed to be lifted up. I wish we could have played in the final for them.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org