BANGOR, Maine — Team Canada blew an early lead but rallied back to grab its first victory at the Senior League World Series in Wednesday’s pool play at Mansfield Stadium.
Canada, represented by Notre-Dame-de-Grace of Montreal picked up a 4-3 victory over the U.S. Central team from Grand Rapids, Mich., in the first game, while the U.S. Southeast team of Brevard County, Fla., cruised past Auckland, New Zealand, Asia-Pacific, 5-1 in game two.
Canada (1-2) will play U.S. East rep Auburn, Mass., on Thursday at 1 p.m., while U.S. Southeast (2-1) faces Europe-Middle East-Africa champion Emilia, Italy, at 10 a.m.
In the morning game, Canada earned its first win in World Series play after going 0-4 in last year’s pool play and 0-2 through its first two games this year.
“We’re absolutely thrilled,” said Canada coach Bobby Titleman. “Our guys were a little bit demoralized after the first two games, but the fact that we came back and put together such a well-played game is pretty impressive.”
“To come here and win a game on one of the biggest stages, it just feels amazing,” added shortstop Quintin Foster, who is one of nine returning players from last year’s team.
Canada came out strong in the first three innings, collecting six of its 11 hits and scoring three runs.
Liam Wyatt provided RBI singles in the first and second innings, while Laurent Dupuis-Solliec dropped down a suicide squeeze in the third to give Canada the 3-0 advantage.
U.S. Central battled its way back in the fourth with help from the Canada defense.
Pinch hitter Ben Sweedyk started the Central rally with an RBI single. After Kyle Mroz singled to load the bases, Zac Zobro hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored pinch runner Mitch Salmi. Central added another run on a Canada throwing error after the sacrifice to tie the game 3-3.
Canada took the lead back in the bottom half of the inning on Wyatt’s third RBI single of the game, making it 4-3 Canada.
Wyatt attributed his success at the plate to an aggressive approach.
“I like to swing at that first pitch if it’s nice,” said Wyatt. “I sometimes pick up pitches out of the pitcher’s hand before he throws it, but overall I just stay relaxed and take a lot of swings.”
After Wyatt came on to retire Central in order in the sixth, the righthander got into a jam in the seventh.
Central got back-to-back singles from Nick McNamara and Jake Sochonek to put two on with one out in the seventh. Wyatt was able to get the second out on a force at second, but Central still had runners at first and third.
Wyatt got the next batter to ground weakly to short for the final out, escaping the jam and securing the victory.
“It all was a little bit nerve-racking at the end, but I stayed within myself and just threw strikes,” said Wyatt
Foster echoed his teammates sentiments as he felt the pressure on the final play, but kept his composure as the play unfolded.
“When I first saw it bounce, I thought it was going to bounce over me or to the side,” said Foster, who also added three hits for Canada. “Once I got the ball, I knew I would get that throw over to first base like my teammates expect of me.”
The win keeps hopes alive for Canada to squeak into the semifinals, something that was an afterthought just days ago.
“I already have some guys coming up to me talking about scenarios that would get us second place in the pool,” said Titleman. “Our first goal was to get a ‘W,’ but now that we’re in the mix we are are going to give it our best effort.”
“We just need to come out hungry and play as a team like we have all season and things will go our way,” added Foster.
In game two, Southeast used pitching and defense to hold the Asia-Pacific bats at bay en route to the victory.
River Horning, Gabriel Rodriguez, Carson Jackson and Reid Poltun combined to let in just one run on seven hits.
Southeast has relied on combined efforts on the mound during the World Series and found success with it.
“We have about seven or eight guys who can throw on this team, which is always a big help,” said Jackson.
“It’s important for us to have the depth, especially in pool play where there are other games for us to consider,” added Southeast coach Jon Phillips.
Southeast picked up three first-inning runs to jump out to the early lead.
Jackson got things started for Southeast with an RBI single and then came around to score after a throwing error on an attempted steal. Gabriel Rodriguez capped the inning off with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
Asia-Pacific got on the board in the second when Samuel Clerk scored on a wild pitch to cut the lead to 3-1.
Jackson picked up a sacrifice fly in the fourth, while Horning scored on a passed ball later in the inning to extend the Southeast lead to 5-1.
The Southeast pitchers would hold it from there with help from the defense, who provided two key double plays and did not commit an error.
“Our defense isn’t very good in practice, but we have been excellent when it comes to games,” said Phillips.
The Southeast offense was led by Jackson’s two singles, while Matt Doran and Cooper Christiano added a single apiece.
For Asia-Pacific, Clerk contributed two singles, with Kohei Ueha, Max Key and Oliver Weaver chipping in a single each.