Canada Wins WBC Opener Easily

By Josh Chetwynd

REGENSBURG, Germany – For a while in Canada’s opening game against Great Britain at the World Baseball Classic Qualifier, it looked like the British might throw a scare into its more established baseball foe. But by the time it was all over on Thursday order was restored as favored Canada ultimately cruised to an 11-1 mercy rule victory in seven innings.

Canada jumped out to a quick lead off Britain lefthander Chris Reed (Dodgers) in the first inning. Chris Robinson (Orioles) coaxed a one-out walk and Tim Smith (Braves) followed with a single to left field. Great Britain appeared to catch a break when Robinson tried for third base on the hit and the throw from left fielder B.J. Ropert-Hubbert beat the runner handily. But Robinson sidestepped the tag and ended up on the base with Britain’s third baseman Michael Johnson (Sonoma, North American League) being charged with an error. Robinson then came home on a Reed wild pitch, and Smith would later score to give Canada a 2-0 lead.

After that, both sides ran into some good pitching. Canada’s starter, former major league righthander Shawn Hill (Blue Jays), dominated. He lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowing just one run on three hits and zero walks. His only mistake of the game was a hanging slider to Albert Cartwright (Phillies), who slammed a solo home run down the left-field line in the sixth.

But Britain's pitchers held Canada at bay through the sixth. Reed lasted 2 2/3 innings, allowing two hits, two unearned runs, two walks and two strikeouts (he was on a strict Dodgers-mandated pitch count of three innings or 50 pitches). Righty Kyle Wilson (Laredo, American Association) and former University of South Carolina star Michael Roth (Angels), worked to keep the score close, and it was just 3-1 in Canada’s favor after six innings.

"They threw a couple of tough pitchers at us and were able to keep us in check for a long time," Canadian manager Ernie Whitt told "We came through and got some big hits, and we had a guy on the mound that shut them down."

Then the game unraveled for Great Britain. In the seventh inning, Canada’s Tyson Gillies (Phillies) led off with a double off Roth and was followed by a run-scoring single from Robinson. Jimmy Van Ostrand (Nationals) then stretched the lead with a two-run, opposite field home run to right-center field. Roth was pulled after the blast (his line: 3 1/3 innings, six hits, four runs, one walk and five strikeouts).

The two relievers who followed—Greg Hendrix (Road Warriors, Frontier League) and Paul Waterman—were unable to retire another batter. Skyler Stromsmoe (Giants) connected on a bases-clearing double and Gillies ended the game abruptly with a triple, plating two more and giving Canada a ten-run lead, triggering the mercy rule.

"You can look to Chris' (Robinson) at-bat for giving us some breathing room," Van Ostrand said. "Hitting is contagious; it's a lot easier to hit when you don't feel like you have to come through."

Despite the lopsided result, an impressively large crowd of 3,704 came out for the game. The fans were engaged through out, suggesting a healthy crowd from tomorrow night’s game between the qualifier’s other opening matchup—host Germany versus Czech Republic.