Canada opens WBC with record win over Great Britain

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PHOENIX — Tyler O’Neill of Maple Ridge, B.C., and Jacob Robson of Windsor, Ont., had four hits each to lead Canada to an 18-8 mercy rule win (seven innings) over Great Britain in their first game of the World Baseball Classic at Chase Field on Sunday.

The 18 runs are the most Canada has ever scored at the tournament.

“I’d like to score 18 every game we play,” said Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt after the game. “It will make it a little bit easier. Great Britain, they just kept battling, battling back.

“But as Tyler (O’Neill) said, we had some great at-bats. We grinded out our at-bats. We took our walks. And we capitalized on some of the mistakes they made. So it was nice to see.”

Edouard Julien (Quebec City) and Owen Caissie (Burlington, Ont.) homered for Canada, while Freddie Freeman (Villa Park), Otto Lopez (Montreal) and Abraham Toro (Longueuil, Que.) had two hits each.

Canada also capitalized on a tournament record-tying 16 walks from Great Britain pitchers.

The Canadians had to overcome an early deficit on Sunday. Coming off a competitive 6-2 loss to the U.S. on Saturday night, Great Britain plated three runs in the top of the first inning on two hits, four walks and three stolen bases against starter Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.).

But Julien and Team Canada responded immediately in the bottom half of the frame when the 23-year-old Minnesota Twins infield prospect clubbed the first pitch he saw from Great Britain starter Akeel Morris over the right-field wall to become the first player to homer on their first pitch of their first WBC at bat.

“I just treated that at-bat like a normal one, not the first one of the game,” said Julien after the game. “My plan was to hit a fastball up in the zone. And I knew he had a good change-up, and he threw the first pitch, a fastball up, and I was fortunate to put a good swing on it.”

In all, Canada would tally five runs in bottom of the first, thanks to a throwing error by Great Britain first baseman Nick Ward and RBI singles from Caissie and Robson.

After an RBI single by Great Britain’s Trayce Thompson made it 5-4 in the top of the second, O’Neill walked to lead off the bottom half of the inning for Canada and Toro drove him in with a double.

Great Britain answered with a run in the top of the third to make it 6-5 before Caissie homered to dead centre field and O’Neill hit a three-run double to make it 10-5 in the bottom of the frame.

Seattle Mariners catching prospect, Harry Ford, belted a three-run home run in the top of the fourth to make it 10-8 but Canada responded by registering six runs thanks to five walks by Great Britain pitchers and RBI singles from Freeman, O’Neill and Lopez.

Curtis Taylor (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) entered the game in the top of the fourth and struck out D’Shawn Knowles to end the frame and then struck out two of the three batters he faced in the fifth in a three-up, three-down inning.

John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) then tossed a perfect sixth inning for Canada and right-hander Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) struck out the side in the seventh to close out the 10-run win.

O’Neill finished the contest 4-for-4 with four runs, four RBIs and two walks for Canada. Two of his hits — a double and a single — were to the opposite field.

“There’s times you have to shoot the ball the other way, and there’s other times you want to put the ball in the gap,” said O’Neill about his approach at the plate on Sunday. “Also, other times where you want to take pitches.”

Robson was also 4-for-4 with three runs an RBI and a walk.

Canada (1-0) will play the United States in their second game of Pool C play on Monday night.

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