OKOTOKS – The Junior National Team was strong defensively and the offense came alive when it had to as the Juniors downed the Okotoks Dawgs, 6-3, in their first game of their Alberta tour.
Pitching and defense was solid as the Canadian pitchers allowed just eight hits and the defense played error-free ball, a subject that was addressed over the last two days.
“We had a much better energy level in this game,” says manager Greg Hamilton. “I thought we were flat in Winnipeg and when you’re flat you pay a price for that. We pretty much put together a complete game today.”
The Canadians got all their runs early, scoring four in the second inning adding a pair in the third inning.
Luke Willson (Lasalle, ON) got things started in the second with a leadoff solo-home run. After a single from Lionel Morrill (Edmonton) and a double form Michael Crouse (Port Moody, BC), Maxx Tissenbaum (Toronto) would drive them both in with a single and put his team ahead by three.
James Kottaras (Markham, ON) drove in the fourth run with a single to score Tissenbaum. Kottaras had a solid day offensively, going 3-for-5 with the RBI and made some great defensive plays at third.
“I felt pretty confident today,” says Kottaras. “I knew I had to step it up a little bit and do the best I can. Went up to the plate with everything in mind and just hope for the best.”
The third inning saw back-to-back singles from Willson and Morrill to open the inning. Carter Morrison (Langley, BC) would drive in Willson with a single, then an RBI single from Jeff Hunt (Cambridge) drove in Morrill giving Canada more than it would need in this game.
Canada’s performance on the mound and in the field is what solidified the victory. Evan Grills (Whitby, ON), who started on the mound, gave up two run on four hits and two walks with a pair of strikeouts in four innings of work. Nick Bucci (Sarnia) had a solid outing in relief. His only blemish was a solo home run to the first batter he faced in the fifth inning. He would pitch three innings, allowing the one run, two hits and one walk with three strikeouts. Then, Brandon Petite (Glace Bay, NS) and Mike Monster (Kelowna, BC) shut things down in the eighth and ninth innings, both retiring the side in order and each registering a strikeout.
This was a good bounce back game for the Juniors after a mediocre outing in Winnipeg. But the Canadians keep working to get to Edmonton in the best possible shape they can be to hopefully win a medal.
“I think we just need to stick together,” says Kottaras. “We had a couple rough games, but just keep going out and keep putting up our numbers and making the plays and everything will be all right.”