Seoul, Korea – Jesse Hodges (Victoria, B.C.) had a day that he will never forget, scoring the winning run in the tenth inning on a wild-pitch and hitting a game tying, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth as Canada opened the IBAF 18U World Championship with a dramatic 6-5 win over Japan.
“These are the types of games that you dream for as a kid,” said Hodges moments after the game. “Hitting a home run to tie the game in the ninth for your country is the best feeling in the world.”
Down 5-3 with two-out in the ninth and Daniel Pinero (Toronto) standing on first base, Hodges ripped a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left field to tie the game and send the Canadian dugout into a frenzy.
“I was looking for something inside with two out and I wanted to drive the ball,” said Hodges. “I kept my top hand strong, hit it as hard as I could and it left the ballpark.”
Japan had opened the scoring in the top of the first inning as two singles given up by Canadian starter Ryan Kellogg (Whitby, ON) and a sacrifice-fly brought in the run. A base-hit to left field followed and Japan was quickly in front by two.
With his team having not played a game in six days, head coach Greg Hamilton knew that it might take a while for his club to get rolling.
“I was concerned that we may not be as sharp as we should be with the long layoff,” he said. “You like to play every day and stay in a good routine.”
It didn’t take Kellogg long to rebound after giving up the two runs in the first inning as he was very effective in shutting Japan down throughout his outing that last 6 2/3 innings. Kellogg had a string going where he retired nine Japanese players in a row and almost lasted seven full innings before coming out of the game with two out in the seventh.
Canada’s first run came in the third inning off their first hit of the game. Kyle Hann (Oakville) laced a single to centerfield which scored Jacob Robson (Windsor, ON) from third base.
Robson had reached on a fielder’s choice and quickly stole second without a throw from the Japanese catcher, before taking third on a wild-pitch.
In the fourth, Canada took its first lead of the game with RBI singles from Owen Spiwak (Mississauga) and Jesse Hodges.
They held the lead until the seventh when Japan scored three runs for a 5-3 lead. All three runs came with two out with the first coming off a costly Canadian error and the tying and go ahead runs coming on RBI singles.
Kellogg was removed in favour of Travis Seabrooke (Peterborough, ON) who got a pop-out to end the inning.
Dayton Dawe (London) pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, ON) tossed a scoreless ninth which set the stage for the comeback.
After Hodges’ dramatics in the bottom of the ninth the IBAF extra innings rule was instituted where a team begins the inning with runners on first and second base.
Logan Seifrit (Spruce Grove, AB) came out to pitch and the Canadians caught a break early when the ball squirted by catcher Chris Shaw (Winnipeg) who quickly scooped it up and fired to third to get the runner trying to steal.
With one out, Seifrit got two groundball outs which gave the Canadians a spark they needed to deliver in the home half of the tenth.
Hann led off the inning with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt which put Hodges on third and Robson on second.
With two-out and Brett Siddall at the plate, a wild-pitch got to the backstop which brought Hodges home with the winning run and sent the Canadian players into a massive on-field celebration.