After failing to win a single game in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Team Canada has secured a berth to the 2013 installment of the tournament with an 11-1 eight-inning mercy win over Germany at Armin-Wolf Baseball Arena in Regensburg on Monday.
North Battleford, Sask.’s Andrew Albers pitched six strong innings for the Canadian squad, striking out three German batters and allowing just one run on two hits.
On the offensive side, Chris Robinson (London, Ont.) and Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.) each went yard, along with Richmond, B.C.’s Jimmy Van Ostrand, who continued to show the strength and power he’s demonstrated throughout the tournament by hitting his fourth home run in three games.
But it was an unorthodox foul out off the bat of Bow Island, Alta., native Skylar Stromsmoe that resulted in the final run of the game and secured Canada’s bid in the prestigious tournament.
As in the previous two games of the WBC qualifier, it didn’t take long for Canada to attack.
Taking advantage of mistakes made by German starting pitcher Andre Hughes, the Canadian team scored four runs on two hits in the bottom of the first inning.
After a walk to Vancouver native Tyson Gillies, Robinson’s two-run bomb to left field put Canada on the board 2-0.
Two consecutive walks and a wild pitch put Toronto native Tim Smith on third base for Loewen, who grounded out to bring in the run. An error on Germany’s first baseman, Donald Lutz, scored Van Ostrand, and Canada left the first inning with a 4-0 lead.
The Canadian sluggers continued to hammer Hughes in the bottom of the second.
A two-out double to the centre-field gap from Van Ostrand plated Smith for the fifth Canadian run of the game, and Loewen’s opposite field home run off Hughes’ replacement, Eugen Heilmann, increased the lead to 7-0 before the inning was over.
Van Ostrand’s solo shot to centre in the fourth added one more run to Canada’s tally.
Though they scored eight runs in the first four innings of the game, the Canadian bats were essentially silenced by German pitchers Luke Sommers (who was stellar following the home run to Van Ostrand) and Will Ohman, who collectively struck out four batters through four and 2/3 innings.
But the eighth brought a different story for Germany’s bullpen.
With one out, Ohman left the game in favour of 19-year-old Daniel Thieben, who walked the first batter he faced before being knocked out of the game. Germany then called on Toronto native Adam Kudryk, who shared his teammate’s fate by walking the very next batter.
Taking over Germany’s pitching duties, Martin Dewald quickly gave up a two-run double to Bowman as Canada took a 10-1 lead.
A single from Rene Tosoni advanced Bowman to third, setting the table for Stromsmoe’s game-ending foul-out.
Though the ball was caught in foul territory by German second baseman Toby Gardenhire, a fumbled transfer from his glove to throwing hand allowed Bowman, who had tagged up on the play, to score, pumping his fist in the air as he crossed home plate.
Albers, one of Canada’s star pitchers during last year’s Pan-Am Games’ gold medal victory, continued his remarkable play in his first appearance at the WBC qualifier.
The 26-year-old held Germany hitless through the first three innings and didn’t give up a run until the fifth when Aaron Altherr sailed one over the centre-field wall for his country’s sole run of the game.
Reaching his pitch count after six, Albers was replaced by Campbell River, B.C.’s Mark Hardy, who threw a scoreless seventh, followed by Montreal native Tom Boleska’s six-pitch, three-up-three-down eighth inning.
With the conclusion of the second WBC qualifier round, Ernie Whitt’s Team Canada will join Spain, which defeated Israel on Sunday, in the March 2013 tournament.
Two other qualifying tournaments, set to take place this November in Panama and Chinese Taipei, will determine which nations of the remaining eight get the two final spots.