THUNDER BAY –Team Canada is the only opponent to put up more than a single run on the United States over the course of the past week.
It still wasn’t enough.
Highly touted prospect Triston Casas singled, doubled and homered on Thursday night at Port Arthur Stadium, driving in five for an American squad that continued its unbeaten ways at the 2017 Under 18 World Baseball Cup with an 8-3 win over their overly generous hosts.
The Canadian side has to clean things up, said veteran skipper Greg Hamilton.
His team walked eight batters and made three errors, giving an already powerful opponent extra chances that more often than not proved costly.
“We felt we could play with them and I think we did,” said Hamilton, whose team hung around for seven-and-a-half innings, cutting a four-run deficit to two in the eighth, Noah Naylor and Archer Brookman powering the late rally with back-to-back doubles off American reliever Landon Marceaux.
“You have to play a clean game and we didn’t play a clean game. You walk that many guys and you give them a couple of real opportunities by not catching the baseball, it will bite you. And unfortunately it did.”
The U.S. (3-0) jumped on Canadian starter Eric Cerantola in the first, after he walked the first three batters he faced.
Casas singled home one run and Alek Thomas produced the other on a groundout to first.
Canada (1-2) was quick to respond with a run against struggling American starter Kumar Rocker, the son of former NFLer Tracy Rocker, who left in the fourth after giving up six hits.
But it should have been more.
With one out in the second, Jason Willow singled, followed by a Victor Cerny double. Willow scored on a wild pitch, Cerny advancing to third.
Denzel Clarke followed with a grounder and Cerny broke for the plate, easily gunned down by third baseman Nolan Gorman.
Clarke then stole second and rounded third on Lucas Parente’s single to left – only to be tagged out by diving backstop Anthony Siegler, preserving a 2-1 American lead.
Still, Hamilton doesn’t think his team was too aggressive.
“We had to push a little bit in spots. You can’t really sit back and think that you’re going to beat that team. Their pitching is pretty good,” Hamilton said.
Casas homered to centre in the third off Oakville, Ont.'s Cerantola, who left after five, allowing three runs on three hits and five walks.
He was replaced by Cade Smith, who found little help from his defence in his first inning of work.
Thomas, who led off the sixth, reached on an infield error, stole second and then took third when catcher Archer Brookman’s throw sailed into the outfield. He’d score on Jarred Kelenic’s groundout to second, Edouard Julien’s throw to the plate arriving too late.
Thomas added a run-scoring single in the seventh and with the bases loaded and his team up by just two in the eighth, Casas doubled to put the game out of reach.
“As the at bat continued and I got two strikes, I just wanted to stay with my approach and keep battling. I got a pitch out over the plate, was able to hit it to the fence and score the three runs, which ended up being a little bit of a cushion,” Casas said.
Two of Canada’s first three batters reached in the ninth, but Clayton Keyes hit into his second rally-killing double play of the night to end the game.
Canada takes on Japan on Friday at 5 p.m.