THUNDER BAY – There was no storybook ending for Team Canada at the Under 18 Baseball World Cup.
The Japanese squad jumped all over Canuck starter Wesley Moore in the third and fourth inning, racing out to a 6-0 lead en route to an 8-1 triumph.
Third baseman Noah Naylor, who had two of Canada’s five hits, said despite the results, he and his 10th-ranked teammates can hold their head high, surpassing all expectations but their own to finish the tournament in fourth place.
“It was a great finish,” said Naylor, who hit .276 in nine games, doubling three times and scoring six runs.
“I’m just very glad I got to spend the last couple of weeks with my brothers. It was a great time. I thought we competed very well. Obviously it was tough competition on the other side of field. But we belong in here with them and we competed our butts off. And we had a fun time doing it.”
Winning isn’t everything and manager Greg Hamilton said that’s what he told his team, adding he was proud of the way they played all week long.
Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but they gave their all on each and every play, he said.
“We had our backs up against the wall after the second game. They scratched and competed and stayed together and we got right down to the end. All things considered, I’m proud of them,” Hamilton said.
“It’s a really good group. We competed hard. When you’re sitting there in the moment it’s not the gold medal, the silver medal or the bronze. But to finish fourth in the world, you’ve done something right.”
Japanese pitcher Ginji Miura was the deciding factor, holding the Canadian bats at bay through a dominant seven-inning performance that saw him hold the opposition hitless through three innings. He allowed three hits and a walk, while striking out 12 for the bronze medallists.
“He was good. Location was great and command of his pitches was outstanding,” Hamilton said. “You get behind early and they have a guy on the mound like that and it’s tough to generate momentum.”
The trouble for Moore starte and ninth o d in the third.
After opening with a pair of scoreless innings to start, Kaito Kozono singled to start the fireworks. He stole second and scored on an error by Canadian second baseman Edouard Julien, one of three fielding miscues the host team made in the matinee match.
A wild pitch by Moore allowed Kyota Fujiwara to score from third. Kotaro Kiyomiya singled to plate Hisanari Yasuda, Shuto Sakurai following with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.
Things didn’t improve much in the fourth.
Fujiwara and Yasuda ripped RBI singles off reliever Jack Decooman and Canada was in a deep hole, down, 6-0.
Japan added single runs in the seventh and ninth off highly touted Minnesota Twins right-hander Landon Leach to go up by eight. Canada fought back with its only sustained rally of the afternoon in the ninth, Clayton Keyes coming home on a Jason Willow single off Japanese reliever Tatsuya Shimizu.
The gold-medal game between Korea and the United States goes at 5 p.m., also at Port Arthur Stadium.