THUNDER BAY – Michael Stovman doesn’t pitch much.
Maybe he should.
The Maple Ridge, B.C. native tossed a much-needed eight-inning gem on Saturday, leading Team Canada to a 4-2 win over Cuba in the Super Round finale for both teams at the Under 18 Baseball World Cup.
More importantly, his seven-hit, one-walk performance allowed manager Greg Hamilton to rest the rest of his pitching staff, meaning all arms on deck on Sunday when Canada takes on Japan for bronze.
What an outing, Hamilton said.
“He was what we needed today. And he traditionally does that. He fills the strike zone up. That was kind of the plan, but obviously he went out and exceeded what we were hoping for,” said Hamilton, whose team finished the Super Round at 3-2 and will hold home-field advantage in Sunday’s third-place contest.
“We wanted to get to the middle innings and not use a lot (of pitchers), and he did a great job.”
Stovman, a first-baseman who pitched an inning of scoreless relief earlier in the tournament, admitted his success shocked himself a little.
“It was special. It was my first ever Team Canada start, so to be able to do that and help the team out and save our aces for tomorrow is big,” Stovman said.
Southpaw Wesley Moore is expected to get the call for Canada against Japan, a team Canada beat 6-4 on Friday to clinch a spot in the medal round.
Their slim shot at a gold medal opportunity disappeared earlier in the day, when Korea knocked off Japan 6-4, earning a shot at the U.S. in Sunday night’s championship finale.
Catcher Victor Cerny, batting .300 for Canada, delivered the big hit in the sixth, doubling to the gap in left-centre to score Archer Brookman and Jason Willow, whose RBI double off Cuban reliever Reyes Perez earlier in the inning broke a 1-1 tie.
“He fell behind and I got a fastball and my eyes lit up and I went at it,” said Cerny, who caught Stovman’s outing and said what the pitcher did best was staying calm throughout his start.
Canada (3-2) opened the scoring in the third, Lucas Parente singling, stealing second and scoring when Cuban left-fielder Rios Mesa lost a fly-ball in the sun, the ball hitting his glove and falling to the Port Arthur Stadium turf.
Stovman held the Cubans (0-5) in check until the fifth when Zulueta Chapelli singled to score Perez Martinez, who reached on a one-out single of his own and stole second to plant himself in scoring position.
The Caribbean nation added one more in the eighth, Fuente Gonzalez’s groundout allowing Chapelli to score.
Jack Decooman pitched a perfect ninth to record the save, striking out one.
Hamilton said he thinks his team is set for a Japanese rematch.
“Everybody’s rested and ready,” he said.
USA 9, Australia 0: Brandon Dieter allowed three hits over eight shutout innings as the Americans continued their unbeaten run. Michael Siani and Brice Turang had two hits and two runs apiece.
Korea 6, Japan 4: Baekho Kang tripled and drove in a pair to lead the Koreans into the gold-medal match. Korea scored three in the first, surrendered three in the second, then took the lead for good with pair in their next turn at bat.
Nicaragua 10, Mexico 4: Solano Valdez had three hits, scored twice and drove in two more to earn the Nicaraguans, who banged out 19 hits, another consolation round win.
Chinese Taipei 3, South Africa 0: Jui-Hsiang Lin, Hsin-Chieh Lin and Tien-Hsin Kuo combined on a two-hit shutout for the No. 4 seed from Chinese Taipei, who finished the consolation round 5-0.