The World University Baseball Championships began yesterday with Canada taking on Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) at Jingu Stadium. There are 8 countries participating in the tournament: Canada, Chinese Taipei, Sri Lanka, and the USA comprise group A, while Japan, China, Cuba, and Korea make up group B. Each group has a 3-game round robin and the quarterfinals pit the 1st place finisher in one group against the 4th place from the other with the 2nd and 3rd place teams also meeting.
This is the 5th time the tournament has been held. In the inaugural event in 2002, Cuba took the gold defeating the USA in the final while Japan finished third. Since then, the USA has won each tourney, besting Japan twice and Chinese Taipei once.
Looking at the eight teams and the past results, it seemed like there are 5 strong teams that have each won at least one medal, while Canada, China, and Sri Lanka could expect to battle it out for 6th and below. So I went to this game with low expectations.
Canada was the visiting team and opened the scoring in the 2nd when DH Ryan Fleming (above) of Georgia State cranked a homer that just snuck inside the right field foul pole. They added another run when Carter Bell (Oregon State) singled home Garrett Regan (Oklahoma City University) who had walked.
Chad Marshall of Stoney Brook University pops one foul
Chinese Taipei got one back in the third when DH Kuan Wei Yang who had doubled, scored on a single from Yi Kun Huang. But Canada regained the two-run lead in the 4th. With two out, Blake Carruthers (UBC) tripled. Bell then hit a grounder to short but Hsien Hsien Yang threw wildly to first allowing Carruthers to plate Canada's 3rd run.
After that, pitching took over. Sheldon McDonald (UBC, above) had started for Canada and only allowed two baserunners between the 4th and 8th innings, one on an error and the other on a walk. He was removed after 8 having scattered just 3 hits. He wasn't overpowering, striking out only 4, but he kept the ball inside and low and the Taiwanese hitters couldn't muster any serious offense. It was great to watch and certainly he impressed the scouts in attendance.
In the 9th, Adam Reynolds (University of Guelph) came on and gave up a two-out homer (above) to Chih Pei Huang to make the Canadian fans nervous. But he got pinch-hitter Chih Wei Teng (below) to ground out to second in a very close play and Canada came away with a hard-fought 3-2 win.
This is a huge victory for Team Canada as they should now finish second in the round robin, which means they will get a weaker team in the quarter-finals. Who knows, they might even beat the US on Monday.
Japan defeated Korea 4-0 with only 5,000 fans in attendance, which surprised me. I would have expected a lot more locals to be there to cheer on what looks to be a great team. Yuki Saitoh pitched 6 innings, striking out 9. By the way, there were 300 fans in attendance at the Canada game, and judging by the picture below I'd say they overestimated.
In the third game of the opening day, the US beat Sri Lanka 15-0 in a game called after 5 innings due to the mercy rule.
I expect Japan and the US to meet up in the final next Saturday, but you never know. Canada takes on the Yanks Monday night and I plan to watch that in Yokohama. Depending on how the quarterfinal matchups go, I might see a few other games next week. Check back for the results then.