The Canadian Junior Men’s National Team moved on in the playoff round of the WBSC Junior Men’s World Championship with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic on Thursday, July 28 in Midland, Michigan. Tyler Randerson (New Hamburg, ON) was sensational in the pitcher’s circle, allowing only one unearned runs on two hits with 16 strikeouts, while Alexandre Lemieux (St-Gervais, QC) registered the game-winning two-run single in the bottom of the fifth.
The game was a pitcher’s duel right from the start, as Randerson and Michal Holobradek went pitch for pitch over the first few innings. Both of them retired the side in order in the first, with Randerson hitting a batter in the second but catcher Derek Hyde (Tavistock, ON) throwing him out at second on a steal attempt to end the inning. Team Canada got a one-out walk by Daniel Godbout (St-Gervais, QC) in the bottom of the second, but the next two batters struck out.
In the third, the Czech Republic got a leadoff single but the hitter was thrown out by left fielder Lemieux trying to stretch the hit into a double and Randerson followed that up by striking out the next two batters. In the bottom of the frame, Isaac Lefebvre (St-Leonard-d’Aston, QC) earned a one-out walk followed by a single by Jake Wiffen (Tavistock, ON) on a hit-and-run that pulled the shortstop over to the bag. Wiffen stole second before Avery Arsenault (Tignish, PEI) dropped a great bunt for a single to load the bases with one out. However, a fielder’s choice on a chopper to third retired Lefebvre at home, and the next batter struck out as Canada came away with nothing.
The Czech Republic manufactured a run by taking advantage of some miscues to open the scoring in the top half of the fourth. The leadoff batter singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on an error at second base before scoring on a ground ball with a tough hop at second base. Randerson bounced back by striking out the next three batters to leave two Czechs in scoring position. Canada went down in order in the bottom of the fourth as did the Czech Republic in the fifth before Canada fought back. Hyde led off with a triple to right and Wiffen reached on a fielder’s choice when the third baseman tried to tag Hyde at third. Wiffen stole second before Lemieux hit a two-out, two-run single up the middle to give Canada the 2-1 lead.
Randerson struck out two and got a fly out to left in the top of the sixth, with Canada getting a leadoff single by Godbout in the bottom of the frame but could not move him any further. Randerson closed out the game by striking out the side for the third time in the game in the top of the seventh to seal the win.
Randerson was fantastic in the circle, allowing only one unearned run on two hits and struck out 16 batters – including eight in a row at one point – in the key win. Lemieux had the clutch two-run single, with Hyde adding a triple and Wiffen, Arsenault and Godbout each contributing singles.
With the win, Canada moves on to face the United States at 2:30pm EDT on Friday. The Americans lost their first playoff game 5-2 to Japan. On the other side of the bracket, New Zealand edged Argentina 3-2 and Australia beat Mexico 5-1 to set up a matchup between Argentina and Australia at 12:00pm EDT. New Zealand and Japan each secured spots in the medal round and will play each other 5:00pm EDT to decide who will get a direct berth in Saturday’s Gold medal game.