Canada falls short at Worlds

12:10 PM, Aug 2, 2010   |    comments
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Thunder Bay, ON (Sports Network) - They didn't get the result they wanted, but Team Canada leaves Thunder Bay with heads held high.

Less than a day after a heartbreaking semifinal loss to Chinese Taipei, Canada was unable to solve Cuban pitcher Eddyalb Valentin, finishing the tournament in fourth place and ending any hopes of medalling on home soil.

Valentin (2-1) pitched five-plus innings of one-run ball while striking out eight, and Andy Ibanez hit a three-run homer to power Cuba to an 8-2 victory and its second straight bronze medal at the World Junior Baseball Championship.

"It's tough to lose like we did last night," said Team Canada head coach Greg Hamilton. "You have a gold medal potentially in sight, and then you have to bounce back 12 hours later. But that'sthe reality of it and that's what makes these tournaments special.

"Unfortunately, we didn't bounce back."

Ibanez' blast to deep right center off Tom Robson (0-1) in the fifth broke a scoreless tie and proved to be the difference in front of a packed house at Port Arthur Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The five-foot-nine shortstop, who was relegated from the leadoff spot to No. 9 in the order following a 3-for-23 tournament, went 3-for-4 and gave the Cubans the offensive jolt they had been missing after outscoring their opponents 29-1 through the first three games of the round robin.

Robson, familiar with the Cubans after blanking them for six innings during a 3-0 loss in group play, allowed seven hits and four runs over six-plus innings.

The right-hander from Ladner, B.C. retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced and appeared to be well in control of the game, getting late movement on his curveball and preventing Cuba from mounting any sort of substantial rally.

But after a single by Lazaro Hernandez to open the fifth, followed by a walk to catcher Dariel Crespo, Ibanez blasted a three-run shot over the fence in right to give Cuba a 3-0 lead that would ultimately spell the end of Canada's podium aspirations.

And Valentin was a big part of it.

The 18-year-old lefty from Santiago de Cuba continued his strong showing at the tournament, keeping a solid Canadian offense off the board for five innings with four of his first six outs coming via strikeout.

"He bared down and got the outs when he needed to," said designated hitter Philip Diedrick. "We should have shown a little better plate discipline but there's nothing really you can do about it when he's making pitches."

Valentin scattered seven hits while walking three for his second victory at the WJBC.

The only Canadian to tag the lefty for extra bases was none other than Diedrick, who continued his impressive showing over the 10-day tournament.

Diedrick led off the second, fourth and sixth inning with hits, proving to scouts he has the type of power and approach required to hit at the next level. His single to start the sixth paved the way for Canada's first run of the game after Alex Calbick's sacrifice fly cashed Diedrick and cut the Cubans' lead to 3-1.

"He's going to be a good hitter going forward," said Hamilton of his six-foot- one, 202-pound DH. "He's a big strong kid and he's not a one-dimensional kind of guy. He will go the other way a little bit for you as well.

"I thought he had a real nice tournament."

The Toronto Blue Jays' 45th-round draft pick, Diedrick finished the tournament 14-for-31 (.452) with a team-leading 10 RBI after going 3-for-4 on Sunday. Although Diedrick was disappointed in his team's result, he acknowledged the type of impact an individual performance like that could have on his career.

"It lets you know where you compare on a world stage," said the Ajax, Ont.- native. "In Canada, you know you're one of the top 20 players and then when you go and play against the U.S. or other countries, you can see where you stack up."

Another bright spot for Canada was Burnaby, B.C.-native Calbick, who was a staple in Hamilton's lineup after starting the tournament on the bench.

Calbick went 1-for-3 against Cuba to finish with a team-high .528 average over eight games.

"Obviously the Cubans are one of the top teams in the world," said Calbick after the game. "We can hang with them, it just got away in the last three innings."

The Cubans would tack on more in the seventh when, with two men on, Victor Rivas doubled to right to score Crespo before rightfielder Rowan Wick and second baseman Justin Atkinson teamed up on a relay to nail Ibanez at the plate.

Cuba would add one more in the top of the eighth, following a pinch-hit double by Gourriell and subsequent sacrifice fly by Yasiel Balaguert to extend the lead to 5-1.

After going 4-1 through round robin play and proving their worth on the international stage, Hamilton chalked it up to not getting it done when it counts.

"The last two days, we didn't get timely hitting and that's what it came down to," he said. "The clubs that we played did so, if you don't get the hit that you need against good teams, you're not going to win."

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