PARANA, ARGENTINA – In a tightly contested fastpitch game, it often takes a break to decide the outcome.
In the fifth inning of the bronze medal game in the IX Pan American playoffs, Argentina got the break and Canada suffered the backbreaker.
With the score tied 1-1, and Argentina occupying first and third with two out, Canada appeared to get out of trouble when Sean Cleary struck out Bruno Motroni.
But Cleary’s pitch appeared low with catcher Bryan Abrey having to scoop it up and throw to first in order to get the out. But his throw sailed down the first base line, allowing all three runners to race around the bags to give Argentina a 4-1 lead.
Mariano Montero belted a solo home run in the sixth, and Argentina went on to beat Canada 5-1 to advance into the gold medal game Saturday night.
Argentina (2-0 playoffs, 5-2) will meet Venezuela (1-0, 5-2) in an all South America final, while Canada (0-2, 6-1) goes home with the bronze medal.
Jason Hill scored Canada’s lone run in the second when he reached first base on a fielder’s choice and later scored on an outfield error.
Canada’s Cleary and Andy Skelton – both right-handers – made do with the slim margin until Argentina capitalized on the huge break that assures them of at least a silver medal in the eight-team tournament.
Juan Pottoliccio (3-0) picked up the win in relief, pitching five innings, allowing no runs, one hit, and a walk, with 10 strikeouts. Lucas Mata started and over two innings held Canada to two hits and a run, while striking out two.
For Canada, Cleary went 2 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, a walk, while striking out six. Skelton hurled 3 1/3 innings allowing two runs on three hits, a walk, with eight strikeouts.
Canada’s three hits came from Derek Mayson, 2-for-3, and Skelton, 1-for-3.
Argentina notched six hits, with leadoff Fernando Petric going 2-for-3, run, RBI; and Montero (RBI), Francisco Sabate, Juan Zara, and Nicolas Carril with one hit each.