Sean Cleary allowed one hit in pitching Canada to a 10-0 win over Venezuela to advance Team Canada into the Gold Medal game of the 14th ISF Men’s World Softball Championship, Sunday, July 5.
SASKATOON, SK, Canada – In somewhat of a surprise, Venezuela started its No. 2 pitcher, Erick Urbaneja, rather than handing the ball to Ramon Jones against Canada in the Bronze Medal game, Sunday morning.
All Jones had done was win six games in the ISF Men’s World Softball Championship including back-to-back, one-hit shutouts in the playoffs to get his team to this desirable juncture in the championship round.
Was the pitching decision made to counter the left-handed Urbaneja against the seven lefties in Canada’s lineup? Was it made because his slower speed and great change-up had given Canada problems in the past?
CANADA SCORES EARLY AND OFTEN
Maybe so. But it didn’t work. And the way Canada was swinging the bats, it probably didn’t matter who Venezuela threw at them.
Team Canada exploded from the starting gate by torching Urbaneja for four runs on five hits including two home runs by Brad Ezekiel and Steve Mullaley to send the left-hander to the bench. Another lefty, Eder Pineda, came on in relief, but he wasn’t effective either as Canada continued the onslaught.
And before the first inning had ended, Canada had sent 10 batters to the plate, scored six runs on seven hits, and the game was essentially over as Canada went on to win 10-0 in a mercy-rule, four innings.
The win moves Canada into the Gold Medal game, Sunday afternoon against the defending 2013 champion New Zealand Black Sox.
Canada kept pounding the ball, adding four more runs in the third, highlighted by Ezekiel’s bases-loaded triple. Canada’s center fielder and No. 2 hitter was perfect in going 2-for-2 with five RBI, including his first-inning homer.
Brad Ezekiel hit a home run and accounted for five of Canada’s 10 runs against Venezuela.
Sean Cleary got the start for Canada and he was on top of his game, mixing his rise ball effectively with his knee-buckling change-up against the free and hard-swinging Venezuelans.
The right-hander struck out six of the first nine batters he faced and carried a perfect game into the fourth inning. But pinch hitter, Kerlis Rivero, broke up Cleary’s gem with a clean single.
Venezuela continued to threaten by loading the bases on an error and walk, but Cleary struck out Edwin Linares to end the game and send Canada into the Gold Medal game with New Zealand, waiting in the wings.
GREAT SHOWING BY A WORLD-CLASS TEAM
Venezuela exits the world softball championship with the Bronze Medal, finishing 3-1 in the championship round and third in Pool B at 5-2. Venezuela has shown outstanding ability at the world level, taking the Silver Medal in the 2013 ISF World Championship.
The win boasts Cleary’s record to 5-0 (2-0 in the playoffs). Against Venezuela, he allowed the one hit and struck out nine. All totaled, Cleary has pitched 30 2/3 innings, allowing 11 hits, crafting a 2.05 ERA, with 12 walks and 45 strikeouts.
Now the question? Will Cleary get the ball and go as far as he can against New Zealand? Or will Canada Head Coach John Stuart opt for left-hander Paul Koert, or the young right-handed Devon McCullough?
On Saturday the two teams met and Cleary lasted just 2 2/3 innings before being lifted after allowing two earned runs on three hits. New Zealand went on to rough up relievers Paul Koert and Devon McCullough as well in a 9-5 victory, earned largely by four home runs.
Gold Medal game time is 1:30 p.m. PDT. To watch live, visit: Sports Canada TV