Not being able to defend the bunt burned Team Canada in a 12-6 loss to New Zealand last night.
The New Zealand Black Sox won by stringing together a solid game that saw them utilize both the small ball and long ball.
With the loss, Canada drops to 2-2 at the world championships, while New Zealand remains unbeaten at 4-0.
Tied 3-3, Canada’s infield defence fell apart in the top of the fourth, as the Black Sox sent 10 batters to the plate and scored six.
Starting pitcher Johnny Baker was yanked for ace Matt Wardrop, who couldn’t stop the bleeding, and was subsequently replaced by Eric Healey to start the sixth.
“We fell apart a little bit defensively,” said catcher Taylor Schubada, Canada’s only returning player from the 2012 tournament. “They made some good bunts, but we should be able to play those. We just fell asleep a little bit.”
While bunts and speed helped New Zealand pile on the runs in the fourth, the Black Sox used the long ball early.
Cole Evans hit a two-run shot in the third to give him the tournament lead with two, while Eruera Drage jacked a second two-run shot for New Zealand just over centre-fielder Matt Pilon’s glove in the sixth.
Pilon leaped in an attempt to catch the ball, and proceeded to tumble over the outfield fence.
Black Sox pitcher Ethan Johnston pitched 3.2 innings in relief and recorded the save after striking out the side in the seventh.
“They’ve got good sticks – very, very good sticks,” said the 18-year-old from Christchurch. “But our defence is just really strong.”
As for New Zealand’s success at the plate, the pitcher with the dreadlocks said his team was amped up to beat the host squad after losing to them in a pre-tournament exhibition in Vancouver. The team performed the haka prior to the contest.
Canada’s head coach hinted that changes may be coming to the lineup in time for tonight’s important match against Australia.
“They were putting the bunt down and we weren’t able to make the plays,” Jim Jones said post-game. “Collectively as a group on the infield, we have to step up and make those plays.”
New Hamburg, Ont., pitcher Tyler Randerson, who started against the U.S. on Sunday, is slated to pitch tonight’s contest versus Australia, while Justin Ganie of Irma, Alta., may have earned himself a spot in the lineup after smacking a hard-hit double after entering the game as a pinchhitter in the sixth.
Justin Boyer hit a two-run homer for Canada in the bottom of the third to knot the game 3-3.
Canada needs to win tonight to stay in the playoff hunt, Jones said.
“We need to come up with a big game and that’s what we intend to do,” he said.
“We’re not going to lose two in a row,” added Schubada. “We’ll be better next game. We all know that we’re better than that.”
The top of the fourth inning saw several close calls go New Zealand’s way, causing Jones to hold a conversation with the first-base umpire.
“We needed a break,” Jones said. “It was a good call from his part, I was just trying to get a little bit of time for our team (to calm down).”
For video footage of New Zealand’s pre-game performance of the haka, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLQhLCIO9FI.