Junior National Team alum and former Detroit Tigers outfielder Jacob Robson (left) went 4-for-4 with three runs, a stolen base and an RBI to help lead Canada to an 18-8 win over Great Britain in their first game at the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Photo: Baseball Canada
March 13, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) and Jacob Robson (Windsor, Ont.) had four hits each to lead Canada to an 18-8 mercy rule win (seven innings) over Great Britain in their first game of the World Baseball Classic at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz., on Sunday.
The 18 runs are the most Canada has ever scored at the tournament.
“I’d like to score 18 every game we play,” said Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt after the game. “It will make it a little bit easier. Great Britain, they just kept battling, battling back. But as Tyler [O’Neill] said, we had some great at-bats. We grinded out our at-bats. We took our walks. And we capitalized on some of the mistakes they made. So it was nice to see.”
Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) and Owen Caissie (Burlington, Ont.) homered for Canada, while Freddie Freeman (Villa Park, Calif.), Otto Lopez (Montreal, Que.) and Abraham Toro (Longueuil, Que.) had two hits each.
Canada also capitalized on a tournament record-tying 16 walks from Great Britain pitchers.
The Canadians had to overcome an early deficit on Sunday. Coming off a competitive 6-2 loss to the U.S. on Saturday night, Great Britain plated three runs in the top of the first inning on two hits, four walks and three stolen bases against starter Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.).
But Julien and Team Canada responded immediately in the bottom half of the frame when the 23-year-old Minnesota Twins infield prospect clubbed the first pitch he saw from Great Britain starter Akeel Morris over the right field wall to become the first player to homer on their first pitch of their first WBC at bat.
“I just treated that at-bat like a normal one, not the first one of the game,” said Julien after the game. “My plan was to hit a fastball up in the zone. And I knew he had a good changeup, and he threw the first pitch, a fastball up, and I was fortunate to put a good swing on it.”
In all, Canada would tally five runs in bottom of the first, thanks to a throwing error by Great Britain first baseman Nick Ward and RBI singles from Caissie and Robson.
After an RBI single by Great Britain’s Trayce Thompson made it 5-4 in the top of the second, O’Neill walked to lead off the bottom half of the inning for Canada and Toro drove him in with a double.
Great Britain answered with a run in the top of the third to make it 6-5 before Caissie homered to dead centre field and O’Neill hit a three-run double to make it 10-5 in the bottom of the frame.
Seattle Mariners catching prospect, Harry Ford, belted a three-run home run in the top of the fourth to make it 10-8 but Canada responded by registering six runs thanks to five walks by Great Britain pitchers and RBI singles from Freeman, O’Neill and Lopez.
Curtis Taylor (Port Coquitlam, BC) entered the game in the top of the fourth and struck out D’Shawn Knowles to end the frame and then struck out two of the three batters he faced in the fifth in a three-up, three-down inning.
O’Neill finished the contest 4-for-4 with four runs, four RBIs and two walks for Canada. Two of his hits – a double and a single – were to the opposite field.
“There’s times you have to shoot the ball the other way, and there’s other times you want to put the ball in the gap,” said O’Neill about his approach at the plate on Sunday. “Also, other times where you want to take pitches.”
Robson was also 4-for-4 with three runs, a stolen base, an RBI and a walk.
Canada (1-0) will now play the United States in their second game of Pool C play on Monday night (10:08 p.m. E.T.).
-Canada’s previous record for runs in a WBC game was 11 against South Africa in the opening game of the 2006 tournament.
-Canada’s 18 runs tied a record for most scored by one team in a single game in the tournament. Japan scored 18 against China on March 3, 2006.
-The combined 26 runs between the two teams was a tournament record.
-Two University of British Columbia alums pitched in the game. The aforementioned Curtis Taylor for Canada, while Alex Webb (Surrey, B.C.) pitched the final two innings for Great Britain, allowing two runs on three hits.
-In managing the game, Ernie Whitt became the only field manager to have managed in all five World Baseball Classics.
-After quarterback Tom Brady retired earlier this year, much was written about him being the last active Montreal Expos draft pick. Maybe not. Daniel Cooper, a 36-year-old pitcher on Great Britain’s WBC roster, was selected in the 38th round of the 2004 MLB draft by the Expos. Brady was chosen in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB draft by the Expos.
-On top of his home run, Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) had four walks for Canada against Great Britain. No Canadian has had more walks in a single game at the WBC.