Officially, there is no Prince George team in the Ramada World Baseball Challenge.
But looking at the Kamloops Sun Devils roster, there’s no shortage of local content.
Brennan Hegel, Brandon Hunter, Cole Laviolette, Doug Clark, Chris Clark, Angelo Desantis and Jon Bourassa all either live in the city or were raised in Prince George and now they’re combining their efforts with the Kamloops guys in the five-team Ramada World Baseball Challenge.
Looking for their first win Sunday night at Citizen Field, the Sun Devils had their hands full dealing with the Thurston County Senators, who walked off Citizen Field with a 13-9 victory.
The Sun Devils trailed the Olympia, Wash.-based squad 12-4 in the eighth inning when their bats came to life. Senators reliever Alex Bryner plunked Doug Clark and Laviolette in order, then served up a home-run ball to Kamloops lead-off man Erik Herbranson.
Ian Horne walked, which brought Hunter to the plate. Like he’s done so any times in the Prince George Senior Baseball League, Hunter tagged a pitch over the left field wall for a two-run shot to make it a 12-9 game.
Then it was Ethan Mohan’s turn to get hit by a pitch, Jared Frew walked and Doug Clark got nailed for the second time in the inning to load the bases for Laviolette. With two out, the Kamloops catcher had a chance to put his team ahead with one swing of the bat but his grounder was fielded by Tanner Angel, who got the force-out at third to end the inning.
“We were out of it but we had a big inning in the (eighth) and fell flat in the ninth when we were coming back,” said Doug Clark, 30, the Sun Devils second baseman. “That was a pretty big bomb from Brandon and it was a good time for it, we needed that.”
Kamloops fell to 0-2 and will try for its first win again Monday night at 8 when the Sun Devils take on Japan.
Doug Clark played for Team Canada along with Hunter and Laviolette in the 2013 WBC and Clark says he’s enjoying the rare opportunity to play teams from other countries.
“It’s really good competition and it’s fun to play this calibre of ball again,” he said. “We play Japan and I’m excited for that game. They’re a pretty good team.”
Nick Bowman provided an insurance run for Thurston County in the bottom of the eighth, a blooper to right field which scored Bryner from third. That came as a big relief for Bryner, an 18-year-old from Puyullup, Wash., who started the game at third base and pitched three innings, taking over from starter Bryan Lounsbury to start the sixth inning.
“I was starting to let balls get up and they got a hold of them, I was getting a little tired and lost a little velocity,” said Bryner, who will play college ball this fall for Olympic College in Bremerton, Wash.
“It was a little nervewracking pitching to grown men, but we were hitting well. We’ve been smashing the ball all week.”
The Senators built a 6-2 lead with a five-run second inning. Working with two outs, Kamloops pitcher Brandon Marklund walked Bowman, then gave up five consecutive singles to run up the deficit.
The Sun Devils got two back in the third. Hunter led off the inning with a single to third base and Rob Morrison followed up with a double off the wall. With two out, Bryan Lounsbury walked Frew to load the bases and issued another free pass to Doug Clark, cashing in Hunter from third. Lounsbury plunked Laviolette to bring Morrison home and the Sun Devils trailed 6-4.
Bryner added to the count for Thurston County in the fifth with a two-run single and Keone McKee kept the offence coming with another run-scoring base hit. Carson Bensen then offered up a two-run single to increase the gap to 11-4.
The Sun Devils threatened in the sixth inning, loading the bases for Hunter. He had a good rip at a Bryner pitch but the line drive was caught by shortstop Bowman to end the inning.
“You’re never out of a baseball game, it’s not over until it’s over, anything can happen,” said Laviolette, 21, who played two years of college ball in California. “You still have to make three outs every inning and until that happens, the game’s always on.”
“This is a good team and we still have to win a couple games here but we’re right with all these teams here and we’re still believing we have a chance to win it.”
The Senators (1-1) lost 6-5 in their opener Saturday to Canada Sidearm Nation. They’ll have a day off Monday and return to the field Tuesday at 4 p.m. to face the Roswell Invaders.
Roswell (1-1) plays Sidearm Nation (1-1) Monday at 4 p.m.
Japan 11 Roswell Invaders 3
Japan improved its tournament record to 2-0, turning the tide on the Invaders from New Mexico with a triple play in the fourth inning.
Trailing 3-0, Japan was dealing with runners at first and second with nobody out when Roswell batter Nate Ferrell unloaded a liner right to pitcher Kondo Hitoshi. Hitoshi made a quick toss to shortstop Kimo Watanabe, who forced out Kaohu Gasper at second base and made the relay to first baseman Harada Takumi to strand Jim Smith.
That provided inspiration for Japan’s ofence, which responded with two runs in the fifth and four in the seventh to jump to a 7-3 lead. Takuma Hasegawa cleared the bases in the seventh with a three-run double, chasing Senators starter Darrell Thompson, who left after giving up six runs on nine hits.
Cody Bishop and Cody Coffman, who each homered in Roswell’s 8-7 win Saturday over Kamloops, continued to hit the ball well. Bishop’s single in the third inning scored Smith from third base and Coffman countered with a two-run double to give Roswell a three-run lead. But that was all the offence the Invaders could muster.
Hitoshi went seven innings to earn the victory, allowing three runs on six hits with four strikeouts and three walks.