Seiya Dohi's pitching arm was feeling like rubber and the Thurston County Senators took notice.
Facing a blowout defeat, the Senators launched a bit of a filibuster and began to dictate the proceedings with their bats at Dohi's expense on a warm sunny evening at Citizen Field.
The visitors from Washington State crawled back from a nine-run deficit and gave Dohi and Team Japan a bit of scare before dropping a 12-9 decision Wednesday at the Ramada World Baseball Challenge.
In the late game, The Roswell Invaders scored six runs in the third inning to take an 8-2 lead over the Kamloops Sun Devils, highlighted by Cody Bishop's two-run home run.
Down 10-1 to start the fifth inning, Thurston County strung together four consecutive singles to bring in three runs, then chased Japan pitcher Seiya Dohi from the game with five runs in the top of the seventh to make it a 12-9 game.
Omar Maldonado belted a three-run home run to score Bensen and d'Aundray Van Slyke. Tanner Angel, Tyler Wambold and Alex Bryner all hit singles to load the bases with nobody out and Nick Bowman got two more runs across with a base hit to rightfield.
Japan was forced to scrap its plan to leave the 20-year-old Dohi in for seven innings and with nobody out, brought in Katsutoshi Satake into the game. Satake, the MVP of the Asian Games in 2015, was worth the price of admission for the sparse crowd in attendance. He blew the Senators away in order to close out the final three innings, striking out five of them.
"Our starting pitcher was no good, but he's very young and he has to have a lot of experience," said Japanese delegation head Daisuke Tsutsui.
Japan has dominated the tournament, rolling to a 4-0 record while outscoring their opponents a combined 45-20. Only twice in the tournament, in their opening-day 11-7 triumph Friday over Canadian Sidearm Nation, and in Sunday's 11-3 win over Roswell, did Japan trail in a game.
An all-star squad picked from the best of the Industrial League, the top amateur league in Japan, Team Japan has high expectations of its players and Daisuke says there's plenty of room for improvement in his team.
Tsutsui said because they're not getting pushed in the tournament, his getting complacent because they don't feel the pressure to perform to the best of their ability to get out of tight situations. Japan took advantage of five Thurston County errors to score three of their 12 runs.
"I hate games like this, they're no good," said Tsutsui. "The other team (is) very weak and made a lot of mistakes with wild pitches and passed balls, so my team didn't concentrate too much this game, so it was a lazy game.
"A close game would be a better game, I hope, with no mistakes. My players made many many mistakes and they didn't show up as errors (Japan had just two on Wednesday), but I know."
Japan got off to an explosive start. Leadoff hitter Tsuyosi Sugano welcomed Thurston County starter Ryan Smith into the game by taking his second pitch out of the park, triggering a five-run first inning. Two singles and walk loaded the bases for Tatsuya Maruko and the Japan first baseman responded with a grand slam, depositing the ball in the same piece of centrefield forest as Sugano's home run.
Connor Bensen took the ball from Smith for the second inning and was unable to stop the bleeding. Japan scored three runs in the third to make it 8-0.
But the Senators dug deep and outscored Japan 8-2 in the last five innings.
"These boys have a lot of fight in them, they don't give up on anything that they do," said Senators coach Abe Lupkin. "Our lack of execution early ended up biting us in the butt.
"We all came out and watched them for a couple times so we knew what the Japanese team had and hats off to them. They execute on everything they've been doing and that's why they haven't lost a game yet.
"They probably left their pitcher (Dohi) in two innings too long, the way the score ended up. But when you get up early you can leave an arm in a little bit longer and save pitching for the back half of the tournament. "
The Senators finished fifth out of eight teams at the Grand Forks Invitational tournament in early July. Lupkin says his players like playing in Canada and had high praise for tournament organizers. They're enjoying their stay in Prince George.
"This has been outstanding, the community of Prince George has been so welcoming, just the accommodations and everything this town has given, and the tournament has been so much fun," said Lupkin.
"For the most part, these boys don't get a chance to play international teams. To have a team like Japan come all the way over here to play some ball, we've got some 18- or 19-year-olds on the team and they've never had an experience like this. It's really something special for them."
The loss left Thurston County with a 1-3 record heading into today's game at 4 p.m. against Roswell. Japan takes on Kamloops in the late game at 8 p.m.
Roswell's big inning Wednesday started with a throwing error to Kamloops third basemen and Prince George native Brennan Hegel, which got Brett Balkan aboard. Morgan Blatnik followed up with a hit up the gut for an RBI single, setting the stage for Bishop.
Kamloops pitcher Austin Penner loaded the bases and walked Jim Smith for the sixth run of the third inning. With the bases loaded again, Balkan singled to centrefield to bring in two more runs.
With Alex Dandridge pitching, Roswell (3-1) was looking for its fourth win of the tournament. The Sun Devils (0-4) ranked last in the five-team tournament. The game was in the fourth inning at presstime.
Ramada World Baseball Challenge
Standings (not including Wednesday's late Roswell-Kamloops game)
Team W L
Japan 5 0
Roswell Invaders 4 1
Canadian Sidearm Nation 3 2
Thurston County Senators 1 4
Kamloops Sun Devils 0 4
Japan 8 Kamloops Sun Devils 4
Canadian Sidearm Nation 11 Thurston County Senators 8
Roswell 12 Kamloops 2
Japan 12 Thurston County 9
Canadian Sidearm Nation 10 Kamloops 5
Roswell 11 Thurston County 1
Japan 11 Kamloops 1
Roswell 10 Canadian Sidearm Nation 2
Thurston County 13 Kamloops 9
Japan 11 Roswell 3
Canadian Sidearm Nation 6 Thurston County 5
Roswell 8 Kamloops 7
Japan 11 Canadian Sidearm Nation 7
Upcoming games (all at Citizen Field)
Thurston County vs. Roswell, 4 p.m.
Canadian Sidearm Nation vs. Japan, 8 p.m.
Bronze medal: Candian Sidearm Nation vs.Thurston County Senators, 2 p.m.
Gold medal: Japan vs.Roswell, 6 p.m.