World Baseball Challenge gets underway

Billy Clapperton already had a single and a triple when he took the ball for a ride over left field wall at Citizen Field.

All that was left for Clapperton after that solo shot in the sixth inning Friday was a double to complete the set. One swat of the bat was all the Calgary native needed to finish off the cycle, but what really mattered to the Sidearm Nation right fielder was his batting power put his team ahead in the opening game at the World Baseball Challenge.

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After leading most of the game they were tied 6-6 with Team Japan batting in the top of the eighth inning at presstime.

Justin Johnston picked a fine time to belt the first home run of the tournament. It came with the bases juiced to give Sidearm Nation a 4-0 lead in the second inning. Daiki Tajima, a 20-year-old pitcher projected as the first-over pick in the 2017 pro draft in Japan, left the ball hanging in a sweet spot for Johnston and he cleared the fence over the Michael's Jewellers sign, scoring Clapperton, Kevin Czernecki and Joey Underwood, who all reached base on singles.

Clapperton caused some excitement in the third inning when he fouled off a Tajima pitch into the light standard, shattering two high-power halogen bulbs, resulting in a shower of glass shards coming down just beside the Sidearm Nation dugout. Clapperton then hit a one-out triple to right field, but was left stranded.

Takuma Hasagawa came to Prince George with a reputation as a heavy hitter and showed that power when he clubbed a triple off the right field wall in the fourth inning, allowing Yuishi Tabata to score from first base. Tatsuya Naruko drove in the second run for Japan with a single. Underwood dove to stop the ball but was unable to make the throw to get Naruko for the third out.

Leading 5-2, the game started to change when Sidearm starter Ryan Johnson left the game with one out in the sixth after giving up just five hits. Reliever Dirk Dombroski was a bit wild and walked the first two batters he faced to load the bases. Shunta Tanaka scored on a wild pitch and Katayama Junichi flied out to score Hasagawa to make it a 5-4 game.

Japan threatened to tie it when catcher Underwood dropped a pitch from Riley Schaaf, who took over from Dombroski. But Underwood made a nice play to grab the ball and apply the tag on Tatsuya Maruko sliding in from third to end the inning.

Clapperton drew a walk from Yuki Sameshima in the seventh inning with the bases loaded to bring in the sixth Sidearm Nation run. But Japan tied it 6-6 in the bottom of the seventh when Shunta Tanaka doubled off the wall, scoring two runs.

Just four of the five teams lined up on the field for the tournament opening ceremony just before the game. The Roswell Invaders and the Kamloops Sun Devils made it in time but not the Thurston County Generals. They had bus troubles on the trip up from Seattle and were delayed but did check into their hotel rooms later Friday night.

Kamloops and Roswell take the field today at 4 p.m. at Citizen Field, followed by the Thurston County-Sidearm Nation game at 8 p.m.

On Sunday, Japan plays Roswell at 4 p.m., then Kamloops meets Thurston County at 8.

Then on Monday, Sidearm Nation plays Roswell at 4 p.m. and Japan takes on Kamloops at 8 p.m.

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