A Penticton baseball player helped Team Canada defeat Cuba 8-6 at the Pan Am Games in Peru.
The win gives Canada a 2-0 record in Group B play, setting up a showdown for first place with 2-0 Columbia on Thursday after press deadline (go to pentictonwesternnews.com to find game recap).
“Our game tomorrow against Columbia will be another battle. We played them in Brazil this January and they beat us. This time around I think we have a stronger team and we’re hot right now. We need to finish first in our pool and beating them would secure that spot,” Houle told the Western News.
Catcher Dustin Houle, a former SOMBA Tiger player from Penticton, along with his Canadian teammates, already assured their entry into the super round play — which gets underway on Friday.
“Our focus is to win every game,” said Canada’s manager Ernie Whitt. “Right now, we’re looking towards Columbia with a chance to move into the next round with a perfect record.”
Connor Panas (Etobicoke, Ont.) gave Canada an early 3-0 with a homerun that sailed over the wall in right field. Houle had a walk in the second inning but was thrown out on a fielder’s choice play. At his next at bat, Houle hit a grounder to Cuba’s third baseman who threw him out before he could reach first base.
Canada allowed a pair of runs in the first, but starting pitcher Jordan Balazovic (Mississauga, Ont.) retired the next 10 batters before Cuba had back-to-back home runs with two outs in the fourth to tie the game 4-4.
Canada retook the lead when Panas connected on a bases loaded single in the fifth that brought in two runs and a sac-fly to centrefield made it 7-4.
Cuba strung together some runs to pull within one in the fifth inning.
It was then a defensive battle down the stretch, with both teams kept off the scoreboard in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
Canada loaded the bases in the ninth and scored a valuable insurance run, while pitcher Dustin Molleken (Regina, Sask.) worked a perfect inning to record the save.
Houle said being part of a multi-games experience in Peru has been a fun experience.
“Seeing all the great athletes from the America’s is really cool. There is a lot going on every day and it’s just fun to take it all in and watch other sporting events,” he said.
After Day 4 at the Pan Am Games, Canada has eight gold medals, 19 silver medals and 16 bronze — for a total of 43 medals.
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