US fights off Canada for baseball gold

Team caps off its undefeated season with a 12-6 gold medal-clinching victory.

baseball 298 88 (photo credit: Jay L. Abramoff)
baseball 298 88
(photo credit: Jay L. Abramoff)
The US baseball team capped off its undefeated season Tuesday with a 12-6 gold medal-clinching victory against Canada at Sportek in Tel Aviv. Canada took an early lead and battled back in the sixth inning, but it wasn't enough for the upset. It was the second Maccabiah Games in a row that the US defeated Canada for first place. "This has been a long road," said US head coach Denny Weiner. "It's been a year and a half, it's been tryout after tryout to find the gold medal winning team. We found it, we came, we saw and we conquered." The Americans didn't face much adversity in any game during the tournament, as they outscored opponents 150-20 over the past two weeks. Canada was their main challenger, although the word "challenger" could be taken lightly. The US bested the silver medalists by 30 runs in head-to-head games. Still, America's northern neighbor put up a fight to begin the game, taking a 2-0 lead into the third. But then Canadian pitcher Robert Libman appeared to lose some of his composure with two out in the bottom of the third inning, as he walked two players, hit two batters - one with the bases loaded - and threw a wild pitch that allowed a run to score. The performance earned Libman an early hook, only to have reliever Ben Schwartzbein throw a pitch in the dirt that escaped catcher Matthew Rosenberger's glove, bringing in another run to put the US ahead, 4-2. "We were pressing a little bit after they scored one run in the first inning," said pitcher and catcher Drew Sandler, who earned the win. "We were just telling everybody to relax and that our hitting is going to come around." The US continued to pile on the runs in the fourth inning, scoring four off a two-RBI single from centerfielder Sam Slutsky and a two-run home run by shortstop Adam Landecker. "A 3-1 pitch, I saw it was low and in, I looked for it, swung - my head was in the mountains back there," Landecker said of the pitch before his home run. "Then it was a 3-2 pitch, I was sitting there relaxed, nice and easy. I saw it came in like a beach ball and just hit it." Sandler pitched four innings for the red, white and blue, allowing two runs and striking out five batters. He was pulled after the fourth inning, and Canada mounted a comeback. "I think I could have done better," he said. "The situation was the right time to put me behind the plate and put our best defense out there." Bradley Lis-D'Alessandro hit a two-out, pinch-hit two-run home run in the sixth inning off US relief pitcher D.J. Green, bringing the game to 9-4, and then runners reached on a dropped third strike, a single and a hit batsman to load the bases. Relief pitcher Max Fried walked in a run and was removed for Steven Fielkow, who also walked in a run to make it 9-6 - although the home plate umpire issued the last walk on just three balls. The US widened the gap in the bottom of the sixth inning just as easily as Canada closed it. The Americans scored three runs in the inning, as Fielkow hit a two-RBI single up the middle with two outs to extend the lead to 12-6. "I said to our pitcher, 'Let's go out there and play team USA baseball,'" Landecker said he told the US team following Canada's sixth inning threat. "We come out here, we do our job, we throw strikes, we hit the ball. That's how we play our game."