YORKTON - It was a case of close, but no cigar, or in this case no gold medal for Team Canada at the recent 2022 WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup.
The Canadian men’s team had an outstanding tournament making the final after going 7-1 throughout the round robin and super round.
Across the diamond was the Australian national team, also sporting a spiffy 7-1 record.
It was definitely the meeting of softball juggernauts and on this occasion, thanks largely to the mastery of leftie pitcher Jack Besgrove the Aussies would come out victorious, by a 5-2 margin.
Sean Cleary took the loss in the pitcher’s circle for Canada, allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits and striking out five batters in four and one-third innings.
Australia scored two runs in the top of the first inning and held Canada scoreless until the fifth on their way to earning the world title.
It was the first gold for Australia since 2009, and relegated Canada to silver.
Saskatoon team member Justin Laskowski said Besgrove was certainly dominant in the final.
Veteran Canadian hitters were coming back from at-bats saying “this guy’s got it today,” he said, adding being a leftie helped. “. . . You don’t get to see them quite as often.”
If you watched the game Besgrove most certainly had his game face on, one that frankly made him look as mean and nasty as his pitches.
“During the game I didn’t pay too much attention to his face,” said Laskoski, adding he had messages from family and friends remarking on Besgrove’s determined scowl.
It might have been a silver but it was a significant medal for Canada which has now won the most of WBSC Men's Softball World Cup medals at 14; four gold, six silver, four bronze to move one ahead of New Zealand with 13.
For Laskowski the silver was still a hugely gratifying experience, as was just competing in the World Cup hosted in Auckland, New Zealand.
“The whole thing was unbelievable,” he told Yorkton This Week, after his return to Canada.
Laskowski said just playing in New Zealand made the event a great one because the country is a hot bed of softball.
“They love their softball,” he said, adding that meant a knowledgeable fan base watching games. “. . . They all love it and everybody knows the rules. They weren’t always cheering for us but they were respectful.”
Personally, Laskowski said he was just happy to be part of a very talented Canadian team.
“I was so blessed to be part of this team with so many legends of the game on the team,” he said, adding many are veterans having been with the team for more than a decade. “. . . And I got to play with these guys. It was a dream come true.”
While Laskowski was on the bench to start the final, he said he was happy to have been given a good chunk of playing time in New Zealand as a newish member of the team.
It started for Laskowski with the team at a tourney in Argentina earlier this year where he played a couple of games where he said “I did fairly well.”
That opened the door to more time in New Zealand.
“I was very fortunate to be the starting second baseman for pretty well the whole tournament,” he said, “my bat got a little cold,” and that took him out of the final two games.
“But I’m just very thankful for the time I got.”
In fact, Laskowski is not likely to ever forget 2022, noting it “was probably the best year of my life,” having travelled abroad with Team Canada several times. “… It was the time of my life.”
In other World Cup action, the United States defeated Argentina 2-0 to earn the bronze medal as Brad Kilpatrick threw a complete game shut-out. It was the USA’s first medal in 22 years. The last time the US squad reached the podium in the Men’s Softball World Cup was also a bronze in East London, South Africa, in 2000.
Three Canadian players were named to the tournament all-star team – Sean Cleary at pitcher, Quinten Bruce in right field and Bryan Abrey as designated player.
Abrey also won individual awards for most homeruns with three and runs batted in with 11, with Bruce taking the batting title with a 0.647 average and Shane Boland the most runs scored with nine.