A late offensive surge turned a tight game into a seven-inning rout as Canada started its journey back to the World Baseball Classic with a decisive win.
Canada scored eight runs in the seventh inning Thursday to beat Great Britain 11-1 in Regensburg, Germany. It looked like it would be close after a Britain home run cut Canada's lead to 3-1 after six innings, but instead Canada's huge seventh saw the game end early on the 10-run rule.
Tyson Gillies had three hits while Shawn Hill allowed just one run and struck out seven before Canada's bats finally broke through.
"It was a tight game obviously. That's why you play the game," said Canada manager Ernie Whitt. "They held us in check a long time. We got some big hits and luckily we had a guy [Hill] who shut them down.
'They were pretty patient. I just attacked them with fastballs.'— Canadian pitcher Shawn Hill on Great Britain's hitters
"We were just trying to get some runs. If you're only one or two hits from them getting back into it, it's nerve-racking. We would rather play as underdogs instead of favourites. Any team can beat you."
Hill was dominating, showing off an effective fastball and a nasty sinker.
"They were pretty patient. I just attacked them with fastballs," said Hill, who gave up just three hits, including the sixth-inning homer.
"It was just a really bad slider. I had made some bad sliders and I tried to make an adjustment. But you still have to give the other guy credit," said Hill, who spent six seasons in the major leagues including stints with the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays.
Canada catcher Chris Robinson had two hits, two runs and an RBI while Jimmy Van Ostrand nailed a two-run homer and had three runs batted in.
Skyler Stromsmoe added three runs on a double.
"We all felt it was just a matter of time. But it just got longer and longer," Van Ostrand said.
The game changed on Robinson's RBI single in the seventh inning to start the eight-run barrage.
"Chris's at-bat was huge. He fouled off a lot of pitches. And it made it 4-1 and we had the momentum again. That's the one you can look to as the game changer," Van Ostrand said.
"It was a three-run game and gave us some breathing room. Then I got a first pitch fastball and ambushed him. Then we rolled. Hitting's contagious. It's easier if you stay within yourself."
Canada next plays Saturday against the winner of Friday's game between Germany and Czech Republic. The winner of the four-team group qualifies for the Classic.
Canada scored two unearned runs in the first inning on a strange play. Robinson made a baserunning error but was safe as British third baseman Mike Johnson missed the tag on a throw from left field. Robinson then scored on a wild pitch and Tim Smith came home on Van Ostrand's groundout for a 2-0 lead.
Canada added a third run in the fifth inning as Adam Loewen drove in Van Ostrand with a double to right field.
Hill made one of very few mistakes, giving up a home run in the sixth inning to Albert Cartwright, whose blast just stayed far of the left-field foul pole to make it 3-1.
Canada broke open the game with their eight-run seventh. Gillies scored on Robinson's single to left before Van Ostrand's two-run shot to right-centre field gave Canada a 6-1 lead.
Stromsmoe emptied the bases with a three-run double to right-centre and then Gillies ended the game with a triple to score Stromsmoe and Jonathan Malo.