Port Dover softball player in World Cup

By Jacob Fehr

FROM November 11 to 19, Owen Bilinsky of Port Dover will play for the No. 4 ranked Canadian U18 Men’s National Team at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U18 Men’s Softball World Cup in Hermosillo, Mexico.

The tournament will feature 11 teams divided into two groups. No. 2 ranked Australia, No. 4 Canada, No. 6 Czechia, No. 10 Mexico, No. 12 Singapore, and No. 24 Colombia are in Group A. No. 1 Argentina, No. 3 Japan, No. 5 the United States, No. 7 New Zealand, and No. 8 Venezuela are in Group B. No. 17 Israel was forced to withdraw from the event due to travel restrictions.

In the World Cup’s first round, each team will play all others in their group. The three teams with the best records from both groups move on to the tournament’s Super Round, where they will play the other group’s top three teams.

The two teams with the best records in the Super Round will play each other for the world title, and the teams with the third and fourth best records will compete for the tournament’s bronze medal. Teams that do not make the Super Round will face off with each other for placement.

“Right now, I am feeling both excited and nervous because it’s a big event,” Owen said. “I also feel prepared for the tournament because some of my teammates and I have been facing live pitchers in Listowel for the last couple weeks, so we feel ready.”

“I feel more confident for this tournament, compared to the last tournament, because we’ve had more time to prepare and I’m more experienced this time around facing international teams,” he said. “We learned that a lot of the international teams played a lot of small ball against us, so we have to be on our toes defensively at all times.”

“Small ball” is a style of offensive strategy in baseball and softball where a team prioritizes putting runners on the bases and advancing them with singles, walks, bunts, sacrifice plays, and stolen bases to score individual runs without “big hits.” It is contrasted with strategies aimed at achieving a “big inning” by scoring many runs at once with extra-base hits, such as home runs, triples, and doubles.

Owen last competed for Canada at the WBSC Americas Pan American Championship in September. His team went 3–2 in the opening round to place fourth of six teams, defeating No. 28 Peru, Colombia, and the U.S. but losing to Venezuela and Argentina. Their fourth-place finish earned them a spot in the upcoming World Cup and a rematch against No. 1 ranked Argentina for that tournament’s bronze medal.

In the eighth inning of the bronze medal match against Argentina, Owen hit a sacrifice fly to drive in the game’s only run as Canada won 1–0. His heroics late in that game capped off his team’s excellent tournament run: they were the only team to defeat the U.S. (who went on to win the tournament’s gold medal) and successfully avenged their loss to the world’s top-ranked team en route to finishing third place overall.

Owen said he and his teammates were busy throughout September’s tournament. “We don’t get much down time but when we did, we went for a swim in the pool or played cards,” he said. “We had a lot of team meals and team meetings as well.”

“Our team stays in rooms of two so we each have a roommate. [That] helped our team bond quicker in my opinion because you get to know each other really fast.”

The Canadian softball team departed from Toronto on Tuesday, Nov. 7, and arrived in Hermosillo, Mexico, the next morning. They will open tournament action against Czechia at noon local time (9 a.m. EST) on Nov. 11.

“After each game our team will take pictures with the other team and we will give out pins of the Canadian flag [to] fans who ask for them, which is a pretty cool experience,” Owen said.

Fans interested in watching the WBSC U18 Men’s Softball World Cup can purchase passes to watch all or some of the games online at www.gametime.sport/events/offers/. For more information on the tournament, visit www.wbsc.org/en/events/2023-u18-mens-softball-world-cup/home.

Originally Published November 8, 2023

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