Game 2
Transatlantic 5 vs. Canada

Friday, August 18, 2006
6:00PM ET

A Dhahran dandy
Bunt attempt in second inning gets bats going for Dhahran, which shuts out Canada to win fourth pool-play opener in last five years

By Mark Rogoff
Special Correspondent

Saudi Arabia left Volunteer Stadium with a 5-0 win over Canada in front of an announced crowd of 4,300, winning its pool-play opener for the fourth time in the last five years. Despite that early pool-play success, Saudi has never advanced out of round-robin play since the tournament expanded to 16 teams in 2001.

Poised as a poised 12-year-old can be, Canada right-hander Justin Atkinson was off to a fine start, looking ever-so comfortable with a hint of swagger as he took the mound against Saudi Arabia in the Pool C opener.

You see, this wasn’t his first rodeo. Atkinson was here last year as a 12-year-old, not appearing on the pitching mound, but gaining valuable experience that would make him better this time around. Atkinson struck out the first five Saudi batters he faced Friday night, throwing first-pitch strikes to them all.

Then, things changed. A bunt by Saudi right-fielder Daniel Clark shifted the pattern.

Clark was thrown out at first base rather easily. But the mere fact that Clark got the bat on the ball changed Transatlantic’s outlook – and eventually the game.

“The bunt did play a significant role,” said Transatlantic manager James Durley. “A lot of times, kids are struggling. And you have to get somebody up there just to make contact.”

Following that bunt, five of the next six Saudi hitters put the ball in play. Though the team from Dhahran failed to score in the third, Matt Timoney and Andrew Holden led off the fourth with back-to-back homers to give Saudi a 2-0 lead. And that was all they would need.

“We hope we can turn the tides here and advance, which is our goal as a team,” said Manager Durley. “You want to come here and first of all play good baseball. So we’ll see what happens.”

Not to be overshadowed was the pitching performance of Holden, who tossed a five-hit shutout to earn the win. He struck out 13 and walked just one. Holden had to work out of trouble only in the fourth, allowing a one-out single to Atkinson and a two-out base hit to Kristopher Robazza that advanced Atkinson to third. He struck out Greg Finley to end the threat and maintain a 2-0 lead.

“I was trying to keep my curveball low so if they hit it, it would just be a foul,” Holden said. “I just tried to keep them off balance.”

Holden, a 226-pound 13-year-old, allowed a pair of hits in the sixth, but got Robazza to line out to George Luo at second to end it.

Saudi Arabia had tacked on insurance runs in the sixth, with run-scoring singles by Clark and Adam Mascarenhas. Aaron Durley also scored in the inning, coming across on a wild pitch during Mascarenhas’s at-bat.

“From my previous at-bat, he threw a curveball first pitch, then a fastball second pitch,” said Holden. “So, I was just expecting a fastball for the pitch, and he threw it, and I hit it long.”

Atkinson finished with 15 strikeouts, punching out the side in the first, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

“He’s our number one,” said Canada manager Joe Burns. “He pitched a heck of a game. I mean, he had 15 strikeouts. That wasn’t our typical game. We play better defense than that and we hit better than that. I think our boys were just a little tight.”

Manager Burns admitted he was surprised about the lack of offensive production.

“He kept us off balance and he did a great job,” he said. “I don’t see anyone shutting us out again, that’s for sure.”


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