THUNDER BAY, Ontario – It was a slide into home plate that turned into one of the more memorable moments of the 2017 U18 World Cup – turning Canada’s fortunes around in the process.

The stolen base which sparked the Canadians to rally past the No. 1 ranked Japanese in the super round, giving Baseball Canada an opportunity at competing for a medal. Yet for Canada’s young phenom Noah Naylor, it was just another day at the office.

The Texas A&M commit and projected high round pick stole the show in his home province of Ontario as Naylor came away cracking the All-World team as a third baseman, helping the Canadians place fourth in the tournament. It has been a busy summer for Naylor, who has participated in tournaments, showcases, and even All-Star game home run derbies in what has been a non-stop whirlwind for the country’s top 2018 prospect.

A highly-touted catcher, Naylor has received plenty of praise from excelling all over the infield, making room for Archer Brookman behind the plate, Naylor made the most of his World Cup appearance making some dazzling plays at the hot corner.

Despite a fantastic run, Naylor was not the only Ontario-native who stood out over the past two weeks.

Toronto Mets outfielder Denzel Clarke was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, showing off exceptional range while building on what has been a torrid summer for the young 2018 classman.

Clarke, a super athletic outfielder who possesses many raw tools has been nothing short of impressive this season. With a wiry and long build, Clarke has begun growing into his frame this season, molding into a ballplayer. He has been remarkable in the outfield and has begun ripping the cover off the ball at the plate. It’s fair to assume, the Mets’ outfielder will not remain uncommitted for long.

On the mound, a couple of young, Ontario underclassmen were vital to Canada’s incredible run. Ben Abram of the Ontario Royals brought his strikeout stuff to Thunder Bay. Sitting 84-88 mph on his fastball with late sinking action. Abram was able to avoid the barrels of opposing hitters while showing a good feel for his secondary stuff. Meanwhile, Mississippi State commit Eric Cerantola put in a fine start against the mighty Americans, working a fastball that touched 90 mph, while incorporating his sharp 12/6 hook. The Great Lake Canadians’ right-hander will only continue to rise up draft charts as he works on developing a third pitch.

Outside of the talented Ontario underclassman, Canada’s run was a complete team effort, with various names pitching in for the cause – pun intended.

Austin Peay commit Harley Gollert played a critical role in Canada’s upset victory over Japan, working a flawless three-inning save. British Columbia-native Michael Stovman seemingly did it all, tossing eight brilliant frames in a victory over Cuba in the Super Round, all the while leading the tournament in home runs.

The Indian River State commit will leave the Junior National Team on a high note, along with a number of other players who have all developed and grown as part of the esteemed Baseball Canada program.

2017 second round pick Landon Leach will now return to his duties with the Minnesota Twins, and shortstop Dondrae Bremner will head off to the University of Cincinnati after being unable to reach a contract with the Cincinnati Reds. Jason Willow, Clayton Keyes, Edouard Julien, and Wesley Moore are some of the other big names who will now move onto college, ending their respective tenures with Canada’s junior squad.

As for Canada, they are in good hands. With the country’s baseball talent pool continually and rapidly growing, the 2017 U18 World Cup was nothing more than Baseball Canada just scratching the surface.


Richard Birfer

Regional Supervisor of the Canadian and Midwest regions. Kinesiology graduate student, Biomechaincs and Neuroscience specialization, at Brock University.

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