by Mike Potter
Gerrit Cole (pictured) delivered the goods just when USA Baseball's National Team needed it.
The big right-hander out of UCLA fired a two-hitter late Friday night, leading his team to a 1-0 victory over Canada and a berth in Sunday's championship game of the World Baseball Challenge in Prince George, B.C.
The USA, which finished with only three hits of its own, got its run in the bottom of the second. Miami's Yasmani Grandal hit a two-out single, and then scored on a triple from Arkansas' Andy Wilkins.
Cole struck out seven, walking one batter and hitting two and never allowing a runner to reach third. He struck out the side in the ninth inning.
Jordan Rawlyk pitched four innings for Canada while Eric Brown fired the last four.
The game was marred by an incident in the eighth inning, when the Canucks' Nic Lendvoy slid hard into Cal State-Fullerton's Christian Colon during the shortstop's successful turn of a 5-6-3 double play. The benches cleared, albeit with no punches thrown, and Team USA declined to participate in a post-game handshake line with Colon still on a stretcher and undergoing treatment.
The title game is Sunday at 7 p.m. (EDT) with Ole Miss' Drew Pomeranz expected to pitch for the USA in the team's final game of the season. The other team in the final will be determined Saturday, when Germany and British Columbia square off for the right to play Canada for the title-game berth.