Stoney Creek pitcher wins for Canada at World Baseball Classic


Published March 14, 2023 at 5:50 pm

Noah Skirrow, of Stoney Creek, gave Canada the max while facing the minimum in a shutout win against Colombia at the World Baseball Classic.

The righty pitcher, who is a Philadelphia Phillies prospect, faced just 15 batters across five innings at Chase Field in Phoenix, earning the win in Canada’s 5-0 victory on Tuesday afternoon. Skirrow, who was the first Canadian starter to survive the opening inning at the tournament, turned over a one-run lead to the bullpen. Three relievers brought the five-hit shutout home. Shortstop Otto López, who had MLB cameos with the Toronto Blue Jays in each of the last two seasons, accounted for all of Canada’s late tack-on scoring.

Canada (2-1) faces Mexico in its Pool C finale on Wednesday, with a chance to advance to the quarterfinal stage. Mexico (1-1) faces Great Britain (1-2) in a 10 p.m. ET start later tonight.

The major leaguers whom Skirrow was tasked with suppressing also included leadoff man Harold Ramírez (first baseman-outfielder, Tampa Bay Rays), No. 3 Gio Urshela (infielder, Los Angeles Angels), and cleanup batter Elias Díaz (catcher, Colorado Rockies). Skirrow had five strikeouts — including a whiff of Urshela — and issued only one base on balls.

While he has just four career starts at the topmost level of Philly’s farm system, Skirrow induced seven-season MLB veteran Jorge Alfaro to hit into two inning-ending double plays. Canada’s defence also fed two birds with one scone a third time in the early innings when Skirrow and catcher Bo Naylor combined on a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play to end Colombia’s half of the third inning.

Naylor, a Mississauga native who plays for the Cleveland Guardians, accounted for the scoring that put Skirrow in line for the win. In the top of the fourth inning, Naylor was tasked with delivering in a two-on, two-out lefty-on-lefty matchup. On an 0-and-2 count, he poked a sinking inside fastball from Colombia’s Reiver Sanmartín into centrefield to bring in the run.

That was the only scoring of the first seven frames. López hit a leadoff triple in the eighth, and scored on a two-out hit by Burlington native Owen Caissie, who is one of the Chicago Cubs’ top minor-league prospects. An inning later, López crushed a three-run home run.

Third-year pro

The Cambridge, Ont.-born Skirrow is an alumnus of both Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School and the Stoney Creek Optimist Little League program. He is entering his third season of pro ball after having a unique intake into the Phillies organization.

After having his junior season with the Liberty Flames of NCAA Division 1 college baseball cut short by COVID-19 health protections, Skirrow signed with the Phillies in 2020 as an undrafted free agent. Minor-league play was suspended due to the pandemic, so he had to wait to make his pro début.

As a second-year pro last season, Skirrow started two rungs below the majors with the Reading Fightin’ Phils of the Double-A Eastern League. He earned a late-season promotion to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who are Philly’s top affiliate in the Triple-A International League. Across those two levels, Skirrow had a 4.36 earned-run average over 119⅔ innings. But his rate of 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings pitched indicated why he is believed to have MLB potential.

Skirrow’s career highlights also include contributing to a combined no-hitter for Liberty during his truncated final season with the Atlantic Sun conference squad. He averaged 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings over three seasons at Liberty, and posted a 3.83 earned-run average while facing metal bat-using batters.

Neither of Canada’s first two starting pitchers at the WBC, Cal Quantrill of Cleveland and 19-year-old lefthander Mitch Bratt from the Texas Rangers farm system, got through the first inning in their starts.

Canada split a pair of mercy rule-shortened games in its first two games in Phoenix, losing 12-1 to the United States on Monday after an opening 18-8 win against Great Britain the previous day. The notable major leaguers wearing the maple leaf include one-time National League MVP Freddie Freeman of the Los Angeles Dodgers (whose late mother was Canadian), and two-time Gold Glove leftfielder Tyler O’Neill of the St. Louis Cardinals.

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