But history didn't just turn on Canada — it crushed a team that now needs two unlikely wins and a mathematical miracle to reach the second round.
Chris Colabello hit a three-run homer as Italy beat Canada 14-4 in a game that was ended by the mercy rule in the eighth inning Friday after not one, but two walk-off victories.
The first came on what appeared to be a grand slam by Mike Costanzo. Italy, which swarmed the field to celebrate, was forced back to the dugout after replay showed the hit was a ground-rule double that scored only two runners.
But one batter later, Mario Chiarini's single scored the run that put Italy ahead by the 10-run limit and sent Canada slumping to the locker-room.
"Obviously we weren't happy coming into the clubhouse," said outfielder Michael Saunders. "Baseball's a grind, man. Baseball is so mental and we got to learn to let this go. The quicker the better. You've got to have a short memory whether good or bad. We have a lot of tournament left. No one said this was going to be easy.
"So we've got to come in ready to go tomorrow. We lost today and we've got to forget about it."
Canada (0-1) now faces must-win games against Mexico on Saturday and the United States on Sunday. If Canada wins those games, and is tied for second place in Pool D with a 2-1 record, then the tiebreaker is decided by run differential from the games between the tied teams.
Fresh off a surprise 6-5 win over Mexico on Thursday, the numbers put Italy (2-0) on the cusp of a major breakthrough. The team's previous lone highlight at the WBC was in 2009 when it eliminated Canada 6-2 at Toronto's Rogers Centre.
Marco Mazzieri, Italy's manager, said he couldn't have expected his team's results before the tournament began. Italy features few major-leaguers — Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is the best known of the group — and the majority of the team is made up of players born in America with Italian heritage.
"Results, I don't know, but I know what we are getting as far as people, and I love my team," he said. "I love all my players. We've got a great coaching staff and we knew we were going to do well.
"How well? We couldn't tell. But we prepared to do well, and actually these guys just executed and it couldn't be any more perfect."
It's a bad spot pitcher Scott Mathieson said Canada shouldn't be in.
"Not to take anything away from (Italy), they played unbelievable," said Mathieson. "But you look at our team and I don't personally think we should lose like that. Any time you give up that many runs it's frustrating. For me I know I want to get back out there and get some redemption."
It was a frustrating game for Canada, which suffered from a poor bullpen and the lack of a big hit that Italy seemed to enjoy repeatedly.
Italy needed just three batters to take a 1-0 lead on starter Shawn Hill, who allowed two runs on two hits and was pulled by a pitch-count limit. He handed the ball over to Mathieson, who served up the three-run shot to Colabello in the third inning.
Italy was ahead 6-1 after five innings and protected the lead on the strength of a solid start by Alessandro Maestri, who allowed one run on three hits with three strikeouts through 3 1/3 innings. Chris Cooper, who shut out Canada during two-plus innings in 2009, took over for Maestri and allowed one run on two hits through three more innings.
"We battled through at-bats today," said Saunders. "We had runners on, we're kind of missing that big hit. When we did get runners on we didn't quite get them in. In these games that matter, you know, we get a runner on second, we move him over, we got to make sure that we get that run in."
Canada cut the deficit in the sixth after a pair of Italian infielders each mishandled the ball.
First, Justin Morneau moved to third after Alex Liddi, a Seattle Mariners infielder, dropped the ball nearby. Morneau then scored when Adam Loewen hit a ball to the first-base side. Colabello bobbled the ball but recovered and slid to the bag for the out.
Canada put a little more pressure on Italy in the seventh inning. After pitcher Dan Serafini hit Morneau to load the bases with two outs, Saunders hit a two-run single to cut the deficit to 6-4.
But Italy added insurance with three runs in the bottom half of the frame. After Chiarini hit an RBI single, Drew Butera delivered a crushing blow with a two-run double to left field off reliever Phillippe Aumont to restore Italy's five-run advantage.
That set up the nightmare finish for Canada in the eighth inning.
"Every time we got close they came back the next inning and put some runs on the board," said Canada's manager Ernie Whitt. "In a game of baseball, you have to have some shutdown innings, and we weren't able to do that."
Upsets are common at the tournament, and Canada had one of its own in 2006 when it beat the United States 8-6. But Canada also had a winning record that year and was knocked out by the tiebreaker rule.
In two more games Canada will know what side of the numbers it ended up on. "Hopefully it falls in our place this time," said Mathieson.
Notes: The threat of rain moved the game from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale to Chase Field. Announced attendance was 5,140. ... Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Chris Leroux starts for Canada against Mexico on Saturday.Suggest a correction