By Walter Villa
JUPITER, Fla.—The co-favorites at this week’s World Baseball Classic qualifier at Roger Dean Stadium—the ones with rosters loaded with imports—are set for a showdown on Friday afternoon.
That became official Thursday night, when Spain routed France, 8-0, getting 16 hits before 975 fans. Israel beat South Africa, 7-3, Wednesday night and will be well-rested against Spain.
Manager Mauro Mazzotti, who is a native of Italy and the Astros’ European scouting coordinator, showed how concerned he was with Spain’s quick turnaround by his first comments at the post-game press conference.
“The bus picks up at 9 a.m. tomorrow,” he said, “so, please, make your questions straight to the point.”
The winner of Friday’s 1 p.m. game automatically advances to Sunday’s 5 p.m. title game. The loser would play South Africa or France on Saturday night, with that winner advancing to the final.
“There is no second place in this tournament,” Israel manager Brad Ausmus said of his goal of making the WBC’s main draw in March. “We need to win.”
Israel is expected to start righthander Justin Schumer (Giants) on Friday. Schumer went 7-4, 4.87 this year at high Class A San Jose this season. Spain will start lefthander Richard Salazar, an alum of Miami-Dade (Fla.) JC and former Orioles farmhand who pitched for Sioux City in the independent American Association this season.
As for Thursday’s win, there was very little mystery for Spain, which scored two runs in the first, three runs in the second and two in the third, cruising from there against France, the weakest roster of the eight WBC teams in action this weekend.
Righthander Nick Schumacher, a 27-year-old former Padres farmhand, earned the victory with 6 1/3 shutout innings. Also a pitcher for Sioux City, Schumacher allowed four hits and two walks and was supported by the top two hitters in Spain’s lineup: second baseman Paco Figueroa and center fielder Engel Beltre (Rangers).
Figueroa, the former Miami Hurricanes infielder, went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Beltre went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and one RBI. First baseman Barbaro Canizares added a solo homer in the eighth.
France was held to five hits, all singles.