Favored Taiwan Wins Qualifier; Brazil One Win Away

Taiwan completed a near-perfect run through the overmatched field in the World Baseball Classic qualifier field at New Taipei City, allowing the host nation to earn a spot in the WBC proper in March.

Taiwan beat New Zealand 9-0 in the qualifier finale as five pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout. Taiwan won its three qualifier games by a combined score of 35-0, beating the Philippines and New Zealand twice.

New Zealand again leaned heavily on the Holdzkom brothers, with Jonathan starting for the second straight game. He threw 1.1 innings in a victory against the Philippines on Saturday, then kept New Zealand in the game Sunday, pitching into the fourth inning. It was 1-0 entering the bottom of the fourth when Taiwan broke the game open with six runs. Chien-Ming Chang led the way overall with two hits (including a double) and four RBIs.

For Taiwan, anything short of a dominating victory in this qualifier would have been a surprise. It will play host to a March first-round event with Australia, Korea and the Netherlands also participating in what should be a very competitive group. Two teams would move on from that pool.

For New Zealand, victories over Philippines and Thailand were signs of progress for a young national federation, and a country that MLB has singled out for growth potential.

Panama Qualifier: Brazil Advances To Championship Game

Upstart Brazil banged out 11 hits and hung a loss on ex-big leaguer Ramiro Mendoza in a 7-1 victory against Colombia. Manager Barry Larkin has Brazil one win away from qualifying for the full WBC, while Colombia will play host Panama in an elimination game Sunday. Panama stayed alive with a 6-2 victory against Nicaragua.

In Brazil's win, five pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts and scattered 11 hits by Colombia, which left 13 runners on base. The bullpen was particularly impressive Righthander Gabriel Asakura, a former Cal State Los Angeles pitcher, shined out of the Brazilian bullpen, striking out five in 2.2 scoreless innings. Seventeen-year-old Rafael Moreno (Orioles) and 16-year-old Daniel Missaki got the final four outs for Brazil, which scored in every inning from the fourth through the eighth, with three runs in the seventh to put the game away. Rays farmhand Leonardo Reginatto had three hits to pace Brazil's offense.

Panama stayed alive behind three hits by Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada and former Blue Jays farmhand Concepcion Rodriguez. Nicaragua left 11 runners on base and fell to 0-2 despite two hits apiece from Everth Cabrera (Padres) and Cheslor Cuthbert (Royals).