WBC Qualifier Opens In Taiwan

Host Taiwan has baseball history, and it stands out in a big way compared to its competition in the World Baseball Classic qualifier being played in New Taipei City.

A crowd of 9,788 watched the host shut out New Zealand by a 10-0 score in seven innings, as Taiwan posted an eight-run fifth inning after chasing the Diamondblacks' most recognizable pitcher, righthander Lincoln Holdzkom. A seventh-round pick in 2001 by the Marlins, Holdzkom reached Triple-A with the Red Sox in 2008 and last pitched in the affiliated minors in 2009. He never started a game above Rookie ball but lasted into the fourth against a team of Taiwanese players who are veterans of the country's domestic Chinese Professional Baseball League.

Holdzkom, whose father was born in New Zealand and whose brother John also pitches for the Diamondblacks, took the loss and gave up two runs in 3.2 innings. Taiwan then scored eight in the fifth off a pair of relievers, with Yung-Chi Chen (Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions) contributing a pair of doubles and three RBIs to lead the offense. Taiwan had 11 hits overall, while five of its pitchers combined on a six-hitter with nine strikeouts. Cubs farmhand Yao-Lin Wang got the start and gave up four hits in 3.2 innings, striking out three. Former Indians farmhand Sung-Wei Tseng tossed a scoreless seventh.

In the other game, the Philippines beat Thailand 8-2 as the Thai committed seven errors. The Thailand baseball federation got its start in 1992, and the country's national team qualified for the WBC with a third-place finish in the 2011 Southeast Asia Games. Johnny Damon went 1-for-3 as Thailand's DH, and 19-year-old Seattle native Nathan Lorentz had two hits.

Former Giants lefthander Geno Espineli struck out two to get the save for the Philippines, while Athletics farmhand Ryan Pineda and homegrown Filipino Mateo (Fernando) Laurel had three hits apiece. Five-foot-5 lefthander Jon Jon Robles, who has pitched professionally in the Czech Republic, got the victory for the Philippines, tossing 4.1 innings and giving up one unearned run. DH Andres Vazquez of Rutgers had a hit and two RBIs in support, while Cal State Dominguez Hills' outfielder Devon Bryce Ramirez also had a hit and RBI.