South Africa, Host Australia Win WBC Qualifier Openers

SEE ALSO: WBC Qualifying rosters

SYDNEY, Australia—On the back of eight dominant innings from Mariners righthander Dylan Unsworth, South Africa opened the World Baseball Classic qualifying round with a 7-1 win over New Zealand on Thursday at Blue Sox Stadium.

Unsworth reached his tournament pitch limit after striking out the side in order in the eighth, bringing his total to four on the day, relying on his defense. The 23-year-old righthander allowed just two hits, walking none and using his professional experience to help him shut down New Zealand’s lineup.

“When we arrived in Australia, one of the guys we targeted for this game was going to be Dylan,” South African manager Alan Phillips said. “He is probably our most experienced starter. We have a lot of other guys who might do better relief work, so with six years of pro ball (under his belt), in games like this it comes out nicely.”

Added New Zealand skipper Chris Woodward: “He just competed. He attacked us. He came right after us with his fastball, he was able in certain counts to pitch behind a little bit. He was relentless. I actually had him in Seattle and I knew him pretty well. I love the way he competes and I wouldn’t say he’s got Cy Young stuff but he’s got good enough stuff to where he can pitch at a pretty high level because of his competitiveness.”

With his entire pitching repertoire at his disposal and an early lead in the matchup, Unsworth settled in quickly despite the emotion he felt at just suiting up in his country’s colours and competing for his nation.

“Everything was working for me today,” the native of Durban, South Africa said. “Just commanding the fastball and my changeup, curveball, everything was working … (The early lead) relaxed me a little bit so I could go out there and do what I do…I had some tears every inning representing New Zealand. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Baseball is getting better and this is an opportunity to keep playing.”

The visitors took advantage of some Diamondblacks miscues in the top of the third inning, plating two runs on two hits, a wild pitch and a pair of errors. New Zealand starter Scott Cone was knocked out of the game with two outs in the frame, allowing one unearned run on one hit with two walks and two hit batsmen in 2 2/3 innings of work.

Designated hitter Brett Willemburg led the offensive charge for the South African squad, driving in two runs and notching two hits on the day. First baseman Boss Moanaroa, a former Red Sox farmhand, plated the only Diamondblacks run of the day, walking with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to get on the board.

Australia 11, Philippines 1

Overcoming an early deficit and a slow start in their first game of the World Baseball Classic qualifying round, Team Australia’s Southern Thunder took down the Philippines 11-1 in seven innings on Thursday in a game shortened by run-rules.

Aussie shortstop and Twins minor leaguer James Beresford led the offensive charge with four hits in the game, driving in three runs for the home side. Participating in his third WBC event, the 27-year-old native of Victoria helped to back a solid six-inning start from Canberra’s Steve Kent. The Braves lefthander allowed one run on four hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.

“Kent was outstanding tonight,” Aussie manager Jon Deeble said. “That first inning he really battled, and he started changing speeds in the third or fourth inning. He was dominant today and Beresford really swung the bat well, as did (the Twins) Logan Wade (who doubled twice). We had some hard hits … it was a good all-around effort.”

The underdog Philippines squad took a lead in the opening frame of the matchup, with third baseman Brady Conlan driving in the team’s only run of the game in the first, bringing Twins farmhand–and Beresford’s teammate for the past three seasons—Eric Farris around after he led off the game with an infield single.

“That was a really tough ballclub,” Deeble said. “The score did not indicate how good they are. They’ve got some good arms and an athletic infield. It is going to be a tough tournament and tomorrow is another day.”

Team Australia came back with a run in the bottom half of the first, went ahead with one in the second and added two in the fifth, before ending the game with a seven-run seventh and sealing the deal with a 10-run lead and international game-ending rules taking effect.

Philippines righty J.R. Bunda went 2 1/3 innings before leaving the game after straining his throwing elbow. The righthander allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits, walking two and striking out one. The visiting squad followed with five different relievers, including former major league lefthander Clay Rapada, whose WBC qualifier appearance marks the end of his playing career.

“It was nice to come out here; the experience to me is priceless,” Rapada said. “Our nation has it tough coming out here, not being in season. I was impressed with how our guys battled … I gave them what I had tonight. I have to tip my cap to these guys; they’ve got a good squad.”

Australian first baseman Stefan Welch had three RBIs, and former big leaguer Trent Oeltjen drove in two of his own. Former major league righthander Peter Moylan threw the seventh inning and struck out the side.

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