World Baseball Classic Roundup: Australia Reaches Quarterfinals For First Time

Image credit: Logan Wade (Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)

Australia 8, Czech Republic 3

What Happened: Australia scored seven runs in the final three innings to surge past the Czech Republic and clinch a spot in the quarterfinals for the first time in the nation’s history. With the score tied 1-1 after six innings, Logan Wade hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the seventh inning to put Australia in front, and the Aussies piled on from there to finish 3-1 and in second place in Pool B.

Stars of the Game: Alex Hall went 2-for-5 with a triple, a home run and four RBIs for Australia. Tim Kennelly and Robbie Glendinning each went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored and righthander Mitch Neunborn struck out five over 2.1 scoreless innings of relief. Center fielder Marek Chulp went 2-for-4 with two RBIs to lead the Czech Republic.

Prospects of Note: Neunborn, the No. 10 international prospect in the WBC, struck out five of the nine batters he faced in a dominant performance. He got a game-high nine swings and misses and sat 93-95 mph on his fastball.

What It Means: Australia entered as an underdog but beat South Korea, China and the Czech Republic to finish second in the pool. The Aussies will join Japan, Italy and Cuba in the quarterfinals in Tokyo. The Czech Republic, meanwhile, finishes its first WBC 1-3 and in fourth place in Pool B. The Cinderella story comes out of the WBC more than happy after picking up the first tournament win in the nation’s history.

South Korea 22, China 2

What Happened: Instead of needing to beat China to advance to the quarterfinals as expected, Korea entered this game needing to beat China to avoid ending up in a three-way tie for third to fifth where relegation would be determined by the runs quotient tiebreaker. Mission accomplished as Korea set the WBC record for the most runs scored and the largest margin of victory with an overwhelming 20-run win. China’s lack of pitching depth was most apparent in its final game of the tournament. In addition to giving up 20 hits, China walked 10.

Stars of the Game: Throw a dart at the Korea lineup and you’re likely to hit a player getting three hits. Kun-Woo Park hit a grand slam as part of a three-hit day. Byung-Ho Park came in as a pinch runner. He never got an official at-bat, but he scored three runs thanks to his pinch running appearance and two walks. Ha-Seong Kim also homered.

Prospect of Note: Righthander Alan Carter, an Angel farmhand, made the start for China. He topped out at 95 mph, but gave up four runs, four hits and two walks in 1.1 innings.

What It Means: China is relegated and will have to come through the World Baseball Classic qualifier to play in the next WBC. Korea finishes in third place in the pool, which is a very disappointing result for a team that has made it to the WBC final in the past.

—J.J. Cooper

Dominican Republic 6, Nicaragua 1

What Happened: Juan Soto and Manny Machado homered, Cristian Javier was dominant and the Dominican Republic rolled to a relatively easy five-run win over Nicaragua. The D.R. took the lead in the first and never looked back. Nicaragua never brought the go-ahead run to the plate after the first inning.

Stars of the Game: Soto and Machado each had two hits and a home run. Javier threw four scoreless innings, alllowing two hits and one walk while striking out four. Diego Castillo and Rafael Montero each threw a perfect inning of relief.

Prospect of the Game: Reds minor league shortstop Steven Leyton had a hit and a walk for Nicaragua.

What It Means: Nicaragua was playing to avoid relegation. At 0-3, a loss to favored Venezuela in its final game will force the team to attempt to qualify for the next World Baseball Classic. For the Dominican Republic, there is no margin for error after its loss to Venezuela. Venezuela has already beaten the D.R. and Puerto Rico, so the Dominican Republic’s best bet of advancing to the quarterfinal is by beating both Israel and Puerto Rico in its remaining games. A loss in either will likely end the Dominican’s chances of advancing.

—J.J. Cooper

Puerto Rico 10, Israel 0 (8 innings)

What Happened: Jose De Leon, Yacksel Rios, Edwin Diaz and Duane Underwood Jr. combined for eight perfect innings to lead Puerto Rico to a mercy-rule victory over Israel. Puerto Rico scored three runs in the first and three more in the second to jump out to an early lead, and De Leon cruised from there by retiring all 17 batters he faced. Rios, Diaz and Underwood Jr. finished the perfect effort, and Puerto Rico clinched the mercy-rule victory on Kiké Hernandez’s RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.

Stars of the Game: De Leon pitched 5.2 perfect innings and set a Puerto Rico team record with 10 strikeouts to lead the way. He generated a dozen swings and misses on the night, using a four-seam fastball, sinker, curveball and changeup. Javier Baez went 2-for-3 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored, Francisco Lindor went 2-for-3 with a triple and three RBIs and Hernandez went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

Prospects of Note: Zack Gelof went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, Matt Mervis went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and Spencer Horwitz went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts for Israel.

What This Means: Puerto Rico improves to 2-1 in pool play and can clinch a spot in the quarterfinals with a win over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday in what will likely serve as an elimination matchup. Israel has back-to-back difficult matchups upcoming when it faces the D.R on Tuesday and first-place Venezuela on Wednesday.

-Geoff Pontes

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