Team USA avoids elimination and dethroning; Dutch open against Koreans!
PANAMA CITY (Panama) -
Team USA avoided an embarrassing elimination and thus dethroning as reigning world champion on Monday-afternoon by winning their make-up game vs. Panama, 5-0, which was the final game of the preliminary round of the World Championship in Panama.
Earlier in the day, Taiwan shutout Greece 15-0 in six innings in another make-up game.
Now that the preliminary round has ended, the Netherlands officially ends in second place, which they also would have done in case Panama had won.
In the last scenario, the Dutch, Canada and Panama would have ended in a 3-way tie.
As the face-to-face results would have led to a new tie, the Team Quality Balance would determine the final ranking.
That would have put Panama in first place, the Dutch in second and Canada in third place.
But because of Panama's loss, Canada now finishes in first place, followed by the Dutch and Panama.
Canada and the Dutch now finish in a tie for first place, but by winning the face-to-face game, Canada was awarded first place.
The Dutch Team opens on Tuesday against South Korea, to be followed by games vs. Australia, Cuba and Venezuela in the following days.
Team USA had a narrow escape in the last two days and have to thank Taiwan for still being in the tournament.
Going into the final day of pool-play, the Americans had to win their last two games to advance to the Second Round.
But after losing 6-1 to Canada on Sunday, Team USA's only chance to qualify was a loss by Puerto Rico in the evening against Taiwan, meaning their faith was in the hands of the Asians.
In case of a tie with Puerto Rico, the Americans would have been eliminated, as they lost the game played against the Central Americans.
In the evening, Team USA's chances were saved for another day, as Taiwan, which was winless in five games, surprised by winning 3-1 vs. Puerto Rico.
That put the ball back into the American hands, as they now had to beat Panama on Monday to move into the Second Round.
And the Americans did just that.
...Winning pitcher Andy Van Hekken...
In the third inning, a double by Brett Jackson and single by Joe Thurston gave Team USA a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth, they doubled the lead when Tommy Mendonca led off with a homerun and Thurston added an RBI-double.
In the sixth, Jackson lifted the lead to 5-0 with an one-out homerun.
In the meantime, starting pitcher Andy Van Hekken had a great outing.
In eight innings, he struckout none, but also walked none and gave up only five basehits.
Scott Patterson finished the game for Team USA, throwing an one-two-three ninth inning.
Joe Thurston is one of six players on the American roster with Major League-experience.
He was drafted in 1997 by the Boston Red Sox, then by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1999, which was the year, he made his professional debut.
Between 2002 and this season, Thurston played in 184 Major League-games for the Dodgers (2002-2004), Philadelphia Phillies (2006), Boston Red Sox (2008), St. Louis Cardinals (2009) and Florida Marlins (this season).
With the Marlins this year, he played in only one game, hitting 1-for-4.
The rest of the season, the second baseman played for the New Orleans Zephyrs, the AAA-team of the Marlins.
In 126 games, Thurston batted .300 (136-for-453) with 13 homeruns.
This season, Andy Van Hekken played in the Triple-A team of the Houston Astros, but also played in the Major League for the Detroit Tigers in the 2002 season, going 1-3 in five games.
The 32-year old Van Hekken, who was born in Holland (Michigan), plays professionally since 1998 when he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners.
With the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the lefthander was 9-6 this season throwing in 35 games (19 starts).
And now that Team USA won their final game, Puerto Rico's tournament has ended.
In case of elimination, it would have been the second time for Team USA, as it also was eliminated for the Play-Offs in 1998 when the World Cup took place in Italy.
In that year, the USA also lost to the Netherlands, which qualified for the final-8 back then.
In 2005, when the Championship was held in the Netherlands, the USA almost was eliminated, but barely reached the top-8 and finished in seventh place.
In 2007 (Taiwan) and 2008 (eight European countries), Team USA won the world title.
Team USA completed the field of eight teams that will make up the Second Round and will start play on Tuesday.
The teams take the results of the games played against the other three teams from their pool with them to the Second Round in which they will face the top-4 of the other pool.
On Friday, the final ranking will determine the combination of games for the final day on Saturday, with the top two teams meeting each other in the final.
Cuba starts the Second Round unbeaten (3-0) and is followed by Canada and the Netherlands (2-1).
The five remaining teams are all 1-2.
As Group 2 had several surprising scores, three of the four teams come into the Second Round with an 1-2 record.
As the Dutch start in a tie for second place, this not only puts the team in line for equaling their best result ever (fourth place), but also make it a serious contender for a medal.
The ranking of the eight teams at the start of the Second Round will be as follows.
| ||Netherlands (2A)||2||1||18||13|
| ||Panama (3A)||1||2||15||15|
| ||South Korea (3B)||1||2||13||9|
| ||USA (4A)||1||2||11||13|
| ||Venezuela (2B)||1||2||7||32|