(Story by Marco Stoovelaar)
3 teams advance; Italy plays tie-breaker vs. Venezuela
MIAMI, Florida (USA) / ZAPOPAN, Jalisco (México) -
On Sunday (March 12), the first decisions were reached in Pools C and D of the World Baseball Classic.
Three teams qualified for the Second Round, but a tie-breaker will be needed in Pool D.
The team that qualify for the Second Round now will travel to San Diego (California).
At Miami, in Pool C, defending WBC-champion Dominican Republic again decided a game late.
On Saturday, the Dominicans trailed 5-0 against the USA, but won 7-5.
Today, it needed extra innings to win against Colombia with a 10-3 score.
The Dominicans took a 2-0 lead in the second inning, but Colombia came alongside by scoring in the sixth and eighth inning to force extra innings.
Jorge Alfaro homered in the eighth to make it a 2-2 score.
After a scoreless tenth inning, the tie-break rule came into effect in the eleventh.
The Dominicans then rallied for seven runs to win 10-3.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Jhonatan Solano led off for Colombia with a single, then Tito Polo was hit by a pitch.
The latter was forced out, but that brought Solano to third base.
Hereafter, Reynaldo Rodriguez lined out to leftfielder José Bautista.
Solano tried to score, but was eliminated at the plate on a nice throw by Bautista and a great play by catcher Welington Castillo, who tagged Solano.
American Major League Home Plate Umpire Tripp Gibson III was in good position, looked into the play made the correct call.
However, there were some angry Colombian reactions, especially from Tito Polo (who had just been forced out) and Reynaldo Rodriguez (the batter who had lined out to leftfield).
Gibson immediately ejected both.
In the top of the 11th, with the bases loaded, Welington Castillo singled in the first two runs.
After the bases got loaded again, Jean Segura cleared the bases with a 3-run double.
An error on a grounder by Robinson Cano and a single by Carlos Santana then accounted for the next two runs.
With the win, the Dominicans qualified for the Second Round and finished in first place in Pool C.
In the evening, in Miami, the USA shutout Canada 8-0 to become the second team to qualify in Pool C.
An American loss would have meant that three teams would end up in a tie and a tie-breaking game then was needed to decide the second qualifier.
Team USA decided the game early, scoring three runs in the first and four runs in the second inning.
The eighth run was scored in the seventh.
Nolan Arenado hit a 3-run homerun in the second inning, Buster Posey accounted for the run in the seventh with another homerun.
Lefthanded American starter Danny Duffy threw four strong innings in which he struckout seven batters and gave up only two hits.
With this win, Canada and Colombia were eliminated.
In Zapopan (México), Puerto Rico won 9-3 against Italy to stay unbeaten, finish in first place in Pool D and qualify for the Second Round.
Italy now had to wait for the result of the evening-game whether they had a chance of qualifying.
Italy took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Puerto Rico got one run back in its first at bat, but Italy alsco scored again in the next inning.
Puerto Rico came alongside in the bottom of the second, held Italy scoreless in the remainder of the game and took more distance from the third inning on.
In the third, Puerto Rico broke the 3-3 tie, then added three runs in the fourth and two more in the fifth.
Italy registered only three basehits in this game, while Puerto Rico collected 13, including three by Enrique Hernández (Los Angeles Dodgers).
All Italian runs were scored on homeruns.
John Andreolli hit a 2-run homerun in the first, then Drew Butera homered in the second inning.
The homeruns were the only two basehits Italy hit in the first eight innings!
From the third inning on, no Italian reached base anymore, except Chris Colabello, who walked with two outs in the seventh.
In the ninth, Alessandro Vaglio accounted for the third Italian basehit.
Carlos Correa hit a 3-run homerun for Puerto Rico in the fourth inning.
In the evening, in Zapopan, host México won 11-9 against Venezuela in the final game of Pool D.
This created a 3-way tie between México, Venezuela and Italy.
So, for the first time, the tie-breaker rule has to be used to determine the ranking.
The ranking is based on the fewest runs allowed per defensive inning played in the games played between the three teams concerned.
The ranking is then based on the lowest average.
In this ranking, México ended up in last place and with that, it was eliminated, while Venezuela and Italy now have to play a tie-breaker on Monday.
Italy ended up in first place with 1.05 runs allowed, followed by Venezuela (1.11) and México (1.12).
While the ruling is clear, México filed a protest against the calculations.
It was reported that Joe Torre, the MLB Chief Baseball Officer and Kim Ng, the Senior Vice-President of Baseball Operations of MLB, discussed the ruling, but later confirmed the outcome.
México was eliminated, as it simply had allowed one run too many in its game against Venezuela.
Also, they gave up five runs against Italy in a no-out inning, which of course also wasn't in México's favor.
By the way, México also would have been eliminated when the Team Quality Balance would have been used, the ruling being used on most international events.
México rallied for five runs in the second inning and led 8-1 halfway the fifth inning.
Venezuela was productive from the fifth inning on, scoring eight runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh combined.
And one of them was too much for the Mexicans.
Venezuela collected 16 basehits, including four by Alcides Escobar (Kansas City Royals).
Victor Martinez (Detroit Tigers) hit a 2-run homerun for Venezuela in the seventh inning off of Sergio Romo.
For México, Esteban Quiroz hit a 2-run homerun in the second inning, then Brandon Laird added a 2-run homerun in the fifth at bat.
Netherlands ends up short in extra innings vs. Japan. (March 12)
Wins for Colombia, Venezuela, Dominicans & Puerto Rico. (March 11)
USA needs extra inning to win; Puerto Rico wins big. (March 10)
Cuba advances to Second Round WBC; Australia eliminated. (March 10)
Italy wins opener on walk-off single; Dominicans win big. (March 9)
Netherlands empty-handed vs. Israel; finishes 2nd in Pool. (March 9)
Orange in 2nd Round WBC after walk-off win; Israel also in. (March 8)
Netherlands opens WBC with shutout vs. South Korea. (March 7)
Israel upsets South Korea in WBC-opener with 10-inning win. (March 6)
Netherlands Team closes WBC-preparations with loss. (March 5)
Netherlands Team wins big in Korean exhibition game. (March 3)
Netherlands closes exhibition series in Arizona with loss. (February 25)
First game Netherlands vs. Twins ends in tie. (February 24)
Netherlands Team wins big in exhibition game vs. Geckos. (February 23)
Exhibition losses Netherlands Team in Arizona. (February 20)
Orange roster announced for World Baseball Classic. (February 8)
Netherlands Team to prepare in Arizona. (February 8)