Valiant Aussies take silver at Under 23 World Cup

Valiant Aussies take silver at World Cup

Kingsley Collins

7 November 2016

 

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:   JAPAN 10 defeated AUSTRALIA 3

 

Constructing one of our best-ever performances at an international baseball event, Australia will return home as silver medallist at the prestigious WBSC Under 23 World Cup after losing to Japan in the Championship Game played in Monterrey Mexico today.

 

Reflective of his team’s aggressive approach against the tournament favourite, Aaron Whitefield stroked a lead-off single but was caught stealing in the first, while Australia starter Nick Veale was on song early in sitting down the first six hitters he saw.

 

Sam Kennelly hit safely to lead off the third and Ben Leslie laced a double to place runners at second and third with none out – an opportunity not lost on Whitefield, who drove in both on a sharp single to rightfield before himself being gunned down at third after a Jacob Younis hit.

 

While Japanese starter Taiga Kasahara looked distinctly shaky, the Australian lead could have been somewhat greater were it not for losing three runners on base against a quality defensive outfit.

 

Conceding a lead-off hit in the bottom of three, Veale picked off the runner and retired the next two hitters to complete another impressive frame before Zach Shepherd capped a great time at bat with a monster solo blast in the top of four that chased Kasahara from the hill with the Aussies leading three zip.

 

An infield error, a single, a wild pitch and a walk loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of four for Japan, who cashed in on a further infield fumble to drive two across the plate – followed by another on a sacrifice fly that tied scores at three apiece.

 

A two-out single gave the lead to Japan, which called Melbourne Aces signee Keisuke Honda from the pen before his side stretched its lead with a solo home run in the bottom of six, an untidy play at the plate and a three-run blast by Hirooka Taishi.

 

Replacing Veale – who was outstanding over five to concede just three earned runs – Josh Hendrickson closed out the innings and handed the pill to Brandon Stenhouse to breeze through the seventh with the task still looking tough for the Aussie side.

 

Not about to lie down, Australia loaded the bases in the top of eight but were unable to convert as the chance of an eleventh-hour revival began to dissipate and Japan posted some late insurance off Conor Lourey to rack up a tenth unanswered run after the barnstorming Aussie start.

 

Although defensive miscues were costly for Australia – which executed so many outstanding plays during the tournament – they were made under enormous pressure from a world-class opponent.

 

With four hits and two RBIs, Whitefield had a day out with the bat, along with Younis (two hits) and Shepherd, while Veale’s lion-hearted outing was precisely what Australia required to keep it in the contest

 

The terrific performance of the Australian team has drawn the plaudits of many – including Baseball Australia High Performance Manager Glenn Williams, who was with the squad.  

 

“It has been excellent to watch these young men play,” Glenn Williams told Australian Baseball Alumni. “They were here for no other reason than to represent their country. No money in it for them and it was not about what they could get out of it - but all about what they could give for their country.”

 

“They are a special group of kids,” he continued. “All at different stages of their careers. Some at college. Some in pro ball. Others looking for the next opportunity. They've been one hundred per cent into this from Day One and I could not be more proud - not only as Head of High Performance but as a former Australian national team player.”

 

“It has been amazing effort,” he said. “These players gave their very best at all times and they fully deserve the success that they have enjoyed.”

 

“The staff have done an incredible job of guiding these players through the process. They are an experienced group of guys with a tremendous amount of World Cup involvement who did an amazing job of setting up the pitching rotations and the lineups day in and day out.”

 

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME BOX SCORES

 

Australian Baseball Alumni extends its congratulations to Japan, a long-standing world powerhouse that continues to set the bar for international baseball competition at all levels.

 

We extend our most hearty congratulations to the players, coaches and support staff of our Under 23 national team that performed so magnificently at this prestigious international event. All of those with an interest in Australian baseball should feel inordinately proud of the group of young men who represented Australia with such distinction.

 

Very well done to the four players selected to the All-World team, in Jacob Younis (shortstop), Guy Edmonds (Designated Hitter), Connor MacDonald (first base) and Josh Guyer (relief pitcher).

 

Special thanks are extended to the coaching staff led by Tony Harris and including Australian national Head Coach Jon Deeble, Assistant Coach Jason Pospishil and Pitching Coach Luke Prokopec.

 

Ranked world number thirteen coming into the tournament, Australia has earned an invaluable 551 WBSC points that see our ranking improve to eleventh by virtue of a silver medal in the most prestigious event on the 2016 international baseball calendar. Maintenance or improvement of that ranking will go a long way towards qualifying Australia for the 2019 Premier 12 and potentially for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

 

The Management Committee of Australian Baseball Alumni extends its congratulations to the World Baseball Softball Confederation on its outstanding organisation and online coverage of the Under 23 World Cup. We congratulate and we thank the staff of Baseball Australia for providing articulate coverage of the tournament in a timely and dedicated manner that reflects a pleasing commitment to the Australian baseball community and its membership.   

 

Aussies through to medals round

Kingsley Collins

6 November 2016

 

SUPER ROUND GAME THREE:   AUSTRALIA 8 defeated PANAMA 4

 

Surging to an expansive early lead and playing magnificent defence throughout, Australia has downed Panama 8-4 to guarantee a spot in the medals round of the Under 23 World Cup in Monterrey Mexico.

 

Extending its blistering offensive form from the Korea game, Australia was off to a flier against Panama with three in the top of the second – compliments of a lead-off Connor Macdonald blast over the centrefield wall and a subsequent defensive error.

 

With starter Daniel Nilsson in control, the Aussies stretched the lead further in the fifth when Macdonald left the yard for a second time – this time a three-run shot after Aaron Whitefield, Jacob Younis and Zach Shepherd (RBI single) had all hit safely off relief pitcher Jose Gomez.

 

After loading the bases and walking a run across the plate, Nilsson was relieved by Jye Deeble, whose wild pitch conceded a second run before a vital strikeout halted the offensive.

 

Back to back walks drew Josh Hendrickson from the pen in the bottom of six and the Aussies continued to play tight defence in turning a double play under pressure from a resurgent Panama.

 

Macdonald was tattooed in the seventh to spark animated verbal exchanges in a pressure-cooker situation and the Aussies came up empty before Panama launched a challenge in the bottom of the frame – with runners at first and third – that was again thwarted by a slick double play.

 

A further double in the eighth momentarily quelled Panama – which responded with back to back hits and a bleeder into centrefield that scored both before Whitefield snagged a spectacular running catch against the wall to preserve a three-run lead heading to the ninth.

 

Stroking his third hit of the game, livewire Younis doubled to lead off, advanced on one wild pitch and scored on another to stretch the lead to four - more than enough for closer Josh Guyer, who retired the three hitters he saw to secure a memorable victory for his team.

 

Winning pitcher Nilsson and the Australian bullpen did a terrific job for a side that played impeccable and quite stunning defence, while the offence was headed by Macdonald (two home runs and two walks for four RBIs) and Younis (three hits), with timely contributions from Zach Shepherd and Liam Bedford.

 

With six wins from its eight tournament games, Australia needed to wait on the result of the Japan versus Mexico clash to determine whether it would be playing off in the championship game or for the bronze medal. The result fell our way, with a 3-2 Japan win.

 

The medals rounds will be held on Monday (ADST), with the Bronze Medal game starting at 12.00 PM ADST and the Gold Medal game at 11.00 AM ADST (check your local time zone). Australia will meet Japan in the Gold Medal game.

 

AUSTRALIA vs PANAMA BOX SCORES                 AUSTRALIA versus JAPAN (Championship Game):   LIVE STREAM

 

Inspired Aussies take down Korea in a thriller

Kingsley Collins

5 November 2016

 

SUPER ROUND GAME TWO:   AUSTRALIA 9 defeated KOREA 7

 

Although delayed two and a half hours by rain, this game – for Australian supporters - was one certainly worth waiting for as it produced a crucial 9-7 win that keeps our team well in contention for a medals appearance at the Under 23 World Cup.

 

Sharp from the get-go, Australian starter Nick Hutchings was provided with early run support when his side blasted four in the first – compliments of a walk, an error and four hits, including a two-RBI double by Robbie Perkins off the rightfield wall.

 

Hits to Connor Macdonald and Guy Edmonds (his second) gleaned another two in the second for a six-zip lead before Hutchings landed in strife in the top of three, when three wild pitches, walks and some timely hitting  dramatically turned the trend of the game as Conor Lourey was called from the pen.

 

A stunning flyball by leftfielder Liam Bedford contained the damage as Korea scored a fifth run in the top of four and the Aussies responded with an RBI single to Edmonds – his third hit from three – as Korea again went to the pen in the knowledge that a win in this contest was crucial to the medals prospects of both teams.

 

Korea continued to press against reliever Sam Holland, drawing level with two more in the fifth before a scoreless sixth and seventh - when Matt Wilson and Josh Guyer combined on the hill.

 

Already having a great game with the stick, catcher Perkins launched a two-out homer over the leftfield wall to hand Australia a one-run lead that was stretched in the eighth when Zach Shepherd lashed a two-out single to score Jacob Younis – who had reached third on some brilliant baserunning.

 

While Hutchings had been superb over two innings at the start, Guyer was simply outstanding in earning the win with his 2.2 innings of scoreless work at the end of a classic arm-wrestle and an uplifting win that owed plenty to the offence of Edmonds (three hits for three RBIs), Perkins (double and home run for three ribbies), the indomitable Younis (three hits), Shepherd (a hit and a walk for two RBIs) and to the brilliant fly ball taken by Bedford when the game was in the balance.

 

Presented with a wonderful opportunity to head home with a World Cup medal, Australia will meet Panama in the last of its Super Round games, starting at 5.00 AM on Sunday 6 November AEST.

 

AUSTRALIA vs KOREA BOX SCORES     AUSTRALIA vs PANAMA LIVE STREAM

 

Blistering start helps set up Mexico win

Kingsley Collins

4 November 2016

 

SUPER ROUND GAME ONE:   MEXICO 15 defeated AUSTRALIA 8

 

Exploding with two in the first off Australian starter Nick Veale, Mexico was quickly pegged back when Zach Shepherd singled to score Jacob Younis and Guy Edmonds laced an RBI-double in the bottom of the equaliser.

 

Characteristically aggressive with the bat, Mexico blasted four in the second – including a bases clearing double – to chase Veale from the hill and draw Mitch Neunborn into the fray to retire the first six hitters he saw.

 

"The guys played a good game tonight but couldn't contain the Mexican hitters in a stadium where the ball really carried," Team Assistant Coach Jon Deeble told Australian Baseball Alumni. "We struggled on the mound with first pitch strikes  and were 14/38 at one point in the seventh inning. We walked too many and went to three-ball counts on way too many occasions."

"It is very hard to pitch behind in the count on hitter friendly fields," he said.

 

Tattooed in the third, Younis advanced on a wild pitch and crossed the plate on a Shepherd double into the leftfield corner before Ben Leslie singled for a fourth Aussie run – although the home nation responded emphatically with a three-run homer in the fourth that stretched the lead to five.

 

Despite Neunborn containing the opposition offence and the Aussies getting one back - on a two-out Connor Macdonald single in the equaliser - Mexico remained in control and Jye Deeble was called from the pen in the sixth.

 

Scoring again on a Younis sacrifice fly in the sixth, Australia went to Lachlan Madden and turned a slick double play before southpaw Matt Wilson was summoned from the pen to whiff dangerous lead-off hitter Norberto Obeso.

 

Aaron Whitefield walked and Younis doubled in the eighth to set the table for Macdonald, who provided late hope by driving in both and momentarily reducing the lead – until big man Carlos Diaz went deep to spark a productive ninth against an Aussie outfit that landed a couple of runners on base in the equaliser without being able to make any inroads.

 

Notwithstanding the large number of strikeouts by its hitters – fourteen in total – Australia had grand contributors in Shepherd (two hits and a walk for two RBIs), Macdonald (two hits and two ribbies), Younis (two hits, a walk, a HPB and an RBI), Liam Bedford (two hits and a walk) and Ben Leslie (a hit, two walks and an RBI).

 

"We swung the bats well and we made some good adjustments in the batter's box as the Mexican pitcher had an outstanding change up," Deeble said. "Mc Donald swung the bat well - as did Sheppard, Younis, Edmonds, Leslie and Bedford."

 

While it was tough going for six Aussie pitchers used against a bellicose Mexican offence, Neunborn was a steadying influence over four and Wilson was solid in a cameo marred only by the Diaz blast.

 

The difference in offence production was the remarkable individual game of Mexico two-hole hitter Moises Gutierrez Molgado, whose four hits – including the home run – gleaned seven RBIs for the home nation, the winning margin in itself.

 

With two tough assignments to come in striving to qualify for the medals games, Australia will meet South Korea in its second Super Round game, starting at 5.00 AM AEST on Saturday 5 November.

 

"Korea is red hot and will be tough to beat," said Deeble, "but we are in good shape with our pitching and we have the offence to take it right to them. We will be throwing everything at them and we give ourselves a real chance."

"It has been raining all night and hopefully will stop before game time."

 

AUSTRALIA vs MEXICO BOX SCORES       AUSTRALIA vs KOREA LIVE STREAM

 

Aussies falter in later innings

Kingsley Collins

2 November 2016

 

GAME FIVE:   JAPAN 11 defeated AUSTRALIA 2

 

In the contest early, Australia has incurred its first loss of the Under 23 World Cup in Monterrey Mexico – an 11-2 result to world number one ranked nation Japan, which plated three in the sixth and a damaging four in the seventh.

 

Struggling for offensive production through six, the Aussies plated two in the seventh while using four on the hill in an effort to contain a Japan side that racked up twelve hits to six to retain its unbeaten record after the first round.

 

Scoring single runs in the first, third, fourth and fifth off Australian starter Josh Hendrickson, Japan applied the blowtorch with three in the sixth before the game-breaking four spot in the seventh as the Aussies looked to Daniel Nilsson, Brandon Stenhouse and Lachlan Madden to stem the flow.

 

Although a two-run Sam Kennelly single in the top of seven offered some forlorn hope for the Aussies – who loaded the bases in the eighth but were unable to convert - Japan was not about to let this one slip, with a couple of long balls and some timely two-out hitting proving decisive.

 

With two hits and two RBIs, Kennelly was best of the Australian offence, while Aaron Whitefield (two hits), Guy Edmonds and Perkins all contributed against quality Japanese arms.

 

Finishing second in Group B, with four wins from five, Australia has qualified for the Super Round that starts early on Friday (AEST), with its first game against the number three seed from Group A – which is likely to be Mexico (details to be confirmed).

 

BOX SCORES vs JAPAN                 SUPER ROUND STREAM versus MEXICO

 

Offence puts Argentina to the sword

Kingsley Collins

1 November 2016

 

GAME FOUR:   AUSTRALIA 15 defeated ARGENTINA 2

 

Already guaranteed a Super Round berth, Australia extended its winning streak to four with a thumping 15-2 result over Argentina in the Under 23 World Cup in Monterry Mexico.

 

Although not able to produce its best defence on a rugged infield surface, the Australian offence provided great support to winning pitcher Chris Horne by amassing eleven hits and eleven passes to score seemingly at will after a four-run outburst in the first that was generated by a string of hits, a HPB and some aggressive baserunning.

 

Held scoreless in the second, the Aussies tacked on another two in the third, on a balk and a sacrifice fly, before the Argentinians plated a somewhat fortuitous run in the top of five – sparking an explosive response by Australia, which sent twelve hitters to the plate in piling on six, including a solo shot by form hitter Jacob Younis.

 

Despite hitting back with a run off Aussie reliever Jye Deeble before Jeremy Young sealed a mercy rule call, Argentina was never in the hunt against an Australian offence that was well-served by Aaron Whitefield (three hits and four RBIs), Younis (three hits and two walks for three RBIs), Guy Edmonds (two hits and a walk for two RBIs), Ben Leslie (hit, two walks, three RBIs) and Zach Shepherd.

 

Scattering four hits over five innings, Horne conceded a solitary walk and no earned runs in a quality outing for Australia, which will play its fifth game when it meets world-ranked number one nation Japan on Wednesday our time, starting at 5.00 AM AEST.

 

Thursday will be a rest day before commencement of the Super Round on Friday 4 November (Australian time).

 

BOX SCORES vs ARGENTINA                     LIVE STREAM versus JAPAN

 

Thrills aplenty as Aussies edge home in extras

Kingsley Collins

31 October 2016

 

GAME THREE:   AUSTRALIA 8 defeated CHINESE TAIPEI 7 (ten innings)

 

Australia has effectively nailed a berth in the Super Round with a third win on the trot at the Under 23 World Cup – this time an 8-7 result posted in extra innings of a contest replete with tension and high octane action against the number four ranked baseball nation.

 

What opened as a slug fest – with a combined ten runs in the first two frames – developed into a stirring spectacle in which defence and relief pitching dictated the terms of an arm-wrestle that was decided in the tenth under international tie-breaker rules.

 

Australia was off to a blistering start – compliments off a three-run homer by Connor Macdonald in the first – although the break was short-lived as Chinese Taipei blasted five in the second to chase starter Mitch Neunborn from the hill.

 

"Neunborn threw the ball well but needed to use his offspeed pitches," said Assistant Coach Jon Deeble after the game. "His stuff was good but needed to add his change up for something slower."

 

While relievers put the brakes on scoring for both sides, Australia plated another two in the fourth before Chinese Taipei again edged ahead and may have done further scoring damage if not for a rare infield triple play turned by the Aussies in the fifth.

 

Dominant in relief after Matt Wilson had been steady over two, Conor Lourey went scoreless through 4.2 innings while Jacob Younis – having another superb game – again tied it up with a two-out shot over the leftfield wall.

 

Thwarted by an infield double after loading the bases in the ninth and summoning Josh Guyer from the pen, Australia forced the game into extras with a stunning double play on a lined hit and run in the bottom of nine.

 

With runners placed at first and second under tie-breaker rules, Aaron Whitefield laid down a perfect safety bunt and Zach Shepherd drew a pass to score the go-ahead before a frenetic double-play ended the half-innings with the Aussies up 8-7.

 

Showing great poise in the equaliser with his side still under enormous pressure, Guyer earned the win by inducing two fly balls and a grounder to seal the deal against a quality opponent.

 

The contribution of Lourey to the result (4.2 innings for three hits and no runs) cannot be overstated, along with the settling stint of Matthew Wilson under early fire and the pressure-cooker close provided by Guyer.

 

"Lourey was outstanding on the mound," Jon Deeble said. "He worked down in the zone, with good angle. His breaking stuff was really good as well as his changeup. He worked to the bottom half of the zone and really competed."

 

"Josh Guyer threw the ball really well. He was up to 94, with a plus breaking ball. Pounded the strike zone and worked ahead in the count."

 

The ever-improving Younis (three hits – including the moonshot – for two RBIs) was one of several offensive contributors including Connor Macdonald (two and three, on the home run), Aaron Whitefield (two and one), Zach Shepherd (one and one, with four walks) and catcher Robbie Perkins (three hits).

 

"We had really good at bats from Younis, Perkins, Bedford, Macdonald and Shepherd," Deeble said. "The Taipei pitching was outstanding. We jumped on their fastball in the first but didn't see many after that. We were slidered and split to death!"

 

"Our defence was solid today, but we need to improve on that and aim to be perfect," he said.

 

"It was a great win against the world champion today."

 

Now assured of a top three finish in Group B, Australia will play its fourth game when it meets Argentina on Tuesday 1 November, starting at 6.30 AM AEST.

 

BOX SCORES vs CHINESE TAIPEI                     LIVE STREAM versus ARGENTINA  

 

Walk-off pass gets Australia across the line

Kingsley Collins

30 October 2016

 

GAME TWO:     AUSTRALIA 6 defeated NICARAGUA 5

 

Australia remains unbeaten at the Under 23 World Cup after a thrilling 6-5 win over Nicaragua that was decided by a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of nine.

 

The go-ahead was the third RBI for Guy Edmonds, who had earlier launched a two-run bomb to follow a two-run triple by Aaron Whitefield that sparked the Australian offence in the fifth of an enthralling contest featuring grand defence and solid pitching against a tough opponent.

 

After Aussie starter Nick Veale conceded a run in the first and another in the fourth, his offence came alive in the fifth to take a lead on the Whitefield triple and a Jacob Younis sacrifice fly before the sides traded blows with two each in the sixth.

 

A Nicaragua run in the top of eight levelled the scores and closer Sam Holland held his nerve to escape a tense top nine after walking the lead-off.

 

Again well among the offensive action, Younis drew a pass in the equaliser, Zach Shepherd singled and Connor Macdonald was passed up to load the bases and bring to the plate the dangerous Edmonds to perform the last rites and seal a vital win in the context of the series.

 

Although out-hit ten to seven, the Aussies converted authoritatively – with standouts in Edmonds (a walk and two hits – including a home run – for three RBIs), Whitefield (triple for two RBIs) and Ben Leslie (who had another productive game in the nine-hole with two hits and two walks).

 

"Guy Edmonds swung the bat well with the home run and a hard-hit ball off the centrefield wall," said delighted base coach Jon Deeble after the game. "Jacob Younis continues to have good at-bats including a great AB in the ninth to get a walk and then hustle to third on a single."

 

"Ben Leslie had a great game, with solid at bats for two hits - and an assist at the plate."

 

Scattering four hits over six innings for four earned runs, Veale was given great support by Josh Guyer – with a scoreless seventh – and Holland, who closed out the game.          

 

"Nick Veale pitched really well," Deeble said. "He showed good downward plane to his fastball and did a nice job changing speeds."

 

"Guyer was really good too. He got screwed on a couple of pitches - which resulted in walks - but pitched out of a jam in the seventh. Sam Holland had run on his fastball, his sink slider was good and he was able to get out of trouble in the ninth."

 

"We played very good defence again tonight," he said. "The outfielders threw two out at the plate - one from Ben Leslie  and another on a double cut which was executed perfectly."

 

"This was a great win against a very good team. The guys are really working well together and they are right into this."

 

Although in a strong position with three to play, it will get no easier for the Australian Under 23 squad when it fronts up to Chinese Taipei in Game Three on Monday 31 October, starting at 4.00 AM AEST.  "It will be a big game tomorrow, with Neunborn on the mound," Deeble said. 

 

BOX SCORES vs NICARAGUA              LIVE STREAM vs CHINESE TAIPEI               ALL SCORES and STANDINGS

 

Aussies dominant in opening clash

Kingsley Collins

29 October 2016

 

GAME ONE:   AUSTRALIA 8 defeated AUSTRIA 1

 

Australia has commenced its Under 23 World Cup campaign in convincing fashion with a thumping 8-1 win over Austria – which it played for the first-ever time in an international event.

 

Despite scoring a run in the first – on a solo shot - and blanking Australia over the first two frames, the Austrians were on the end of an offensive barrage that gleaned two in the third, three in the fifth and another three in the sixth as the Aussie offence applied the pressure.

 

Although its side made three defensive errors - all on cruel hops out of potholes - that proved harmless in the washup, Australian management would be delighted with the outing of its starter Nick Hutchings, who spun six innings of work for three hits and three strike outs before Conor Lourey, Brandon Stenhouse and Lachlan Madden each chimed in with an innings of scoreless work.

 

Out-hitting its opponent ten to five, Australia enjoyed great offensive production from third-sacker Zac Shepherd (three hits for three hits - including a home run – for three RBIs), Connor Macdonald (two and three, including home run), Ben Leslie (two hits) and Guy Edmonds (solo bomb).

 

For Australian Head Coach Jon Deeble - who is a base coach for this tournament under Manager Tony Harris - it was a somewhat "different" day out at the Cadereyta ballpark (clearly one of the lesser fields being used).

 

"That was the first time in my baseball life where you get to the field for BP at 8 AM and it is pitch black," Jon Deeble told Australian Baseball Alumni. "The sun comes up late over here."

 

"We had both teams on the field picking up rocks for forty minutes to get the game played," he said.

 

"Not a good field and the ball flew out, but our guys played very well against soft-throwing pitchers."

 

"Apart from the home runs, Younis had five good at bats for four walks and a hit," Deeble said. "He stole two bases and did a nice job going first to third on a single."

 

"Hutchings was good through six," he said. "Lourey, Stenhouse and Madden all pounded the strike zone.""

 

BOX SCORES

 

Needing to finish in the first three of its six-team group in order to advance to the Super Round, Australia will next face Nicaragua, starting at 4.00 AM (AEST) on Sunday 30 October.  LIVE STREAM

 

Image:   WBSC

 

 

Image:   WBSC