Koreans snatch bronze in dramatic finale

Kingsley Collins

8 September 2019

 

Playing catch-up for the first few innings of its bronze medal game against Korea at the Under 18 World Cup, Australia fought its way back to take a lead in the eighth – when Solomon Maguire stroked a two-out RBI single – only to have victory unceremoniously ripped from its grasp by a two-run blast in the top of nine.

 

Although the 6-5 winning margin again underscored how competitive they had been against powerhouse baseball nations through the tournament, the Aussies would be ruing early defensive errors – especially given that they matched the Koreans in every other aspect of a terrific game of baseball.

 

While the outcome of the final game was a disappointment, our Australian squad should rightly feel intensely proud of its fourth-placed finish against such strong international opposition. Well done, all!

 

BRONZE MEDAL GAME:   KOREA 6 defeated AUSTRALIA 5

 

Qualifying for the medals round with a stunning historic win over Japan, Australia was placed under early pressure when Korea plated a run in the first – after a HPB, sacrifice bunt and a base hit – although starter Liam Evans was quickly into his work.

 

Rare Australian defensive miscues and a single allowed Korea to score another two in the top of three before Liam Macdonald collected a first Aussie hit and Liam McCallum drew a pass in the equaliser.

 

A Travis Bazzana single loaded the bases – setting the table for Chris Burke, who drove a two-out bases-clearing double off the centrefield wall to tie the game up at three apiece.

 

A hit and walk provided a fourth-innings opportunity for Korea, which again forced a defensive error and momentarily regained the lead on a sacrifice fly before Byron Armstrong and Jack Burns both drew passes from Korean reliever Yundong Heo and McCallum slapped a timely RBI-single up the middle.

 

With Evans continuing to do a fine job, Burke cracked his second double but was stranded in the bottom of five as both clubs strove to gain a break in a contest that could potentially be affected by rain that had persisted throughout to some degree.

 

Called upon to relieve Evans – who had been effective over six for one earned run and six strikeouts – Cooper Morgan tattooed the lead-off in the seventh but was helped out by his defence for a scoreless frame before Kieren Hall was summoned from the Australian bullpen to toss a clean top of eight.

 

Fully utilising its own pen, Korea was placed under pressure when Burke smacked his third double – with one out in the bottom of the inning – before Conor Myles grounded out and Solomon Maguire came up big with a first-pitch RBI single to hand the Aussies a one-run lead into the last.

 

Hall induced a fly ball in the top of nine before a Korean single drew Will Sherriff into the fray in a huge moment that dramatically turned the game on its head as Juhyeong Lee belted a two-run homer over rightfield for his side to take a winning one-run lead. It was the only Korean homer of the tournament - one that bounced outwards off the wall, just inches from careering back into play.

 

Matching Korea with eight hits to nine, Australia was brilliantly led by Burke (three doubles and three RBIs), McDonald (two hits and an RBI) and Maguire, while the gutsy Evans outing kept his side well in the contest after it threatened to unravel early.              BOX SCORES

 

 

Wow. And what a ride!

 

Although our team stumbled at the final hurdle, its effort of finishing fourth at the Under 18 World Cup was a magnificent achievement, one that provided great pleasure for supporters back home while creating experiences and memories that will stay with this playing group for a lifetime.

 

Australian Baseball Alumni members and supporters will surely recognise the outstanding manner in which our young men have represented Australia, prior to and during the course of this tournament.

 

Managed by a staff of experienced, quality personnel committed to the development of our emerging players, the Australian side again categorically proved a capacity to compete against the best of its peer talent in the world. While we were outplayed by Chinese Taipei in the Super Round, our efforts against other teams – notably including powerhouse baseball nations in Japan, Korea and United States – would provide great heart for those interested in Australian baseball growth.

 

Playing consistently high-standard defence, including numerous instances of individual brilliance, our team boasted some of the most effective and efficient pitching of any team – including memorable outings by the likes of Brandan Bidois (who carded two wins for a miniscule 1.38 ERA), Will Sherriff, Liam Evans, Lachlan Waite, Jack Lee, Liam McCallum and Cooper Morgan.

 

Our balanced roster of right-armers and southpaws was consistently able to rely on any pitch, in any count, against the best young hitters in world baseball.

 

Although the Australian offence was not as productive as we might have liked in certain games – and in some situations – there were some absolutely eye-opening performances by individuals including Jaylin Rae (who hit 0.481 coming into the bronze medal game), sixteen year-old Solomon Maguire (who knocked in seven – including our only home run - while excelling in the outfield), Byron Armstrong, Chris Burke (thirteen hits, including seven doubles) and Alex Skepton.

 

While this year’s group of players will not be playing at Premier 12 (and will be unlikely, on age, to suit up at the Olympic Games, should Australia qualify), they established beyond any doubt that they represent the international future of Australian baseball – for major events leading into and including the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

 

The performance of this group against world-class emerging talent from across the globe should provide great optimism for Australian baseball – for the individual future of our elite players, for Australian Baseball League and for international tournaments well into the future.

 

Congratulations to all on representing our nation with such courage, commitment, skill and distinction!

 

Bidois spins a pearler: Aussies to play for bronze

Kingsley Collins

7 September 2019

 

Stifling Japan to the tune of three hits during another superb outing over seven, Queenslander Brandan Bidois spearheaded an impressive 4-1 win over the first-ranked world baseball nation to secure a berth for Australia in the bronze medal final of the Under 18 World Cup.

 

While Japan scrambled a run in the first, Australia blasted four in the second in support of Bidois, who was backed by solid defence and disciplined hitting led by Travis Bazzana, Jaylin Rae, Chris Burke, Liam Macdonald and Byron Armstrong.

 

SUPER ROUND GAME THREE:   AUSTRALIA 4 defeated JAPAN 1

 

Coming off a whitewash at the hands of Chinese Taipei, Australia needed to re-focus rather quickly for its clash with Japan, the currently first-ranked baseball nation that is always a benchmark at World Cups – at any level.

 

With five teams still in contention for the medals round, and various scenarios still in play, Australia went into this match-up intent on producing its competitive best – which is precisely what it did.

 

Having a wonderful tournament, Jaylin Rae singled off the rightfield wall in the first and scooted to third on a hit to Chris Burke, although both were stranded as Japanese starter Sota Asada settled into his work in difficult conditions – especially facing a howling wind.

 

Taking the ball for Australia, Brandan Bidois was made to pay for a tattooed batter when Japan plated a run on a ground ball in the bottom of the first.

 

Byron Armstrong and Jake Burns both hit safely in the second to place runners at the corners – setting the table for Liam Macdonald, who levelled scores with a single up the middle before Liam McCallum drew a pass to load the bases with none out.

 

Travis Bazzana drove an RBI-single into leftfield and Japan went to their bullpen – to no immediate avail as Rae forced an infeld error to score two more for a three-run lead before a double play ended a productive inning.

 

Armstrong and Burns drew passes in the top of three – as the heavens opened – and the Aussies turned slick infield double plays in successive innings as Bidois continued to mow down the Japan hitters.

 

Slapping a base hit to lead off the fifth, Conor Myles was left high and dry as Yuito Mae whiffed Solomon Maguire, Armstrong and DH Jake Burns in order and the Aussies failed to convert again in the sixth, when a Japan threat was quelled in the bottom half.

 

Conceding just three hits over seven innings of work for a solitary run in the first, Bidois was relieved by Jack Lee, who issued a pair of walks in the bottom of nine before Kieren Hall closed out a superb win with a fly ball and strikeout.

 

While the Japanese pitching staff combined for seventeen strikeouts during this game, the damage was done in that one big innings – although the Aussies might feel that their winning margin could have been even greater, given the offensive contributions provided by Bazzana, Rae, Burke, Armstrong and Macdonald. But we will certainly take any comprehensive win over Japan, any time! Any win, for that matter.    BOX SCORES

 

Finishing third after the Super Round, Australia will meet Korea in the bronze medal game starting at 1.00 PM AEST, while United States and Chinese Taipei will play off for the title of world champion.

 

Australia overpowered by Chinese Taipei

Kingsley Collins

6 September 2019

 

Looking to rebound from a tough loss to United States on Thursday, Australia conceded an early lead in its second Super Round game and was unable to mount an offensive challenge against Chinese Taipei – which emerged a comprehensive 12-0 winner at the Under 18 World Cup in Busan this afternoon.

 

Managing just two hits against some dominant Taipei pitching, Australia was no match for a belligerent offence and aggressive running unit that amassed fifteen hits and blew the game wide open with a game-breaking eight runs in the seventh.

 

SUPER ROUND GAME TWO:   CHINESE TAIPEI 12 defeated AUSTRALIA 0

 

With his side facing another tough game against a high-ranking opponent, Australian starter Lachie Waite started strongly in retiring the first three hitters he saw, although Chinese Taipei was on the march in the second – when four hits and some slick baserunning gleaned two early runs.

 

Struggling to make solid contact with Taipei starter Yu-Min Lin, Australia conceded a third run in the top of three – on a pair of doubles – to spell the end for Waite, with Cooper Morgan called into the fray in a challenging situation.

 

After a third run crossed the plate on a misplayed bunt, the Aussies conjured some fantastic defence to nail two runners at the plate and minimise the damage – as they continued to do again in the top of five, when third sacker Jo Stevens and rightfielder Solomon Maguire both made stunning plays for their team.

 

Australia’s first base hit of the game came in the equaliser, when big man Conor Myles beat out a safety bunt – only to be doubled off at first base on a hard-hit ball that ended the innings with a runner still not having reached second.

 

Despite an Alex Skepton single, Australia continued to find it hard going against Lin and Morgan was relieved by Kai-Noa Wynyard with a runner at first in the seventh, when Taipei continued to press with a damaging eight-spot – including a bases-clearing double – that raised the spectre of a mercy rule call as tempers became frayed.

 

While the Australians played some stellar defence and would be pleased with the relief effort of Morgan (3.1 innings for one earned run), Chinese Taipei played a terrific all-round game to underscore its already impressive performances at this tournament.   BOX SCORE

 

Still in with a chance of playing for bronze, Australia faces another serious assignment when it meets Japan in the last of its Super Round games - scheduled to start at 1.30 PM AEST on Saturday 7 September.

 

Deflating loss as Aussies stretch USA

Kingsley Collins

5 September 2019

 

Matching its opponent in all respects during a high-pressure Super Round game at the Under 18 World Cup this afternoon, Australia hit back from a deficit to draw level in a low-scoring contest before United States edge away for a 2-1 win in the bottom of nine.  

 

With Liam McCallum spinning a stellar six innings, Australia held the reigning champion well in check and could feel aggrieved by a controversial call in the eighth – when what appeared to some to have been a home run off the bat of Chris Burke was officially deemed a double.

 

While the decision may not have affected the final outcome, it would have given Australia a lead in the contest – and a subsequent change in how the rest of a terrific game of baseball might have played out.

 

SUPER ROUND GAME ONE:   UNITED STATES 2 defeated AUSTRALIA 1

 

Winner of the past four Under 18 World Cups – and champion nine times since the tournament was created – United States was always going to be a tough assignment, although its stunning first round loss to Japan demonstrated that the team was certainly not unbeatable.

 

Two-hitter Jaylin Rae provided early impetus for the Aussies with a stand-up triple in the first, although United States fireballer Maj Rajcic was up to the task with a pair of strikeouts before Australian starter Liam McCallum began strongly with a scoreless bottom of the first two frames – assisted in part by a stunning flyball by Rae in leftfield.

 

A Jake Burns single, a sacrifice bunt and a Rae HPB created another opportunity in the top of three, but both pitchers continued to stand up in a pressure situation – with minimal runners landing on base and McCallum recovering brilliantly from a tricky situation in the bottom of five, when United States had a runner at second with none out.

 

After collecting his second hit, Rae was stranded at second in the sixth and United States snapped the deadlock with a two-out RBI single in the equaliser to exploit a lead-off walk, a grounder and a deep flyball.

 

Called on to relieve McCallum – who had been superb over six (six hits and three strikeouts for one run) – Blake Cavell retired United States in order in the seventh, although the Aussies were rapidly running out of chances even as their opponent went to the pen in the top of eight with Rae again on base.

 

With ideas other than an honourable loss, DH Chris Burke took a ball before driving a controversially-called double deep off the centrefield wall to tie the score and force a second pitching change with the go-ahead at second base before Conor Myles grounded out.

 

Solomon Maguire singled to lead off the ninth and Byron Armstrong reached on a muffed bunt play to place Aussies runners at first and second with none out – a threatening situation that was deflated rather rapidly with a force out at third and two flyballs.

 

Tattooing two hitters to lead off the ninth, Cavill was immediately under the pump – conceding a bases-loading hit and an RBI single that secured a hard-fought 2-1 win for United States and a fifth one-run game in six outings for Australia, which is enjoying a magnificent tournament.

 

As has been the case throughout this tournament, the Australian pitching staff did everything that could possibly be asked of them, backed again by perfect defence - despite our offence stranding more runners on base than it would have liked in a super game.                 BOX SCORES

 

Still in with a chance of making the medals round Australia will play its second Super Round game against Chinese Taipei, starting at 1.00 PM (AEST) on Friday 6 September. 

 

Aussies challenged, but qualify for Super Round

Kingsley Collins

4 September 2019

 

Headed after establishing an early lead against Canada, the Australian offence responded magnificently to post a thrilling 7-6 win at the Under 18 World Cup this afternoon – a result that propels our lads into a Super Round which begins in Busan on Thursday.

 

Superb over four, Aussie starter Will Sherriff was collared by Canada for four runs in the fifth - a deficit that his side quickly dispensed with before surging further ahead with a bases-clearing double in the sixth and a pair of insurance runs in the eighth of a titanic, fluctuating struggle.

 

Wins over Korea and Canada earn Australia top placing in our group – an outstanding effort that sees the team well placed for a serious crack at a tournament medal.  

 

GAME FIVE:   AUSTRALIA 7 defeated CANADA 6

 

Needing to win this game to qualify for the Super Round, Australia began brightly with successive walks to Travis Bazzana and Jaylin Rae in the first before Chris Burke forced an infield error to drive Bazzana across the plate – though the threat of a big inning was averted as Canada turned a double play and Solomon Maguire struck out looking.

 

Heading to the hill for Australia, Game One star Will Sherriff was supported by stellar defence in a scoreless equaliser while exercising early dominance over dangerous Canadian hitters.

 

Doubling in the top of the third, Alex Skepton advanced on a Bazzana grounder and scored on a two-out Burke double off the centrefield wall, although the two-run break could potentially have been greater had the Aussies managed to convert a further opportunity in the top of five.

 

A booming double and a walk in the bottom of that frame created a chance for Canada, which shook off a stunning fly ball by Maguire and burst to the lead on a two-out, two-RBI double and a two-run homer off the bat of Canadian leadoff Micah McDowell that spelled the end for Sherriff – who had been untouchable over four in another arresting performance.

 

A walk and a defensive error off reliever Kieren Hall created further danger for Australia, which made the final out under pressure and looked to hit back when Jaylin Rae and Conor Myles singled in the sixth – to force a pitching change.

 

Liam Macdonald drew a walk to load the bases and shortstop Byron Armstrong stepped up big time by driving a first-pitch double into leftfield to clear the bases and regain the lead for Australia.

 

With this vital contest on the line, Hall issued a two-out walk that drew Cooper Morgan from the pen to make the final out and Australia again threatened in the eighth - when Maguire hit safely and Armstrong drew a walk. Liam McCallum drove a single up the middle to score Maguire and Armstrong followed him home as the Canadian offence faltered under pressure.

 

Not about to concede, Canada hit back with a vengeance – smacking three two-out hits on the trot to make this a one-run contest, with the Canadian top order to come to the plate in the last.

 

Ninth inning hits by Rae (his third), Burke and Myles came to naught as Rae was gunned down at the plate, although Morgan was able to retire the dangerous McDowell before Blake Cavell was called into the fray to induce a ground out and Jack Lee was entrusted with closing out the game – but not before a valiant Canada outfit landed a pair of runners on base in what had been a brilliant, tense match-up between worthy opponents.

 

Australian team management would again be delighted with the effort of its pitchers - who have been terrific throughout the tournament – and with today’s strong offensive game led by Armstrong (hit, walk and three RBIs), Rae (three hits and a walk), Burke (two and one), McCallum (one and one) and Myles (two hits).

 

In what was a remarkably close competition, Australia has finished on top of its group by virtue of beating both Korea and Canada in the Opening Round – earning our lads a serious shot at finishing among the medals. Well done, all!                BOX SCORES

 

Super Round competition will commence on Thursday 5 September, with Australia meeting United States starting at 1.00 PM AEST. 

 

Three-run shot sets up narrow Dutch victory

Kingsley Collins

3 September 2019

 

Qualifying for the Super Round at the Under 18 World Cup became an even tougher assignment for Australia after Netherlands dealt our side a heartbreaking 4-3 loss in Busan, Korea, this afternoon.

 

Stunned by a three-run opposition homer in the fourth, the Aussies played faultless defence in support of a gutsy outing by starter Liam Evans but were unable to bridge the gap against a Dutch side that conceded just five hits to a subdued Australian offence that mounted a late rally which came up just short.

 

Now at two wins and two losses, Australia will regroup for a massive game on Wednesday – when it meets world tenth-ranked Canada in a clash postponed from Monday (starting time 12.00 PM AEST).  

 

GAME FOUR:   NETHERLANDS 4 defeated AUSTRALIA 3

 

Persistent rain delays and reschedules failed to dampen the spirits of either side, with Victorian Liam Evans breezing through a belated first three innings of a contest vital to both sides’ prospects of a Super Round berth.

 

While Evans continued to throw a high percentage of strikes, his side threatened early, with Jaylin Rae drawing a walk in the first and Solomon Maguire clubbing a double off the centrefield wall in the second before Alex Skepton became the second Aussie runner stranded at third – after he had forced an infield error and advanced on hard-hit ground balls.

 

Continuing to challenge the Dutch hitters, Evans conceded a double and a single in the top of four and was made to pay for a two-out waist-high pitch when Nathaniel Bentura took him deep over leftfield for a three-run shot.

 

Byron Armstrong and Jo Stevens both hit safely in the fifth, when Travis Bazzana grounded to the right side to score for Australia with opportunities running out despite a superb recovery by Evans – who retired ten hitters on the trot after the Bentura blow.

 

Relieving Evans in the top of eight, fellow southpaw Jack Lee extricated himself from an immediate jam as Australia found it tough going against Netherlands reliever Jiorgeny Casimiri, who was supported with a ninth innings run that appeared to seal the deal for the Netherlands.

 

Australia had other ideas, though, as Conor Myles slapped a lead-off hit and in-form slugger Maguire capped a terrific time at bat by launching a two-run missile over the left-centre wall to force a further pitching change with one out.

 

The task facing the lower Aussie order was a bridge too far, however, with a fly ball and a strike out nailing the narrowest of victories for the Netherlands, which draws level with Australia at two and two.

 

Whiffing ten over seven of work, for no walks, Evans did an outstanding job without receiving the offensive support from his side that he would have liked – with Maguire (home run, double and a walk), Myles, Armstrong and Stevens the only Aussie players to hit safely in a disappointing outcome against quality pitching.             BOX SCORES

 

Australia’s fifth game of the Under 18 World Cup – the postponed match against Canada - is scheduled for Wednesday 4 September, starting at 12.00 PM (AEST).            LIVE STREAM

 

Australia crushes China: Bidois spins a pearler

Kingsley Collins

1 September 2019

 

Baseball is often touted as a game of inches - and today’s Under 18 World Cup clash between Australia and China demonstrated that adage in spades, when a successful video replay appeal on an infield play was the catalyst for a two-out Aussie offensive outburst that generated a game-breaking six runs in the second frame.

 

Comprehensively outslugged by an Australian outfit that amassed sixteen hits, China found it tough going against rangy right-armer Brandan Bidois, who carded the win with six innings of quality work for one hit and seven strikeouts before handing the pill to Kai-Noa Wynyard to close out a clear-cut 13-2 result.

 

Now with two wins and a loss, Australia is well-placed to secure a berth in the Super Round – although our lads will first need to face tough competition in the form of Canada and Netherlands.  

 

GAME THREE:   AUSTRALIA 13 defeated CHINA 2

 

Facing an emerging baseball nation that put real pressure on Nicaragua during this tournament, Australia would have been well aware of the importance of the contest and accordingly set the tone with a couple of early base hits to Jaylin Rae and Chris Burke.

 

Taking the start for Australia, Brandan Bidois breezed through the first and his team offence threatened again in the second, when Byron Armstrong drew and walk and Solomon Maguire singled to place runners at the corners – setting the table for lead-off hitter Travis Bazzana, who beat out an infield hit on video appeal for a first Aussie run with two out.

 

Aggressive baserunning, a throwing error and a bases-loaded HPB gleaned three more for Australia to force a pitching change for China, which was stung even further when Armstrong stroked a two-RBI single for a six zip lead that appeared unlikely prior to the appeal.

 

While China scrambled a run on a sacrifice flyball in the equaliser, Bidois remained in command and was afforded further run support when sluggers Conor Myles and Liam Macdonald crossed the plate after a costly outfield error.

 

Hits to Maguire and Alex Skepton created a scoring opportunity in the top of five, though the Aussies came up empty until the top of six, when Rae, Burke, Macdonald (HPB), Armstrong (sacrifice fly) and Maguire – with a booming two-run triple - combined for an offensive explosion that raised the spectre of a mercy rule call.

 

After China hit back with a run in the equaliser, Australia again stretched the lead when Myles and Macdonald stroked RBI-singles in the top of the seven before Kai-Noa Wynyard was summoned from the pen to close out the game.

 

Backed by a solid defence, Bidois was outstanding for Australia, which enjoyed offensive input throughout the lineup – with Rae (three hits and a walk), Burke (three hits), Maguire (three hits and two RBIs), Macdonald (two hits and two ribbies) and Armstrong (one and three, with a walk) being the standouts.                    BOX SCORES

 

Australia’s fourth game of the Opening Round will be against Canada, starting at 1.00 PM (AEST) on Monday 2 September.   LIVE STREAM

 

EDITOR'S NOTE:  On a personal and more sombre matter, Australian Baseball Alumni supporters extend their condolences and their best wishes to Australian Team Manager Glenn Williams and family on the recent passing of Glenn's mother. Our thoughts are with you at this difficult time.

 

Aussies post first win

Kingsley Collins

31 August 2019

 

After dropping its first game in a heartbreaker at the Under 18 World Cup, Australia rebounded from the disappointment to edge out South Korea 1-0 in Busan this evening.

 

Quality pitching was again the order of the day, with Lachie Waite, Jack Lee and closer Kieren Hall combining to scatter six hits against a tough opponent that marginally out-hit the Aussies but was shaded by a more polished defence that gave nothing away.

 

GAME TWO:   AUSTRALIA 1 defeated KOREA 0

 

Taking the start for another crucial match-up - this time against the home nation -  Lachie Waite was solid through scoreless early innings, while his team’s own offence initially found it tough going against left-armed Korean hurler Yundong Heo.

 

Byron Armstrong hit safely in the bottom of three and Jaylin Rae swatted a two-out single to place runners at the corners for Australia, which came up empty whilst showing real offensive intent that carried into the next, when a mis-read pop flyball enabled Conor Myles to reach second.

 

Solomon Maguire fisted a single into centre to score the first run, although the Koreans responded to the challenge by loading bases in the top of five on a HPB, a fielder’s choice and a hit before Waite came up with the pitches for a timely strikeout and an infield fly ball as the tension built.

 

With Waite continuing to deal through the middle innings, Australia had another opportunity in the bottom of six, when a Korean defensive misread allowed the Aussies to land runners at first and second with one out - spelling the end for Heo, who had been equally impressive as Waite in a pitcher-dominated affair.

 

Not able to capitalise on that situation, Australia summoned Jack Lee from the pen in place of Waite, who conceded just four hits over six stellar innings of work and was afforded immediate support by the New South Welshman – who closed down the seventh.

 

With runners at first and third, and one out in the equaliser, Australia butchered a scoring opportunity – inexplicably losing lead runner Travis Bazzana – before Lee walked the lead-off in the last and was relieved by right-armer Kieren Hall, whose poise and pitching location nailed a confidence-boosting result under enormous pressure.

 

Rae (two hits), Maguire, Armstrong and Bazzana were standouts for an Australian offence in a contest controlled by the pitchers.    BOX SCORES

 

Australia’s third game of the Under 18 World Cup tournament will be against Under 18 World Cup debutante China on Sunday 1 September, starting at 4.30 PM (AEST).   LIVE STREAM

 

Wasteful Aussies lose pitching duel

Kingsley Collins

30 August 2019

 

Despite an outstanding outing by southpaw Will Sherriff, Australia was unable to exploit its scoring opportunities against Nicaragua, which edged home 3-2 at the Under 18 World Cup that started today in Busan, South Korea.

 

With scores deadlocked at one apiece for much of a contest dominated by the pitchers, Nicaragua used its bullpen to great effect late in a high-quality game before plating two decisive runs in the top of the nine and holding off the Aussie offence in a thriller.

 

GAME ONE:   NICARAGUA 3 defeated AUSTRALIA 2

 

Taking the start in his side's opening clash, Western Australian Will Sherriff breezed through the first two frames, while Aussie catcher Chris Burke created an early scoring opportunity by tugging a one-out double into the rightfield corner – only to be stranded on third after advancing on a flyball.

 

Byron Armstrong walked to lead off the third and scooted to third when Liam McCallum drove a single up the middle – a situation made for Travis Bazzana, who slapped a single into centre for a confidence-lifting first run, though conversion could have been somewhat better had the Aussies not lost two runners on base.

 

Thus far working economically against an aggressive Nicaraguan offence, Sherriff faltered in the top of four – with consecutive walks and a single – and a sacrifice flyball tied the ballgame for Nicaragua before the southpaw fired a timely strikeout to escape the inning.

 

Drawing a lead-off walk in the equaliser, Conor Myles was nailed in a rundown for another squandered opportunity and Armstrong was stranded in the next after forcing a defensive error.

 

After Sherriff regrouped for a quality top of six of a gripping contest, Australia lost a further runner on base – with Jaylin Rae caught stealing – although the Aussies continued to press in the seventh, when Burke drew a walk and Solomon Maguire hit safely into centre with one out.

 

Up to the task by turning a slick double play, Nicaragua continued to flounder against Sherriff, who fanned the side in the top of eight – surely enough to spark the Australia offence, which earned a break on a fortuitous infield hit with none out in the equaliser.

 

A sacrifice bunt and an intentional pass created the force and Rae drove a single up the middle to load the bases with one out – although the Nicaraguans used their bullpen to full effect in retiring danger men Myles and Liam Macdonald with no damage done.

 

Called from the Aussie pen in the top of nine, Blake Cavill walked the lead-off, who advanced on a bunt and a wild pitch but was hung out on a muffed squeeze play before Nicaragua mounted an unlikely two-out rally – in a bizarre offensive inning - to plate two game-breaking runs.

 

With his side not about to lie down, Burke doubled to lead off the bottom of nine, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a Maguire grounder – although it was too little too late for the Aussies, who matched their opponent on hitting production but were unable to convert as they would have liked.

 

Conceding five hits for nine strikeouts and two walks, Sherriff was quite brilliant on the hill, while Burke (two doubles), Bazzana and Maguire were best with the bat for Australia, who will feel this game was one that got away.        BOX SCORES

 

Australia’s next game will be against host nation South Korea, which was runner-up to United States in 2017. The game will start at 7.00 PM (AEST) on Saturday 31 August.              LIVE STREAM