South Africa books ticket to Sunday showdown
In the first of four WBC Qualifiers to be held during 2016, Australia will play host to Philippines, New Zealand and South Africa in a modified double-elimination series to be held at Blacktown International Sportspark from Thursday 11 February through to Sunday 14 February.
13 February 2016
Seemingly becoming stronger through the tournament, South Africa has eliminated New Zealand from World Baseball Classic qualifying contention with a decisive 9-2 win at Blacktown Sportspark this evening.
Starting brightly in support of Jared Elario, South Africa plated a run in the first before blasting four in the third for an insurmountable lead that was built upon with a bases-clearing double in the sixth.
Playing errorless defence behind three pitchers sent to the hill, the South Africans continue to play an aggressive brand of baseball and they will clearly be undaunted by the task against an Australian outfit spearheaded by big leaguer Travis Blackley in the decider.
SEMI-FINAL: SOUTH AFRICA 9 defeated SOUTH AFRICA 2
Starting for New Zealand, right-armer John Lee of Korean heritage conceded early base hits to Anthony Phillips and Jonathon Phillips to put early pressure on the Kiwi side. Both advanced on a wild pitch and Kyle Botha walked to set the table for Brett Willemburg, who managed to score an opening run on a ground ball before New Zealand escaped the innings with minimal damage.
The hard-throwing Jared Elario breezed through the first for South Africa and his side threatened again in the second when Rowan Ebersohn wore a pitch, Keegan Swanepoel drove a single into rightfield and Benjamin Smith walked to load the bases before the Kiwis dodged a bullet by turning a classy double play through home as Gift Ngoepe continued to struggle to convert in a run-scoring situation.
Replacing Lee, Blair Johnstone loaded the bases in the top of three – after an intentional walk to Willemburg – and another grounder scored a second run for South Africa on a defensive miscue. When Rowan Ebersohn tugged a double into rightfield it was three zip for South Africa and already a tough ask for the Kiwis, who absorbed further punishment when Swanepoel swatted a two-run single into centre.
New Zealand went to pitching ace Scott Cone in the top of four and his side responded in the equaliser, when Boss Moanaroa and Daniel Lamb-Hunt drew walks and Moko Moanaroa doubled to score both as the Kiwis surged back into the game and the South African side called on Lloyd Stevens to stem the flow.
Ngoepe slapped his first hit of the series in the top of six and advanced on a wild pitch before Anthony Phillips walked to bring Cone’s tournament to an end as teenager Jimmy Boyce was summoned from the New Zealand bullpen. Jonathon Phillips capped a superb time at bat with a walk and catcher Kyle Botha struck a decisive and game-defining blow for South Africa with a three-run double into the leftfield corner.
With his side holding a six-run lead into the bottom of six, Stevens continued to dominate the New Zealand hitters while his own side squandered a scoring opportunity in the seventh.
After a brilliant run-saving catch at centrefield and a four-ball walk to Alan Schoenberger, Stevens was relieved by Robert Lewis-Walker – who was able to get out of a jam by stranding runners at first and second before being accorded further defensive support when his side turned a silky infield double when the New Zealanders threatened again in the bottom of eight.
With both sides playing errorless, and on occasions brilliant defence, the South African pitching staff did a remarkable job in strangling its opponent to the tune of five scattered hits, while its own team offence received wonderful contributions from Swanepoel (four hits and two RBIs), Botha (one and three) and the Phillips brothers – who together collected six walks in the two and three holes.
In all, a comprehensive win by an adaptable and beautifully managed South African squad that will leave nothing in the shed when it takes on Australia in the qualifying final starting at 2.00 PM (AEST) on Sunday. It should be a fascinating contest in which the great pitching depth of the Australian side will be tested by a tough competitor that will certainly not be taken lightly.
Aussies tough it out for qualifying berth
12 February 2016
Busting from the blocks in a frenetic first innings, Australia was never headed en route to earning a World Baseball Classic qualifying final berth with what was subsequently a hard-fought 4-1 win over South Africa in front of a capacity crowd at Blacktown this evening.
While it looked how far for the local team after a three-run first frame, the South African pitching staff did a superb job in applying the clamps to an Australian offence that was well held after the opening assault.
After a rest day on Saturday, Australia will meet the winner of an elimination clash between South Africa and New Zealand that will be played on Saturday night.
Australian pitching Coach Phil Dale spoke to Australian Baseball Alumni after the South Africa game.......
With a wealth of pitching weaponry at its disposal, Australia went with Tigers professional Warwick Saupold for the start, while seasoned campaigner and Olympics representative Carl Michaels was welcomed to the hill for South Africa with a booming lead-off double to James Beresford – who was in white-hot form for the Philippines game on Thursday.
Slotted in as the two-hitter, Logan Wade lashed the second pitch he saw for an RBI-double into the leftfield corner and Stefan Welch tugged a laser into the right side to score a second run against a South African outfit that seemed shell-shocked when Mitch Dening singled into leftfield to put runners at the corners with none out in an electrifying start for the home club.
A play at the home plate on a Trent Oeltjen flyball was bobbled by the South African catcher as a third run crossed the plate after Michaels had tossed just a dozen pitches in anger for the visiting nation.
South Africa loaded the bases with one out in the second but came up empty as Saupold retired Rowan Ebersohn and Benjamin Smith before Anthony Phillips took advantage of an outfield miscue to double in the top of three and score when Kyle Botha singled up the middle.
In preparation for his professional season but always proud to be suiting up for Australia, big-league left-armer Ryan Rowland-Smith conceded a two-out single in a scoreless fourth and withstood a challenge in the next after Anthony Phillips singled to leftfield but was retired as the first leg of a double play through second-sacker Brad Harman.
Relieving Michaels, Callan Pearce walked David Kandilas and Beresford but escaped any scoring damage before he was replaced in the fifth by Dean Jacobs, who gave up a two-out double to Oeltjen and a walk to Harman - only to strand more Australian runners on base as the offences of both sides struggled for run production.
Kandilas drew another pass in the bottom of six and Allan de San Miguel jagged an infield single, with both advancing on a wild pitch and Kandilas crossing the plate – for a vital fourth run - on a Beresford grounder to the right side.
Relieving Rowland-Smith after three stellar innings of work, fireballer Todd van Steensel was backed by some mercurial Australian defence in retiring the South Africans in the seventh and eighth before handing the pill to Ryan Searle to do what the big right-armer has been doing for some time now – in unceremoniously slamming the gate despite a two-out double by Keegan Swanepoel.
While the game threatened to develop into a blowout after the Australian start, South Africa was wonderfully served by a seemingly underrated bullpen that was admirable in its work despite team offence being unable to convert scoring opportunities
Australia goes directly to the qualifying final on Sunday, while South Africa and New Zealand will meet on Saturday night to determine the opponent for that vital game in the WBC scheme of things.
Kiwis alive: Philippines bundled out
12 February 2016
New Zealand has made it through to the Saturday elimination game with a 17-7 win over a tenacious Philippines outfit in magnificent hitting conditions at Blacktown this afternoon.
In a see-sawing slugfest that involved a total of eleven pitching arms and twenty-four runs, it was the Kiwis who were able to break the game wide open with a six-run outburst in the sixth – compliments of a string of walks and a monster blast by Boss Moanaroa, who was the standout among several players having a day to remember with the bat.
New Zealand will meet the loser of tonight’s blockbuster between Australia and South Africa, with the winner of that contest going straight to the Sunday decider.
GAME THREE: NEW ZEALAND 17 defeated PHILIPPINES 7
As was the case against Australia, Philippines were off to a positive start against New Zealand, plating a first-innings run off starter and former ABL player Andrew Marck, although the response was emphatic when the Kiwis jumped on their opponent for three hits – including a Boss Moanaroa double - and two runs in the equaliser.
Having a tough early outing, Philippines southpaw Devon Ramirez walked Moko Moanaroa in the second and former Sydney Blue Sox outfielder Tim Auty scored him on a double into leftfield, although Eric Farris and Matthew Vance continued to deliver offence with two-out hits in the top of three.
Scott Campbell walked to spell the end for Ramirez under the 50-pitch provision, drawing Kevin Vance from the pen for the Philippines, while Marck continued to work efficiently for the Kiwis until the top of four, when Anthony Songco singled and Brady Conlan blasted a fastball over the leftfield wall to level the scores.
Relieving for New Zealand, Joseph Boyce closed out the innings without further damage before running into trouble in the fifth by walking Adriane Ros Bernardo and giving up a ground-rule double to Farris – his third knock – on a misread at centrefield.
Striking out danger man Matthew Vance, Boyce left the hill in favour of former big leaguer Nick Maronde, who conceded the go-ahead on a second sacrifice fly ball by Chris Aguila.
Daniel Bradley drew a walk in the bottom of the frame, advanced on an Alan Schoenberger bunt and scored on a Boss Moanaroa hit– his second RBI-double of the game – to again square the scoring ledger.
Conlan singled to lead off the sixth and scooted to second after a deep outfield flyball before Joshua Wong singled to put runners at the corner for the Philippines, who forced a defensive error to reinstate a lead that was stretched to two on a grounder to the right side.
In fine form with the bat, Farris took a two-strike fastball up the middle to score a third for the innings and chase Maronde from the hill as the game momentarily threatened to unravel for the Kiwis – who clearly had other ideas as Daniel Lamb-Hunt walked, Connar O’Gorman singled and Moko Moanaroa drew a pass to force Kevin Vance from the hill with none out in the equaliser.
Hard-throwing reliever Taylor Garrison conceded a run – on a sacrifice flyball – before walking Bradley and Schoenberger to force another across the plate and a seventh on an infield grounder as the floodgates came under intense pressure.
Already having feasted on the Philippines pitching, Boss Moanaroa latched onto a fastball and drove it a veritable postcode over the rightfield wall – for his fifth RBI and a three-run break for New Zealand, who built even further when Bradley smacked a run-scoring double in a five-run seventh and the Boss man tugged a fourth hit into rightfield – this time a two-run shot for a staggering total of seven ribbies.
With all the sting gone from what had been a thrilling early contest, New Zealand scored the required two runs to wrap the game up in the eighth after what had surely been a confidence-boosting performance for its offence after a quiet first-up clash with South Africa.
While the Philippines again showed offensive intent and were well in this game through the first five, they again fell away to expose a lack of pitching depth against a New Zealand outfit that cashed in on the opportunities created by a surfeit of walks – ten in total - and the extraordinary hitting exhibition staged by the younger Moanaroa brother.
Aussies crush Philippines after tight early innings
11 February 2016
Australia opened its WBC Qualifying campaign with an 11-1 mercy-rule over a valiant Philippines outfit that was in the contest through the early innings before the home side flexed its collective muscle and surged away through the later phase.
With starter Steve Kent doing a superb job over six and Peter Moylan chiming in for a perfect seventh innings, Australia shrugged off an early deficit to edge ahead in the second and plate a couple in the fifth before blasting seven in the seventh.
Given the infrequency of Australia playing international baseball games on home soil – the 2014 MLB opener being the most recent – it was understandable that this series would draw significant support and interest from the baseball and broader community.
In taking its decisive first step to qualify for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Australia certainly let no-one down, although there is plenty more hard work to come with a challenging Friday night stoush against South Africa looming.
Taking the challenge to Australian starter Steve Kent in the first, Philippines landed runners on base and scored when Brady Conlan slapped a run-scoring single up the middle, although the Aussies replied immediately with a Stefan Welch RBI-single before Philippines starter JR Bunda got out of a jam by retiring Luke Hughes and Trent Oeltjen in a dangerous situation.
Logan Wade doubled in the second, advanced on a grounder and scored on a James Beresford single to provide run support as Kent settled into his work with the clear intention that he take Australia deep into the contest and forego any further action in the series.
Replacing Bunda, seven-year MLB professional Clay Rapada kept his side well in the game by stifling the Australian big bats – especially the left handers - with his pitching variety and angle of delivery, although Stefan Welch walked and Luke Hughes singled to place runners at the corners in the bottom of five. Coming out of a brief retirement hiatus for this event, Oeltjen drove a two-run double into leftfield that spelled the end for Rapada and released the safety valve on a tense contest.
Relieving Rapada, Austin Haynal walked Allan de San Miguel and Mitch Nilsson to load the bases before escaping the innings to restrict the Australian lead to three as Kent continued to dominate the Philippines hitters through the sixth, when his forced departure – on pitch count – brought Peter Moylan from the pen to strike out the side in the seventh.
Leslie Cabling relieved for Philippines and was immediately under the pump by tattooing Oeltjen, conceding a double to Wade and walking pinch hitter Trent D’Antonio to load the bases with one out to set the table for Beresford, who tugged a double – his fourth hit of the game – to score two.
A Harman sacrifice fly ball stretched the lead further before the Australian offence exploded with a string of hits to register seven runs in the bottom of seven and force an early finish to the game.
Australia will meet South Africa on Friday night, with the winner heading straight to the Sunday final, while New Zealand and Philippines will lock horns in the day game – with the loser heading home.
South Africa shocks Kiwis in WBC Qualifying opener
Riding a brilliant pitching outing by Dylan Unsworth, South Africa played errorless defence and an aggressive offensive game to post a shock win over a more favoured New Zealand in the series opener held at Blacktown this afternoon. Australia will meet Philippines in the second game, scheduled to start at 7.30 PM AEST this evening.
GAME ONE: SOUTH AFRICA 7 defeated NEW ZEALAND 1
Boasting a number of names familiar to the Australian baseball public through their ABL involvement, New Zealand produced some solid defence when South Africa challenged in the first of what was expected by many to produce a comfortable win for the Kiwis.
South African starter Dylan Unsworth breezed through the first two, while Scott Cone was helped out bigtime in the third as his own defence turned a spectacular infield double play before he was relieved by younger brother Ben Cone under pitch count restrictions for the tournament.
Playing an aggressive brand of offence, South Africa scored first when veteran switch-hitter Brett Willemberg drove a two-out single into centrefield and two more crossed the plate on a wild pitch in the third.
The relentless Unsworth kept mowing down the Kiwi hitters, who finally managed their first runner on base in the bottom of four, while Kiwi reliever Blair Johnstone pitched two scoreless frames before handing the ball to Jamie Wilson.
Despite failing to convert a number of scoring opportunities, South Africa held sway through the middle and late innings before loading the bases in the top of nine, when a Willemburg grounder scored a fourth run – off fifth Kiwi pitcher Randy Yard – and Brandon Bouillon drove in another for insurance off sidewinder Riki Paewai.
A two-out single to Keegan Swanepoel gleaned another two - and an unassaialble seven-zip lead for South Africa, who called on Garth Cahill to close out the game after a stellar outing by Unsworth.
Not about to lie down, the Kiwi offence mounted a belated challenge in the bottom of nine – although one run was far too little, too late, before Jared Elario closed out a stunning win for South Africa, which will advance to the winners’ game on Friday.
Image: World Baseball Classic