A Hollywood screenwriter could have done no better. With Czechia trailing 5-4 in the top of the ninth, Martin Muzik sent the first pitch he saw over the left field fence for a three-run homer that gave the Central European squad of part-timers a 7-5 lead that would be added to later in the inning for the 8-5 final result (box) and the country’s first ever victory at the World Baseball Classic (WBC).
In Group A, Italy enjoyed a 7-5 lead after five innings but surrendered six unanswered runs to fall 11-7 (box) to the hosts Chinese Taipei. An eighth inning, three-run homer by Kungkuan Glijegilijaw was the final nail in the Italian coffin.
Czechs’ Cinderalla Run Continues
Czechia scored twice in the first inning and added another run in the third, courtesy of a Matej Mensik solo homer, for a comfortable 3-0 start to the team’s debut on the world stage. Starter Daniel Padysak, who plays collegiately at NCAA Division 1 Charleston Southern, coasted through four shutout innings, striking out four Chinese batters in a dominant performance.
China reduced the lead by one in the fifth and the Czechs bounced back with a Filip Smola RBI single in the sixth to retain their comfortable lead, 4-1, only for the Czech momentum to come to a screeching halt in the bottom of the seventh.
Georgia Tech’s 19-year-old Michal Kovala, who played a key role in getting Czechia qualified for the WBC, surrendered three hits, walked two batters, tossed a wild pitch, and committed an error on a pick-off attempt at first base in less than an inning of official work. By inning’s end, four Chinese batters had crossed the plate, giving China a 5-4 lead.
A 1-2-3 inning for both sides led to the dramatic final frame, which began with North Greenville University’s Marek Chlup striking out, reducing Czechia’s win probability to just 8.7%.
Former Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets farmhand Martin Cervenka followed with a walk, however, and Czech eyes were smiling again following a double by Matej Mensik. The next pitch was hit over the fence by Muzik, and Filip Smola capped off the inning with his second RBI single of the contest for the 8-5 lead, and the final result after an uneventful bottom of the ninth.
Czechia will now take on Japan and its stable of MLB and NPB stars in Tokyo on Saturday at 11:00 (CET).
Italy Comes Close But Falls to Chinese Taipei Before Raucous Home Crowd
Italy took a 7-5 lead into the sixth inning, only for Chinese Taipei to tie up the game in the sixth and take the lead with another run in the seventh. And in the eighth the final blow was delivered by Glijegilijaw, whose first hit of the WBC was a deep fly ball to left-center field that just managed to clear the fence, setting off wild celebrations by the home crowd of nearly 19,000 spectators.
Italy’s pitching staff surrendered 16 hits on the day, including three homers.
The defeat leaves Italy 1-1 in Group A play, with Panama (1-2) on the schedule for Saturday.