A six-run fourth inning was the difference between European foes Italy and the Netherlands on Sunday in Taiwan, with the 7-1 Italian victory (box) creating a logjam of five teams with 2-2 records that resulted in Cuba and Italy advancing to the second round of the World Baseball Classic (WBC).
Israel also had reason to celebrate after a 3-1 victory (box) over Nicaragua in its first game in Group D play in Miami, while Czechia suffered its second Group B defeat, 7-3 (box) to South Korea, and Great Britain was overpowered in seven innings by Canada, 18-8 (box), in Group C.
Italy Advances After LaSorsa Puts Out Sixth-Inning Fire
Trailing 1-0 entering the bottom of the fourth, Italy brought home six runners on six hits in the inning, all of them credited to long-time German Bundesliga ace Mike Bolsenbroek, with a two-run triple by the Kansas City Royals’ Nicky Lopez punctuating the rally that gave Italy a commanding lead.
The top of the Dutch lineup loaded the bases with no outs to open the sixth inning, but Tampa Rays farmhand Joe LaSorsa, summoned from the bullpen by Italy manager Mike Piazza, stranded the inherited runners after getting cleanup hitter Didi Gregorious to pop up and then striking out Jonathan Schoop and Roger Bernadina.
The southpaw LaSorsa let out a roar after escaping the jam and leapt into the dugout to celebrate with his teammates, with the Italian squad fully aware of what a victory over the Dutch could mean.
The first two Dutch batters reached base to open the ninth, threatening to stymie Italy’s hopes of reaching the second round in Tokyo, but the next three batters were retired in order, setting off wild celebrations by Team Italy.
A short while later, tournament officials confirmed that Cuba, who Italy had defeated, 6-3, in its first game in group play, had won Group A courtesy of the tiebreaker rules, with Piazza’s Italy advancing as runner-up.
Italy will now face the hosts Japan, who topped Group B convincingly, on Thursday, Mar 16, at noon (CET) in Tokyo.
For complete schedules, stats, and standings, visit MLB’s World Baseball Classic homepage.