Czechia avenged its 21-7 loss to Spain on Day 2 of tournament play in Regensburg, defeating the Spanish when it counted most, the 3-1 victory (box score) on Wednesday granting the Czechs their first ever berth to the World Baseball Classic. With Great Britain’s qualification on Tuesday night, the Regensburg qualifier produced two first-time participants for the March 2023 main event.
Spain needed just seven innings to defeat the Czechs in their first meeting, with the 21 runs coming on 18 hits, but Wednesday’s final was another story, with Czech starter Martin Schneider allowing just one run in 6.1 innings, striking out five and walking none, before handing the ball over to Marek Minarik, who got the final eight outs of the historic victory. Minarik started the Day 2 defeat, allowing six hits and six earned runs as he failed to get out of the second inning, but he scattered four hits on a cool, damp night to keep Spain off the scoreboard and secure the W.
Spain took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a Justin Connell sacrifice fly, but first baseman Martin Muzik’s two-run homer in the second gave the Czechs a lead they would not relinquish, with a fourth-inning solo shot by Marek Chlup extending the cushion.
Chlup, who won the NCAA Division 2 national championship with North Greenville University this past season, would figure prominently again in the bottom of the seventh. An Engel Beltre single to right field put Edison Valerio, who had been standing on second base, into motion. Valerio rounded third base and steamed towards home plate, with the throw from Chlup, aided by an expertly managed short-hop by catcher Martin Cervenka, beating Valerio to the plate to prevent the run, preserve the two-run lead, and end the inning.
The Czech offense was stalled by Spanish reliever Yeudy Garcia, a former Pittsburgh Pirates farmhand, who tossed five scoreless innings, striking out eight, but the 2.03m-tall Minarik was equally effective as the Czechs held on for the victory.
Czechia’s qualification is noteworthy as the squad, with one exception, was entirely Czech born, with no player on the roster currently affiliated with an MLB organization.