Another great day of softball has led us into the final day of the 2015 WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship. The fans came back after the excitement of last night as 6,650 showed up (the 2nd largest to watch softball in Saskatoon).
The day had a little bit of everything: great pitching by Gerald Muizelaar, Ramon Jones, Adam Folkard and others in the afternoon, an offensive explosion by the Kiwi’s in the early evening and a historic pitching matchup with two stars battling it out with the winner advancing to the semi-final at night.
Sunday’s games will be exciting. Canada, whose bats have been amazing all week, will play the home run kings from Venezuela; likely Cleary vs Jones with the winner playing the defending champs from New Zealand.
Game PR6: Guatemala vs United States 0-4
The Americans had to be disappointed that they did not qualify for the championship round. However, they kept their disappointment off the field and played a solid game against Guatemala. With only seven hits total in the game the pitchers were the stars. American veteran thrower Gerald Muizelaar came up big, throwing a three hit shutout while striking out 12. Guatemalan ace Jorge Segura had four innings of work giving up only three hits and four runs – two of which were earned.
Game PR5: Mexico vs Great Britain 7-5
It may have been the first game of the morning but both teams were wide awake early and so were their bats as they combined for seven runs in the first inning. Ruben Delgadillo and Alan Salgado hit two run homers for Mexico. Kenny Pregnell’s two run double was the big blast for Great Britain. The Brits took the lead with a pair in bottom of the 2nd thanks to RBI hits by Kevin Stockford (single) and Richard Haldane (double). However Mexico scratched out one run in each of the final three innings to claim the victory and line up a match with USA in the Placement Round final.
Game C5: Japan vs Australia 0-3
This game was a pitcher’s duel between Adam Folkard, who returned to the circle following his disappointment last night, and Kento Okasaki from Japan. Two great defensive plays in the bottom of the 4th had Australia thinking it might not be their day. CF Yukihiro Nishyama pulled an Andrew Kirkpatrick drive back in from over the fence and Nick Norton’s liner looked like a sure double but was snagged by 3B Kota Mera. That feeling left suddenly when Nick Norton pounded a two out, three run homer over the center field fence in the bottom of the 6th. It was only the Aussies 3rd hit of the game but proved to be enough. The rest was left to Folkard who was real solid and finished with a five hitter.
Game C6: Venezuela vs Dominican Republic 3-0
The second of today’s championship round games looked to be another pitcher’s duel. The same two pitchers had faced off at the end of the preliminary round: Ramon Jones for Venezuela and Yennier Volquez for Dominican Republic and that was a great game.
After three innings and no hits, it looked even more like a pitcher’s duel. However, Edwin Linares got the first hit of the game in the top of the 4th, which was promptly followed by a Jose Lima homer to right for a 2-0 Venezuela lead. The pitching duel officially ended when the next batter drilled a single to left and in came Santiago Diaz for Volquez. Venezuela upped their lead in the top of the 6th when Edwin Linares walked and scored on a close play at home following an Iran Perez double. In the bottom of the 6th, the Dominicans finally got their first hit of the game on a two out single by Juan Nunez but he was stranded two pitches later. The 7th was uneventful and Venezuela advanced to play Australia in a rematch of the bronze medal game of the last world championship.
Game C7: New Zealand vs Canada 9-5
The first inning had a little of everything as the action was as thick as the smoke that filled the stadium forcing the 5:30 game to be played under the lights. Canadian starter Sean Cleary had a slow start giving up two hits to the first two batters. Then on the next ground ball SS Ian Fehrman tried for the double play but the ball was dropped at 1B as the first run crossed the plate. Cleary got it back under control as he forced a successful double play to end the inning.
In the bottom of the 1st, leadoff hitter Mathieu Roy worked a walk. Brad Ezekiel hit a high bouncer to SS Cole Evans and beat it out advancing all the way to 3rd on the errant throw and allowing Roy to score. An error to Brad Rona at 1B, followed by an error to 2B Tyson Byrne allowed another run to score giving the Canucks a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the 2nd, Canada scored another run thanks to a big two out base hit by Ezekiel. After advancing to 3rd via a wild pitch he was stranded when Steve Mullaley struck out on a called strike when he did not enter the batter’s box in time (10 seconds).
In the top of the 3rd, Cleary gave up a two out solo shot to Jerome Raemaki and coach John Stuart brought in Paul Koert. Thomas Enoka greeted Koert with a shot to right and Jeff Ellsworth made a fantastic snag at the fence to rob Enoka of at least extra bases. New Zealand’s starter Heinrick Shannon settled in nicely in the bottom of the 3rd getting three quick outs. The momentum shifted to New Zealand as Koert had some trouble. He gave up a two run homer to Wayne Laulu, a double, then a RBI single to 9 th hitter Tyson Byrne and New Zealand was up 5-3.
The Kiwi bats continued to pound Koert as a single was immediately followed by a two run shot by Thomas Enoka to move New Zealand up by four and in came Devon McCullough to the circle. He put out the fire getting two strikeouts and a pop up. After two uneventful half innings, Ian Fehrman hit a solo blast to center and narrowed the score to 7-4 at the end of the 6th.
In the top of the 7th, Brad Rona sat on a McCullough change up and drove it out for a two run blast to make the score 9-4. Ezekiel got one back with a homer of his own to center, but it was nowhere near enough as New Zealand made their way to the final for the 8th time in world championship history.
Game PR7: Mexico vs United States 3-4
The United States jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the 1st thanks to a walk and three singles. Derick Zechman’s two run single was the key hit. Mexico got one back when Alex Garcia’s single score Edgar Delgado. After a quiet 3rd Mexico got a couple in the top of the 4th on Delgado’s two run home run, tying the score. The winning run came in the 6th on a Nick Mullins solo home run. American pitcher Tony Mancha threw a complete game four hitter, two hits for Delgado and two for everyone else. USA won the Placement round and will be placed 9th in this championship.
Game C8: Venezuela vs Australia 4-0
It was a softball fans dream matchup in the circle on an eerily hazy night. Adam Folkard vs. Ramon Jones. Jones looked fresher early on as he held the Aussie Steelers hitless for three innings. Folkard, on the other hand, gave up home runs to Edwin Linares and Luiger Pinto and saw himself down 4-0. Folkard settled down and ended up giving up just five hits and striking out 10. However, Jones looked scary in the smoke, only giving up his first hit in the 5th. He ended the game with a one hitter, facing just three batters over the minimum and recording 11 strike outs.