At times, today’s 6-5 matchup between the Netherlands and Chinese Taipei felt more like a tennis match than a baseball game with runs scored and matched inning after inning.
It started in the 2nd when Dashenko Ricardo singled to drive in Didi Gregorius.
Chines Taipei quickly responded in the top of the 3rd. With one out, they took advantage of a wild pitch by Jair Jurrjens to Chih-Sheng Lin. The pitch allowed Chin-Hoa Chang to score and moved Chih-Hsien Chiang into scoring position at third. Lin then took the sacrifice to score Chiang.
In the bottom of the 4th Gregorius doubled to left, allowing Wladimire Balentien to cross the plate. Ricardo, once again, drove Didi home with another single to the outfield to put The Netherlands ahead, once more, 4-2.
In the top of the 5th Chih-Hao Chang homered to right sending in Chin-Lung Hu ahead of him to tie up the score. It wouldn’t last but a minute. In less time than it takes to send a tweet, Chinese Taipei scored again on Yi-Chuan Lin’s grounder into a force out at 2nd that allowed Chih-Hsien Chiang to score the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the 8th Sir Didi tapped out another double, a line drive to left that brought Xander Bogaerts around to score the tying run.
In the end, Chinese Taipei beat themselves. In the bottom of the 9th, tied at 5, Dashenko Ricardo reached base on a throwing error by the 3rd baseman. Then Randolph Oduber finally had his turn and took it the hard way, getting hit by the pitch to advance Ricardo to 2nd. Simmons then singled with a grounder to center field.
Next up, Profar came out swinging early and looking like the fences were his target. After he settled in the count went 3-1 before he took another hack. Then, he sat back and made room at the plate as Ricardo came across for the win following the ball four pitch. Anti-climatic? Perhaps. But it takes a lot of skill and self-control to sit back on a pitch with the game on the line and bases loaded. As Profar’s first cut showed, when the pressure’s on, even the best in the game can let the excitement get the better of them.
Offensively for The Netherlands you cannot fail to mention Wladimire Balentien who was 4/4 with 1 run on the day. It was Sir Didi that made the biggest impact on today’s game though going 3/4 with 3 hits, including two doubles, 2 runs and 3 RBIs. In the end however, it was Chinese Taipei who, with an error and a tired arm, dashed their own hopes for advancing in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
You might want to set your alarms and practice your sick voice. It’s the Netherlands v Israel up next starting at 4:00 CET on Thursday morning. Both teams head into the game with a record of 2-0. Each team beat S. Korea by a marginal score but it is Israel that handed Chinese Taipei their 15-7 loss yesterday. That would be the same Chinese Taipei who beat themselves today in their 6-5 nail biter against The Netherlands.
Regardless of the outcome on Thursday both Israel and The Netherlands have secured their spot in the 2nd round of play as the top two teams in each Pool advance. All that remains to be determined is which European team will walk away with first round bragging rights.