A Tough Game of Small Ball

PC: MLB Properties

PC: MLB Properties

On a night when everything seemed to be going deep you had to wonder if it was humidity or the humidor keeping the balls inside the park. After a homerun derby-like game against Mexico on Friday, Italy took nearly every pitch that made contact to the wall in Saturday’s game. And, much like Mexico’s game, the competition was answering in kind. That made this a game where defense was crucial to keeping the score in check.

This was one of those games that is hard to summarize because what you missed by not watching was all the small plays that make the game of baseball exciting. Unlike yesterday, there were only a few homeruns and not even a handful of doubles between the teams. This game was both won, and lost, by fielding – both mistakes as well as amazing plays – and by each team’s ability to rely on everyone in the line-up to do their part. It’s hard to give credit because everywhere you look, credit is due.

In the bottom of the first with two outs Francisco Cervelli doubled. Venezuela then intentionally walked Rob Segedin. With two on, Daniel Descalso doubled to score Cervelli. After one the Italians led 0-1.

Cervelli was back up in the 2nd where he singled to right. With two outs, Segedin doubles off Perez sending Cervelli to 3rd. Daniel Descalso singled to the left corner giving Segedin just enough time to cross the plate on a wide slide where Cervelli was there, on both knees and pounding the ground, to greet him. With two RBIs, Italy went ahead 0-3.

Italy ended the first four innings for Venezuela playing heads-up baseball on the bags. In the 1st a throw to first turned from an error into a double play. In the 2nd the throw from a to-the-wall double ignored the man heading home and was tossed, instead, to 2nd to end the inning. The third ended with a runner caught stealing.

The first pitch of the 4th, on a hit that seemed to take forever to make its way out of the park, Alex Liddi took it yard for Italy’s first homer of the day. That ended Perez’s day as Venezuela gave RHP Bruce Rondón the ball. With two out and bases empty, Brandon Nimmo homered off Rondón, stretching Italy’s lead to five.

In the top of the 5th Venezuela’s bats started to heat up. Catcher Salvador Perez started it off with a double to left. Odubel Herrera, who had already caught more than his share in left, hit deep to center for the sacrifice as Perez advanced to third. Alcides Escobar then singled on a long fly ball to left giving Perez plenty of time to cross the plate. That promoted Italy’s coach to take a walk to the mound. He left Gaviglio in until Ender Inciarte went a bit too deep and an outstanding catch by Brandon Nimmo turned it into the second out of the inning. Tiago Da Silva then warmed up to face Jose Altuve. During his at bat, Escobar stole 2nd before Altuve took first on a single. Martin Prado was up next. He doubled to right. Still two outs, Prado doubled tight into the pocket on the right field line scoring both Escobar and Altuve. At the end of the inning it was a new ballgame. Venezeula three. Italy five.

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The second half of the 7th couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for Italy. Two batters up, two batters on followed by a pitching change. Both Nimmo and Andreoli reached on walks. RHP Robert Suarez took the mound to face the heart of the order at the plate and no outs. First pitch Cervelli took it to center and Nimmo scored. There was an error on the throw from Inciarte, who was unable to meet the cutoff, and Andreoli went home. 8-7 and Italy was right back in it.

Top of the 8th Italy’s pitcher reminded the runner that no lead is safe when taken off a lefty. Just one step off the bag, he throws him out to end the half inning.

Bottom of the inning Jose Alvarez came in and continued walking Italy’s batters starting with Drew Butera. Cecchini struck out and the next batter is thrown out on an amazing foul ball catch into the stands before Andreoli hits one to center giving Butera just enough time to make it home and tie up the game at 8.

Top of the 9th Venezeula scored two on a home run by Salvador Perez following a double that put Odor on base to come in ahead of him.

Bottom of the 9th Italy put one on the board with two down on a solid hit to center by Cecchini. On a full count with two outs and runners on 1st and 2nd he takes the ball deep into center allowing Maggi to score. Butera is called out on the collision at the plate and the inning ends with Venezuela’s full battery on the ground. Catcher Salvador Perez appears to have suffered a potential knee injury and pitcher Rodriguez also seems to have hurt his leg on the play. So the inning ends but not before Italy does what they needed, scoring two and tying up the game at 10 to extend the game into a 10th inning.

In extra innings Venezuela manages to score one in the top of the 10th before Italy’s pitching shuts them down. That would be enough to end the game in their favor however and the night ends for Italy with a final score of 11-10 in 10.

Italy plays Puerto Rico in their final game of the first round on Sunday, March 12th starting at 21:30 CET. They head into the game 1-1. Puerto Rico beat Venezuela in a mercy rule decision on Friday night.

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