The matchup between Belgium and Croatia was Croatia’s to lose, and lose they did.
Ahead 6-3 heading into the bottom of the 8th, they were tied and surpassed by their own defensive mistakes as much as by Belgium’s bats. The Belgians were playing their small ball game perfectly, scoring 3 runs off singles.
They were also paying attention. Every opportunity that presented itself, they took advantage. And there were many opportunities. Boermans was hit by a pitch. Goffaux reached on a fielding error by Croatian shortstop Kruno Gojkovic. De Lannoy and Goffaux both beat the pickoff attempts made against them.
Then, Thomas De Wolf cleared them for Belgium with a grand slam making all three runs driven in unearned. The next two batters were walked before advancing on a wild pitch. Mercifully for Croatia’s defensive game, the inning ended on a fly out to the next batter.
Ended or not, the damage was done. The Croatian bats would crack no more this night. In a 9-pitching half inning Smith grounded out the first pitch, Tomic flied out the 3rdpitch and Colovic took the count full before his swing and miss to end the game.
Closer Kenny Branden recorded the win for Belgium striking out 1 and throwing another wild through his 2.0 innings of work. Antonio Horvatic, who pitched just .2 innings, took the loss for Croatia giving up 4 runs off 3 hits and walking 1.
Jose Diaz, the Croatian starter, went 7.0 innings striking out 9 but also walking 5 and hitting 4. If he can stick to pitching in the zone, this 22-year old may have the stuff to become quite the pitcher.