Saturday, March 19, 2016

Nicaragua holds off Czechs in 11, will play Mexico in Sunday WBCQ final

In perhaps the most thrilling game in the Mexicali World Baseball Classic qualifiers, Nicaragua scored three runs in the top of the eleventh inning and barely held off the Czech Republic, 7-6, Saturday night in Mexicali. The game lasted over four hours with plenty of ups and downs for both sides at Estadio B-Air.

The Czechs jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Jakub Malik homered off Berman Espinoza to straightaway center field with two runners on base.  The teams then swapped zeroes into the top of the fifth, when Nicaragua scored twice with two out when Darrel Campbell came in on Jairo Beras' tapper back to the mound and Wuillians Vasquez came in on third baseman Premek Chroust to pull to within one.

The Czechs got one back in the bottom of the fifth after Jakub Hajtmar scored on a Mike Cervenak fielder's choice grounder to short to boost their advantage to 4-2 before the Nicaraguans came back to knot the score in the eighth.  With two out, Melvin Novoa hit a grounder to Czech shortstop Petr Zyma, who then made an errant throw to allow Dwight Britton to score while Novoa advanced to second base.  Renato Morales' ground-ball single beyond the glove of Zyma into left field sent Novoa motoring in from second to plate the tying run.

The two teams carried the 4-4 game into the top of the eleventh, when Nicaragua pushed across three counters.  Ofilio Castro broke the deadlock by scoring from third on a Morales sacrifice fly to center.  Later in the frame, Omar Obregon's single up the middle brought in Britton and Janior Montes to give the Central Americans a 7-4 lead.

The Czechs refused to die, however, loading the bases with nobody out for Tomas Polansky's run-scoring walk to close the gap to 7-5.  Zyma then hit a tailor-made doubleplay grounder off reliever Jose Saenz to short, where Obregon bobbled the ball before flipping it to second for one out but too late for the relay to beat Zyma to first as Malik came in from third, bringing the Czechs to within one run with runners at the corners.  Saenz then bore down and struck out Tomas Junec and Petr Sila, both on swings, to close out the win and earn the save.  Jonathan Loaisiga was awarded the win despite allowing the final two Czech runs in the final inning while Martin Schneider was tagged with the loss after coughing up all three Nicaraguan scores in the eleventh.

Nicaragua will take on Mexico Sunday at 7 PM PDT in the final, with the winner qualifying for next year's World Baseball Classic, an event Mexico has never missed since its inception in 2006.  Verde Grande manager Edgar Gonzalez has announced he'll send Caribbean Series hero Hector Daniel Rodriguez to the mound in Mexicali.  Mexico beat Nicaragua,

Elsewhere in WBC qualifier action, Panama overcame a three-run deficit to beat France going away, 7-4, Saturday to advance to Sunday's final against Colombia in Panama City.