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Canada, Spain Advance To WBC Qualifier Finals; Czech Republic, France, South Africa Eliminated

There were four games completed in the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers today. In Regensburg, Great Britain got the day started with a 12-5 win over the Czech Republic and in the nightcap, Canada pulled away from Germany late, 16-7 to win a spot in the qualifier finals on Monday.

Meanwhile in Jupiter, South Africa finished yesterday's suspended game with a 5-2 win over France in 11 innings. However, they were no match for Spain in the second game, losing 13-3. Spain now moves on to Sunday's qualifier final with Israel.

In the first game, Great Britain scored three runs in the first inning and three in the third to take an early 6-0 lead that they would never relinquish. Although the Czech Republic scored twice in the bottom of the third to make it 6-2, the British team scored one more in the fourth inning and three more in the seventh to go up 10-2 and put the game out of reach.

Jake Esch (Marlins Low-A Greensboro) started and collected the win for Great Britain, their first ever in World Baseball Classic play. Esch pitched six innings and allowed two runs on five hits. He struck out three and walked no one.

Left fielder B.J. Hubbard hit a solo home run in the seventh inning for Great Britain. He was 2 for 3 with two walks on the game. Hubbard scored three runs and had three runs batted in. Shortstop Albert Cartwright (Phillies High-A Clearwater) was 3 for 5 and scored twice.

First baseman Aeden McQueary went 2 for 5 with a double and three runs batted in. Third baseman Sam Wiley was 2 for 4 with an RBI.

On the Czech side, starter Jan Blazek took the loss after allowing six runs, five earned, on six hits over 2.1 innings. Blazek walked three and didn't strike anyone out.

Third baseman Mike Cervenak (Marlins Triple-A New Orleans) got the Czech Republic on the board in the third inning with an RBI double. He was 3 for 5 and he scored once. Left fielder Jakub Malik was 3 for 5 with an RBI. Second baseman Jakub Hajtmar, who played 2008 in the Twins organization, was 2 for 5 and scored once.

Although the final score says otherwise, the matchup of Canada and Germany in Regensburg's second game was a pretty good game. The score was tied 4-4 after six innings. But then center fielder Tyson Gillies (Phillies Double-A Reading) hit a one-out solo home run off of former Cubs farmhand Luke Sommer, which gave Canada a lead they would never relinquish. Sommer exited after the home run in the seventh and Justin Kuehn gave up four straight hits and then Reds (and former Cub) reliver Will Ohman gave up two more singles in before getting the final two outs. When the inning was done, Canada had seven straight hits in the inning and a 9-4 lead.

Germany did strike back with two in the bottom of the seventh, but Canada attacked the weak back end of the German bullpen for two runs in the eighth and five in the ninth.

James Avery started for Canada and gave up four runs on five hits in the 2.2 innings he pitched before he was pulled. Avery walked two and struck out one.

The win went to our own Peoria Chiefs reliever Sheldon McDonald, who allowed a run on two hits over 1.1 innings. He neither walked nor struck out a batter.

The hitting star of the Regensburg qualifier has been Canadian first baseman Jimmy Van Ostrand (Nationals Double-A Harrisburg) who hit two home runs today off of Tigers prospect Alex Burgos. He hit a three-run home run in the first inning and a solo one in the third. Van Ostrand was 4 for 6 with five runs batted in and three scored. He's also hit three home runs in two games.

Gillies was 3 for 5 with a walk and that solo run that broke the tie in the seventh. He scored three times. Right fielder Adam Loewen (Mets Triple-A Buffalo) was 3 for 6 with one RBI and one run scored. Third baseman Shawn Bowman (Marlins Triple-A New Orleans) went 3 for 6 with an RBI.

Jordan Lennerton (Tigers Double-A Erie) hit a two-run pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning. Lennerton stayed in the game and then singled and scored in the ninth inning.

Left fielder Rene Tosoni (Twins Double-A New Britain) hit a grand slam in the ninth inning in his only at bat of this game.

For Germany, Starter Alex Burgos (Tigers High-A Lakeland) struggled, allowing four runs on five hits over three innings. Burgos walked three and struck out two. But in yet one more irony of the W-L rule, the loss in today's game went to the former Cub farmhand Sommer, who was actually Germany's best pitcher of the night. He pitched 3.1 innings and allowed only the one run on that home run. He gave up three hits total. Sommer didn't walk anyone and struck out four.

Shortstop Matthew Vance was 3 for 5 with an RBI. Outfielder Eric Suttle (Independent Gary) was 2 for 5 with two RBI and a run scored. Aaron Altherr (Phillies Low-A Lakewood) was 2 for 2 with an RBI and a run scored.

Germany and Great Britain play each other at 7 am this morning with the winner advancing to the qualifier final against Canada on Monday.

It's been raining in Florida since July yesterday and both of the games today and yesterday were played in a moderate rain. In the first game that was started yesterday, South Africa got its first ever WBC victory in seven tries. South Africa took the lead in the eleventh inning with a two-run double by second baseman Paul Bell, who played in the Brewers system from 2000 to 2002. South Africa tacked on one more in the eleventh and Dylan De Meyer (Mariners AZL Rookie) closed it out in the bottom of the inning. De Meyer pitched two scoreless innings for the win. He gave up three hits and walked two. He struck out three.

South Africa won this game despite not getting a hit until the eighth inning yesterday. They won in no small part thanks to the fourteen walks that the French pitchers issued. For France, the loss went to Patrick Lemestre, who allowed three runs on three hits and three walks over 1.2 innings.

South Africa's celebration was short-lived, however, as they were eliminated from the tournament a few hours later by Spain, 13-3. Spain scored four times in the second inning, four more times in the third and once in the fourth to for all real purposed put the game away with a 9-0 lead.

Ricardo Hernandez started for Spain and got the win with five strong innings. He allowed one unearned run on two hits. he walked two and struck out four.

The loss went to South African starter Kiernan Lovegrove (Indians AZL Rookie). Lovegrove pitched 1.1 innings and surrendered four runs on two hits. He walked two and struck out one.

Spanish right fielder Yasser Gomez (Independent McAllen) was 4 for 5 with three RBI and two runs scored. Catcher Adrian Nieto (Nationals Low-A Hagerstown) was 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. He scored twice and batted one in. First baseman Barbaro Canizares went 2 for 6 and scored once. All three of those players were born in Cuba.

South Africa only managed two hits and four walks. Their normally reliable defense let them down with five errors. Spain was clearly the superior team, but South Africa's long two-day battle with France and the rain left them in little shape for this game.

One thing that we've learned from the World Baseball Classic so far is that the weaker teams have some real talent, but not much depth. They can often hang with the Israeli, Spanish and Canadian teams mostly made up of players from the Americas for five or six innings, but eventually the superior talent and deeper pitching staffs win out.

Spain will take on Israel at 4 pm Chicago time today with the winner advancing to the WBC tournament in March. You can watch that game online live at or you can watch it on tape delay at 7pm on the MLB Network.