The second day of the World Baseball Classic in Sydney saw the best played game of the tournament and the most exciting game of the tournament. They weren't the same game.
Australia rode three pitchers with minor league experience and one former major leaguer to shut down South Africa's offense and advance to the Qualifier finals with a 4-1 win.
Australia jumped out to three runs in the first inning off of South African starter Carl Michaels, who pitched in the Brewers system in 2001 and 2002, getting as high as the Midwest League. Twins farmhand, third baseman Logan Wade who played for Ft. Myers last season, opened up the scoring with a double. Former Red Sox minor leaguer, Stefan Welch, then singled him home and it was 2-0 before anyone was out. Former major leaguer Trent Oeltjen then hit a sacrifice fly for the first out of the inning and it was 3-0 after one inning.
The rest of the game was dominated by pitching. Warwick Saupold, who pitched for the Tigers Triple-A affiliate Toledo last season, started for Australia and allowed just one run on three hits over three innings. South Africa pushed across a run in the top of the third when catcher Kyle Botha singled home Anthony Phillips.
That was all South Africa would get. Former major leaguer (and Cubs farmhand) Ryan Rowland-Smith shut down South Africa for three scoreless innings, giving up just two hits. Another Twins prospect who played for Ft. Myers, Todd Van Steensel, pitched two perfect innings and then former Cubs farmhand Ryan Searle nailed down the save in the ninth. Overall, Australia's pitchers struck out 11 South African batters and walked only one.
It should be mentioned that all of Australia's games in this tournament are sell outs.
New Zealand 17, Philippines 7 (8 innings, mercy rule)
Was it a well-played game? Not really. Was it an entertaining game? You bet. New Zealand and the Philippines traded the lead for five innings until the Philippines scored three runs in the top of the sixth inning and took a 7-4 lead. But then New Zealand, led by former Red Sox farmhand Boss Moanaroa, stormed back to score six runs in the sixth, five in the seventh and two in the eighth to end the game early.
New Zealand's comeback was lead by Moanaroa, who went 4 for 5 with two doubles and a three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to give New Zealand the lead for good.
The Philippines took the lead in the top of the first inning behind a pair of former major league outfielders. Former Marlin Chris Aguila hit a sacrifice fly to score former Brewer Eric Farris. But New Zealand stormed back for two runs in the bottom of the inning, including an RBI double by Moanaroa. Left fielder Timothy Auty would make it 3-1 with an RBI double in the second inning, scoring Boss' brother Moko Moanaroa.
Philippines and Cal-State Dominguez Hills' third baseman Brady Conlan tied the game up with a two-run home run in the fourth inning, the first home run of the tournament. The Philippines then took the lead in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Aguila, but Boss Moanaroa tied the game back up in the bottom of the fifth with his second RBI double.
As I noted earlier, it looked like an upset might be brewing when the Philippines plated three runs in the top of the sixth. But then New Zealand got to the Philippines' shallow bullpen and exploded for six runs in the bottom of the sixth, including a massive three-run blast by Boss Moanaroa.
With the loss the Philippines were eliminated from the tournament. New Zealand will now get a rematch with South Africa tonight at 1:30 am for the right to take on the Southern Thunder of Australia in the qualifier final. Tonight's game is televised on the MLB Network or available for free streaming at mlb.com.