I had written that the Panamanian Qualifier had the potential to be a great matchup and it didn't disappoint. I also wrote that the Mexicali Qualifier had the potential to be a blowout and unfortunately, it lived up to that too.
Panama City Qualifier
A solo home run by the Mets Dilson Herrera in the bottom of the eighth inning proved to be the difference as Team Colombia advanced to their first ever World Baseball Classic with a 2-1 win over Team Panama.
The game was a pitcher's duel as Panama turned to Rangers farmhand Ariel Jurado to start this deciding game and Colombia called upon Mets prospect Nabil Crismatt. Juradao kept Colombia scoreless over 2.1 innings, striking out four along the way. Crismatt pitched out of a jam in the second inning, but kept the game scoreless through three innings.
In the fourth inning, however, Crismatt gave up a one-out double to Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz. After an intentional walk, first baseman Carlos Quiroz gave Panama a 1-0 lead with single to center. Then Colombian manager Luis Urueta called former Padres farmhand Yesid Salazar from the bullpen and Salazar got Colombia out of the inning with no further damage.
Colombia tied the score in the sixth inning. After getting runners on first and second with two outs thanks to to hit batsmen (by two different Panamanian pitchers!), Nationals prospect Adrian Sanchez singled to center field, scoring Twins minor leaguer Reynaldo Rodriguez.
The game would stay tied at 1-1 until the bottom of the eighth inning when Mets second baseman Dilson Herrera connected on a 3-1 pitch for a solo home run off of Manny Corpas. Colombian pitchers Carlos Diaz and Horacio Acosta combined to throw a perfect top of the ninth inning and Colombia became the 14th team to qualify for the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
It would have been an embarrassment for the World Baseball Classic if Mexico failed to qualify for the 2017 tournament. In the end, there was nothing to worry about as Mexico easily dispatched Nicaragua, 12-1 in a game that ended after seven innings because of the mercy rule.
Mexico burst out to a big lead with a six-run second inning. They would tack on five more runs in the fifth inning and one in the sixth. At that point, Nicaragua would need three runs in the top of the seventh to prevent the early end to the game. They did push across one run on an Elmer Reyes double, but that is all that the Nicaraguans would get and the game ended early.
Mexico hit a pair of two-run home runs in that five run fifth inning. The first came from Astros minor leaguer Leo Heras and the second one was hit by Mexican League player Esteban Quiroz.
Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was 2 for 3 with a double and an intentional walk.
Mexico has participated in all three of the previous WBC tournaments and they return for the fourth time. Nicaragua has yet to qualify for the main tournament.
Fifteen of the sixteen spots in the 2017 WBC are now filled. There is one spot remaining and four teams will take the field this September in Brooklyn, NY. The four teams vying for the final spot are Israel, Great Britain, Brazil and Pakistan. Pakistan is competing in a WBC qualifier for the very first time. Brazil won their qualifier in 2012 and will try to qualify in back-to-back tournaments. Israel and Great Britain are trying to qualify for the first time after failing to reach the 2013 tournament.