Italy scored five runs in the final innings of its game against Mexico to complete a stunning comeback and snatch victory in the opening match of Pool D at the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
With just one inning left to play, Mexico looked to have secured their first win of the World Baseball Softball Confederation sanctioned tournament as they led 9-5 on home soil at the Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Guadalajara.
However, a stunning closing period from the Europeans saw them score a sublime five points, handing them a 10-9 win.
Italy’s Francisco Cervelli, Chris Colabello and Alex Liddi all struck consecutive doubles off of Mexico’s Roberto Osuna before Brandon Nimmo and John Andreoli secured the win with singles.
“Well, for some reason, any time Italy wins, it’s a big surprise,” said Italian manager Marco Mazzieri.
“It’s been like that for eight years now.
“The only ones that are not surprised, it’s these guys, because they’re playing to win.
“They’re playing to win every pitch.
“And sometimes we’re able to make it, sometimes we don’t make it.
“But they play to win, and they showed it tonight.”
Today also saw the conclusion of Pool B at the Tokyo Dome.
Japan had already won the group and secured their place in the next round but Australia and Cuba squared off in a bid to finish second and also advance.
It was the Cubans who progressed as they held on to win 4-3.
Runs proved difficult to score in the opening stages with the score level at 0-0 after the first four innings.
Cuba’s Alfredo Despaigne then produced a stunning grand slam, scoring four points for the Cubans, before Australia scored a single of their own to take the score to 4-1.
Australia added singles in both the seventh and eighth innings to take the score to 4-3, but failed to level the match.
In the other match in Pool B today, Japan secured their third win from three matches in the pool stage as they defeated China 7-1 at the Tokyo Dome.
Japan and Cuba will now contest Pool E in the second round of the competition alongside Israel and The Netherlands.
The United States and Colombia are set to meet in Pool C at Marlins Park in Miami this evening.
Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles is due to host the semi-finals and final from March 21 to 23.
By Max Winters
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.