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2009 World Baseball Classic to feature same 16 teams

After further discussion, the 16-team field is set for the second World Baseball Classic, which is scheduled for March of next year. Though it is exactly the same as the inaugural edition in 2006, it may be the last time the governing bodies of the tournament restrict the competition to that few teams.

Under consideration for 2013 is an expansion of the field to 24 countries and territories with qualifying rounds as a preface to reach the main competition.

“As the level of baseball continues to rise worldwide, it is essential that the World Baseball Classic expand its field to give the growing number of formidable teams the opportunity to participate,” said Paul Archey, Major League Baseball’s senior vice president of international business operations. “In accordance with the tournament’s goal of growing and enhancing interest in the game, the Steering Committee has strongly endorsed the expansion of the competition for the 2013 event.”

But that’s down the road. Next year’s field will again feature defending title winner Japan, runner-up Cuba, the U.S., Dominican Republic, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela — all teams that qualified for the second round last time and thus received automatic berths for ’09. It was announced on Feb. 20th that Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Italy, Netherlands, Panama, and South Africa were sent invitations.

Similar to the last time selection process, the Steering Committee determined the 16 teams for the 2009 World Baseball Classic based on criteria established to create the most highly-competitive international baseball event in the world. Some of the key factors involved in team evaluation and selection included: strength of native player base, number of professional players, international rankings, viability of domestic baseball programs, participant’s impact on baseball development in country/territory and diverse global representation.

“There has been significant improvement in the level of play internationally and indeed, Major League ranks include even more players from across the world,” said Gene Orza, chief operating officer of the Players’ Association. “The 16 teams selected best represent the breadth of quality play around the globe, which meets a key tournament objective, showing the world how far baseball has come internationally. If you liked the tournament last time around, wait ’til you see her this time.”

The venues are expected to be announced next month with all four first-round competitions being played outside the U.S., which will host Round 2, the semi-finals and finals, as it did in 2006.

Toronto remains a “very strong candidate” to host one of the four groups in first-round play, a source with knowledge of the event’s planning told The Canadian Press. Canada is likely to be joined by the United States, a Latin American country and a non-traditional baseball country in the first round, with the games being held at the Rogers Centre, home of the Major League Team Toronto Blue Jays.

Attendance for the ’06 tournament at its seven venues was 737,112 tickets sold. The semi-finals and finals were sold out at San Diego’s 45,000-seat PETCO Park, undoubtedly a front-runner to host the Classic’s finale again in 2009.

It was the first time that all Major League players were allowed to represent their native lands in an international baseball tournament. The baseball competition in the Summer Olympics, which is slated for Beijing in August, includes non-25-man roster MLB players only.

“The intensity in the stands as well as the intensity on the playing field was absolutely remarkable, and I’m not sure that going into it you could have felt that,” Commissioner Bud Selig said at the time regarding the legacy of the Classic. “I’m very confident that this will be the platform we use to take this sport internationally to the dimension that I want to take it and believe that we will.”

About the World Baseball Classic Steering Committee
The World Baseball Classic Steering Committee consists of 12 members representing professional baseball leagues, Club owners, players, international baseball federations and other international organizations affiliated with the game of baseball (for a complete list of members, see below). The Steering Committee provides ongoing guidance regarding the development of the premier international baseball tournament, the World Baseball Classic. The focus of the committee is to ensure that the tournament continues to maximize its potential to develop the game of baseball worldwide.

Steering Committee Members
Major League Baseball (2)

Tim Brosnan, Executive Vice President, Business
Rob Manfred, Executive Vice President, Labor Relations

MLB Players Association (2)
Gene Orza, Chief Operating Officer
Michael Weiner, General Counsel

International BAseball Federation (2)
Harvey Schiller, President
Eduardo de Bello, Panama

Nippon Professional Baseball (1)
Kazuo Hasegawa, Executive Secretary

Japan Professional Baseball Players Association (1)
Toru Matsubara, Executive Director

Korean Baseball Organization (1)
Il-Sung Ha, Secretary General

Korean Professional Baseball Players Association (1)
Jin-kyun Na, Secretary General

Members-at-large (2)
Gyo Ishiguro, Chief Officer, Culture & Sports Projects, Yomiuri Shimbun
Roland Betts, President & Founder, Chelsea Piers, L.P.

About World Baseball Classic, Inc.
World Baseball Classic, Inc. is a company created at the direction of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) to operate the World Baseball Classic tournament. The tournament, which is sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), is supported by MLB, the MLBPA, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), their respective players associations and other leagues and players from around the world.

About the World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic is the premier international baseball tournament and features the best players in the world competing for their home countries and territories. In March 2006, 16 teams from across the globe competed in the inaugural event, which was sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF). More than 740,000 fans from 48 states and 15 countries attended games and millions more watched on TV as Team Japan was crowned the first-ever World Baseball Classic Champion. The next tournament is scheduled for March 2009 and will be held every four years thereafter.

First eight teams of 2009 WBC decide

Yes, there will be another World Baseball Classic.

In 2009.

A joint steering committee overseeing the tournament made official on April 20th. what long has been presumed: that the second international baseball competition to include Major League players will be staged in March 2009, with dates and venues yet to be determined.

Additionally, all eight teams that advance to the second round in first World Baseball Classic — the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela — will receive the first invitations. The remaining eight will be determined and unveiled by the seven steering committee members in December 2007, but it will be a tough decision, for there are many countries interested in participating.

“We are extremely pleased with the impressive results of the 2006 World Baseball Classic and excited about the momentum and anticipation it has generated for the upcoming 2009 event,” said Bob DuPuy, MLB’s president and chief operating officer. “As international baseball continues to develop and thrive, and the supply of quality baseball nations grows, the task of selecting the 16 deserving teams has become increasingly difficult,” DuPuy said.

The eight countries that were eliminated in the inaugural first round were China, Chinese Taipei, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Panama, Italy and The Netherlands. There has been a desire from other baseball-playing countries to be included in the 16-team field, and some that so far don’t play the game. Israel, for example, is starting its first professional baseball league this summer and is seeking a berth in the next Classic.

“Numerous countries, far more than we currently can invite, are clamoring to get in,” said Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the MLB players association and its representative to the steering committee. “Given the limitations on the size of the field that we face at this date, we want to make sure that the widespread interest in participation gets the attention it deserves.”

The first tournament was such a rousing success that the steering committee announced a dispersal of $8 million to the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), plus the baseball federations of the 16 nations and commonwealths that participated based on their finish in the tournament. The federations are expected to distribute a minimum of $3.3 million to their local baseball programs. And in addition, the IBAF will receive $1 million to continue developing the game globally.

Attendance at the seven venues was 737,112 tickets sold, the semifinals and finals were sold out at PETCO Park, undoubtedly a front runner to host the Classic’s climax again in 2009. The steering committee said it would begin taking bids for venues immediately.

Last time, the games were also hosted in San Juan, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Ariz., Anaheim and Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Japan won the initial tournament from March 3-20, 2006 with a squad featuring just two major league players by defeating Cuba 10-6 at San Diego’s PETCO Park, while Communist Cuba made it to the final with the latest generation of their amateur dynasty.

Many US major leaguers shunned the Classic in favor of pre-season workouts with club teams in advance of the April opening of the US season. Some had suggested moving the event to November, after the major league World Series, but major league baseball commissioner Bud Selig had voiced doubts about a change.

Thursday’s meeting in New York was the second for the steering committee, which is made up of officials from Major League Baseball, Nippon Professional Baseball, the IBAF, and representatives for the MLB and NPB players associations.

World Baseball Classic All-Tournament Team

Ichiro - City
Like every international tournament, World Baseball Classic has it’s own All-Tournament Team, and six of the 12 players were played in Championship game at PETCO Park.

The all-tournament team, whose name probably should be changed to all-world, honored the best of the inaugural World Baseball Classic. It was an event that drew 737,112 spectators and was covered by 5,354 media outlets.

Sixteen countries and nine languages were represented, and at seven different venues and three rounds, one champion was finally decided.

Below is the All-Tournament Team:
C Tomoya Satozaki, Japan .409, 1 HR, 5 RBI
1B Seung Yeop Lee, Korea .333, 5 HR, 10 RBI
2B Yulieski Gourriel, Cuba .303, 2 HR, 6 RBI
SS Derek Jeter, United States .450, 9 hits
3B Adrian Beltre, Dominican Republic .300, 4 HR, 9 RBI
OF Ken Griffey Jr., United States .524, 3 HR, 10 RBI
OF Jong Beom Lee, Korea .400, 6 2B, 10 hits
OF Ichiro Suzuki, Japan .364, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 4 SB
DH Yoandy Garlobo, Cuba .480, 1 HR, 4 RBI
P Yadel Marti, Cuba 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 12.2 IP, 2 SV, 11 K
P Daisuke Matsuzaka, Japan 3-0, 1.88 ERA, 10 K
P Chan Ho Park, Korea 0.00 ERA, 10 IP, 3 SV, 8 K

Japan is WBC Champion.

It’s Japan, not Cuba, not USA, not Dominican Republic, not Venezuela, not Puerto Rico, not Korea, become the inaugural winner of World Baseball Classic.

Final:
Japan 10, Cuba 6

JAPAN           - 400 020 004   --  10
CUBA            - 100 002 021   --   6

No matter what the final score read when those tiny yellow bulbs high above left field stopped blinking, Cuba’s unforgettable and historic ride through the World Baseball Classic came to a memorable ending Monday night at PETCO Park. As expected. Even in defeat. Japan took advantage of an early lead and never looked back, paving the way for a 10-6 victory in front of 42,696 in the tournament’s championship game.

Baseball fans around the globe have long been clamoring for an authentic world champion. Finally they have one. Japan is the winner of the inaugural World Baseball Classic. And now, baseball is not only spoken here, it is spoken everywhere. The Japanese put the crowning touch on the 17-day tournament that was played in Tokyo, Arizona, Florida, Puerto Rico and Southern California with the climax coming on Monday night at PETCO Park.

Japan vs. Cuba in WBC Final

After 16 teams fight for 38 games, only Japan and Cuba left, and the winner will be the first championship for World Baseball Classic.

Semifinal:
Cuba 3, Dominican Republic 1

CUBA            - 000 000 300   --   3
DOMINICAN REP   - 000 001 000   --   1

Behind an offense of players known primarily only in their native land, Cuba stunned a Dominican Republic squad made up of some of the most famous players in the world, 3-1, in the first game of the semifinals at PETCO Park on Saturday afternoon.

The Cuban National team is accustomed to winning. After all, this club is 22-2 in international play, dating back to 2001. First, it beat Venezuela. Next was Puerto Rico. And now, the Dominican Republic — which arguably was its best win, ever. Cuba silenced a ferocious lineup in front of a sellout crowd of 41,268 and a nationally televised audience of millions, and did it on U.S. soil, a rarity in its rich baseball history.

Japan 6, Korea 0

JAPAN           - 000 000 510   --   6
KOREA           - 000 000 000   --   0

Kosuke Fukudome came off the bench with one out in the seventh inning and poled a two-run pinch-hit homer into the right-field seats at PETCO Park off Kim, the beleaguered Byung-Hyun Kim. And suddenly, the Japanese are on their way to the World Baseball Classic finals and a matchup against Cuba for the inaugural championship on Monday at 9 p.m. ET.

After holding the opposition to eight runs in its first 60 innings during the World Baseball Classic, Korea succumbed to a five-run barrage in the seventh inning and dropped a rain-interrupted 6-0 decision to Japan before 42,639 at PETCO Park. The loss ended Korea’s six-game winning streak, and kept it from playing Cuba in Monday night’s championship game.

Cuba in, USA still alive!

Cuba maintain their tradition, to become the second team in final four, and Korea still unbeaten, defeat Japan twice in 10 days to be the third team advanced into semifinal. As for USA, they still got a chance to play another games by winning Mexico tomorrow.

Pool 1:
Korea 2, Japan 1

KOREA           - 000 000 020   --   2
JAPAN           - 000 000 001   --   1

Before Wednesday night’s high-stakes matchup between Korea and Japan in Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic, a techno version of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” blared through the speakers. After getting a clutch two-run double in the eighth inning from Jong Beom Lee and an equally clutch relief performance from righty Seung Hwan Oh on the way to a 2-1 victory in a beautifully pitched game Wednesday night at Angel Stadium, Korea’s unbeaten (6-0) squad celebrated as if it had indeed moved on to a glorious baseball afterlife.

Go Mexico! That is the only rallying cry remaining for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic after it dropped to Korea in a classic game played before 39,679 at Angel Stadium. It comes down to this for manager Sadaharu Oh’s team: Root, root, root for Mexico. If the United States wins the final quarterfinal game here, it’s all over for Japan, and the team would return home wondering what might have happened if the offense had a little more punch in the middle of its lineup.

Pool 2:
Cuba 4, Puerto Rico 3

CUBA            - 100 300 000   --   4
PUERTO RICO     - 100 000 200   --   3

Garbed in its traditional uniform — red pants and predominately red jersey — for the first time in World Baseball Classic play, Cuba went out of its way to save its best for last. Cuba manager Higinio Velez was not around to see it all, but he probably would have liked what his red machine did Wednesday night. In fact, he would have loved it.

Puerto Rico may have been bounced from the inaugural World Baseball Classic on Wednesday, but it certainly went down swinging. Bernie Williams hit a leadoff home run, but one of Puerto Rico’s other superstars, Ivan Rodriguez, was thrown out at home plate trying to score the tying run in an electrifying 4-3 loss to Cuba, which advanced to the tournament’s semifinals in San Diego.

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USA lost again, Pool 2 restarted

Believe it or not, Korea defeated USA and remains to be the only unbeaten team. As for Pool 2, all four teams has one win and one lost, need to use the last two games to decide who will be advanced to final four.

Pool 1:
Korea 7, United States 3

USA             - 001 000 002   --   3
KOREA           - 201 301 00x   --   7

The only unbeaten team in the World Baseball Classic powered its way to another victory Monday night as surprisingly adept-at-everything Korea defeated Team USA, 7-3, before 21,288 at Angel Stadium. First baseman Seung-Yeop Lee hit another home run, his fifth of the tournament, Hee-Seop Choi slugged his first — in a pinch-hit role — and the Korea pitching staff stymied the best lineup it has seen so far in the 16-team tournament as Korea improved to 2-0 in Round 2 and 5-0 overall.

For the second consecutive time in this inaugural World Baseball Classic, Team USA lost the middle of the three games in round-robin pool play to put itself in serious danger of being eliminated from the tournament. This time it was the streaking Koreans, who thumped the U.S., but this time the Americans must defeat Mexico on Thursday to stay alive, not South Africa.

Pool 2:
Dominican Republic 7, Cuba 3

DOMINICAN REP   - 004 111 000   --   7
CUBA            - 000 000 102   --   3

The California dreaming continues for the Dominican Republic. Odalis Perez was stellar on the mound, the Dominican Republic offense was explosive at the plate and if there were any remaining doubts, the scoreboard at Hiram Bithorn Stadium said it all.

The Cubans suffered another rare and disappointing loss on Monday, and afterward were not particularly interested in talking about it. A day after an inspired win over Venezuela to open Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic, Cuba could not overcome its own mistakes and dropped a 7-3 decision to the Dominican Republic.

Venezuela 6, Puerto Rico 0

VENEZUELA       - 000 020 040   --   6
PUERTO RICO     - 000 000 000   --   0

Puerto Rico starter Joel Pineiro was effective, but his effort was not enough Monday night as Puerto Rico was defeated, 6-0, by Venezuela in the second game of the second round for both clubs.

The ball was still in flight, soaring through the air of Hiram Bithorn Stadium. Victor Martinez stood there for a few seconds and watched, taking in one of the finest moments of his young career. And before the grand slam had even landed in the last row of the right-field bleachers, the entire Venezuelan team had bounced out of the dugout to make sure it was in proper position to mob him.

Wrong Call let USA Won!

If you did not know how USA won, remember, it’s Bob Davidson, not Alex Rodriguez to let USA won.

Pool 1:
United States 4, Japan 3

JAPAN           - 120 000 000   --   3
USA             - 010 002 001   --   4
Two outs when winning run scored.

There is no crying in baseball, not even in the World Baseball Classic, but Team Japan could have a shed a tear or two Sunday afternoon and no one would question its sorrow. A run Japan apparently scored in the top of the eighth inning to take a 4-3 lead over Team USA was nullified, and the run Alex Rodriguez drove in with two outs in the bottom of the ninth counted, giving the home country a 4-3 victory before 32,896 flag-waving fans at Angel Stadium.

It was a game in March that had it all. Big leads. Blown leads. A disputed call. And an Alex Rodriguez base hit up the middle with the bases loaded in the bottom of ninth that saved Team USA from panic in the second round of the World Baseball Classic. The net result was a victory over the Japanese that left them shaking their collective heads as they walked off the field late Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium.

Korea 2, Mexico 1

MEXICO          - 001 000 000   --   1
KOREA           - 200 000 00x   --   2

Seung Yeop Lee’s bat is made of dynamite, so his swing doesn’t have to be. The explosive Korean teed off on Mexico’s Rodrigo Lopez in the bottom of the first inning, sending Korea to a 2-1 win over Mexico in the World Baseball Classic in front of 42,979 at Angel Stadium on Sunday night.

One bad pitch during one long inning led to some long faces in Team Mexico’s dugout, but Rodrigo Lopez managed a smile or two nonetheless. Lopez, who gave up a two-run homer to Seung Yeop Lee in the first inning of Mexico’s loss to Korea, said “I’d say our pitching was excellent.” But Korea’s pitchers were even better, holding Team Mexico, which scored 19 runs while winning its previous two games, to five hits without a walk while striking out nine in a tense, tidy affair.

Pool 2:
Cuba 7, Venezuela 2

CUBA            - 010 005 100   --   7
VENEZUELA       - 000 000 200   --   2

In a development that could have made only Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and Cuba’s hitters happy, Venezuela manager Luis Sojo made the tough decision of taking out ace Johan Santana after five innings and 67 pitches of mastery in Sunday’s World Baseball Classic contest at Hiram Bithorn Stadium. Sojo went to his bullpen, and the result was decidedly bad for Venezuela in what wound up as a 7-2 loss to Cuba.

Two days removed from the nation’s most embarrassing loss in 23 years, Cuba struck back with a bang. A pair of bangs, in fact. Frederich Cepeda and Ariel Pestano hit back-to-back home runs and Cuba rode a five-run sixth inning to a win over Venezuela. Cuba finished with twice as many hits as a Venezuelan lineup that consisted entirely of players from the American Major Leagues. Right-handers Yadel Marti and Pedro Lazo were the pitching heroes as Cuba asserted its place in the baseball world in front of 13,697 fans.

Puerto Rico 7, Dominican Republic 1

PUERTO RICO     - 000 103 300   --   7
DOMINICAN REP   - 010 000 000   --   1

The pitchers’ duel between the Dominican Republic’s Bartolo Colon and Puerto Rico’s Javier Vazquez lived up to expectations Sunday night. Both right-handers shined for five innings, shutting down opposing hitters and putting on a good show for the crowd. It’s what happened and what didn’t happen upon their departure that proved to be the difference. Puerto Rico rallied, the Dominican Republic fell apart, and in the end, it was the hometown team to remain unbeaten in four tournament games.

It was a very good day for underdogs on the Isle of Enchantment. Hours after Cuba scored a win over the favored Venezuelans, Jose Cruz Jr. drove in three runs and Carlos Beltran scored three more, as Puerto Rico eased past the Dominican Republic, 7-1, in front of 19,692 raucous fans at sold-out Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

USA in! USA in!

Finally, USA got the final second-round of World Baseball Classic.

Pool B:
United States 17, South Africa 0

USA             - 466 10  --  17
SOUTH AFRICA    - 000 00  --   0

It took a wakeup call from Team Canada and an offensive explosion by Mexico. But on Friday, Team USA finally helped itself. Ripping off four runs against South Africa before fans settled in their seats at Scottsdale Stadium, the U.S. secured the final second-round berth of the eight available in the inaugural World Baseball Classic with a 17-0, five-inning victory that was stopped because of the tournament’s mercy rule.

South Africa didn’t come away from its World Baseball Classic appearance with a win. But the overmatched squad, which includes several 17-year-olds, did gain the other nation’s respect as well as memories that will last a lifetime. “I’m proud of those guys. I’m proud of that country for coming over and competing and trying to get better at baseball.” Team USA’s Johnny Damon said.

Pool C:
Netherlands 10, Panama 0

NETHERLANDS     - 501 130 0  --  10
PANAMA          - 000 000 0  --   0

The Netherlands saved the best for last, closing out its World Baseball Classic experience on the highest of high notes. Shairon Martis threw a seven-inning no-hitter in the 65-pitch effort, while the Dutch offense exploded for 10 runs on 17 hits, as the Netherlands rolled to a 10-0 mercy-rule victory. The no-hitter was the first of the World Baseball Classic, as the 18-year-old right-hander stamped his name in the record books.

Panama came this close to victories against Puerto Rico and Cuba in its first two games of Pool C action in the World Baseball Classic. But Friday’s 10-0, seven-inning loss to the Netherlands just might show how far away the club really is from capturing the top prize in an international baseball competition. Martis, the Giants prospect made his professional debut for the Rookie League Arizona Giants in 2005, but looked like a seasoned veteran against Panama.

Puerto Rico 12, Cuba 2

PUERTO RICO     - 020 550 0  --  12
CUBA            - 010 000 1  --   2

The Puerto Rico-Cuba game was supposed to be the marquee matchup of the World Baseball Classic’s Pool C. Instead, the final game of the first round turned into a hometown party at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, as Puerto Rico walloped Cuba, 12-2, in a one-sided affair. The game was called after seven innings, as Puerto Rico’s 10-run lead kicked the mercy rule into effect.

The loss was the worst for Cuba since an 11-2 loss to Japan in the finals of the International Cup in 1997, and the first against a team from Puerto Rico since 1984. It was just the second time Cuba has ever been beaten by the mercy rule, the other coming in 1983 against Taiwan.

Pool D:
Dominican Republic 6, Australia 4

AUSTRALIA       - 100 001 002   --   4
DOMINICAN REP   - 031 101 00x   --   6

Having already clinched a top spot in the second round of the World Baseball Classic, the Dominican Republic still put forth a full effort on Friday in its 6-4 win over Australia in the final game of the Pool D version at the Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

Rebounding from the opening-game shutout loss delivered by Italy, the Australians proved this with respectable performances against much stronger competition provided by Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. There were no wins to show for the effort provided by the Australians in the inaugural WBC, but they can certainly go home proud of the way their pitchers performed against the powerful Latin nations.

Five teams advanced!

Anothr five teams advanced to the second round today, with Mexico in Pool B, Cuba and Puerto Rico in Pool C, Dominican Republic and Venezuela in Pool D. As for the final spot, Canada or USA have final chance depends on the result of USA vs. South Africa game.

Pool B:
Mexico 9, Canada 1

MEXICO          - 420 201 000   --   9
CANADA          - 000 001 000   --   1

The Canadians came, they saw and they almost conquered. During a roller-coaster three-day run in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, Team Canada had to come from behind in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat a plucky South Africa team, then upset Team USA, but fizzled when all the Canadian dollars were on the line on Thursday night against Mexico. Losing to the Mexicans, 9-1, with a chance to wrap up a berth in the second round a day after beating the Americans.

When he travels in his native Mexico, Jorge Cantu hears one sport talked about more than any other. Team Mexico delivered that message on Thursday night, when it beat Canada, 9-1, to advance to the World Baseball Classic’s second round as Pool B’s No. 1 seed.

Pool C:
Cuba 11, Netherlands 2

CUBA            - 200 400 401   --  11
NETHERLANDS     - 000 002 000   --   2

The Netherlands’ hopes of advancing in the World Baseball Classic came to an end on Thursday night, as Cuba mashed its way to an 11-2 victory to lock up a spot in the second round of the tournament.

If there was ever any doubt that Cuba could compete in a tournament that featured the best teams it had ever faced, the club removed it with an extra-inning victory against Panama in its first game. Any remaining questions were obliterated Thursday with Cuba’s win against the Netherlands. More questions? Doubts, perhaps? The Cubans sure hope so.

Pool D:
Dominican Republic 8, Italy 3

ITALY           - 102 000 000   --   3
DOMINICAN REP   - 202 030 10x   --   8

The Dominican Republic performed as expected on Thursday, outslugging team Italy in an 8-3 win before a sellout crowd of 9,949 at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. This means the Dominican advances to the next round of the World Baseball Classic. This also will likely end Italy’s Classic run.

Burdened with two errors by third baseman Mark Saccomanno at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex on Thursday afternoon, Italy closed its schedule in Pool D with loss to the Dominican Republic. However, Team Italy has no reason to be ashamed. But it appears its run in the inaugural World Baseball Classic has come to an end.

Venezuela 2, Australia 0

VENEZUELA       - 010 001 000   --   2
AUSTRALIA       - 000 000 000   --   0

It wasn’t supposed to be this close, and if ever there was a moral victory, this probably was it. Although Venezuela prevailed over Australia, 2-0, the losing club made this contest much more competitive than anyone could have expected.

The last leg of the initial journey had a few more bumps than expected. But Venezuela emerged victorious against a pesky Australian team and punched its ticket into the second round of the World Baseball Classic.


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