By: Jack Dunn ~Staff Writer~
Team USA routed Puerto Rico 8-0 to capture its first World Baseball Classic (WBC) title on March 22. Puerto Rico was previously undefeated in the tournament and was hoping to capture its first WBC title.
The tournament began on March 6, with the teams in Pool A starting out at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea. Israel, widely considered the biggest underdog of the tournament, went undefeated in the round-robin style first round, advancing to the next round with 2-1 Netherlands. Japan, a two-time WBC champion, also went undefeated in the first round, advancing to the second round with Cuba in Pool B.
In Pool C play, the Dominican Republic came back from a 5-0 deficit in its game against the U.S., winning 7-5 to remain undefeated. After losing to the U.S., Colombia was almost able to secure a spot in the tournament but eventually lost in extras after a close call in the ninth, when Oscar Mercado was called out while trying to score on a sacrifice fly.
The U.S. advanced along with the Dominican Republic. Pool D had the first tiebreaker game of the tournament, with Venezuela defeating Italy 4-3 to advance to the second round. Puerto Rico also advanced after crushing Venezuela 11-0, Mexico 9-4 and Italy 9-3.
The second round began on March 12, with Israel defeating Cuba 4-1, which would end up being its last win of the tournament. Japan continued to go undefeated and advanced along with the Netherlands to the semi-finals in Pool E play. In a preview of the championship game, Puerto Rico defeated the U.S. 6-5 to remain undefeated and take the third spot in the semifinals. The U.S. was able to clinch the last spot in the semis with a win over the Dominican Republic 6-3 in Pool F.
The championship round began on March 20 in Dodger Stadium, with Puerto Rico defeating the Netherlands in a close game, 4-3, to move on to the finals. Team USA was also able to advance with its 2-1 victory over Japan.
Team USA started Marcus Stroman, who, despite getting shelled by Puerto Rico a couple of days earlier, was able to keep its opponent out of the hits column for six innings before giving up a double to Angel Pagan in the seventh.
On the offensive side, Ian Kinsler got the score going with a two-run homer in the top of the third. It proved to be all the U.S. needed, as it cruised to an 8-0 victory.
The World Baseball Classic was created in response to the International Olympic Committee’s removing baseball from the summer Olympics. The fourth edition of the tournament broke attendance records, with 1,086,720 people attending the entire tournament. The next WBC will begin in March of 2021.
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