A day off for Team Canada and an early afternoon of blowing wind and rain didn’t keep people away from the ballpark Monday as teams from the A side of the tournament battled for position ahead of Friday’s playoffs.
Japan continued its dominant run, with a catching error the only blemish on a flawless 12-0 defeat of India.
The game was delayed partway through due to weather, but the spirits of both the Japanese and Indian squads was not dampened, as the teams hooted and hollered for each play in their favour.
Despite the enthusiasm, India couldn’t get the bats going against a dominant pitching performance by
Taiga Onishi, who pitched a perfect four innings, recording eight strikeouts.
India’s only baserunner came in the bottom of the fourth when Pranay Bhongade reached on an error by the first baseman.
Japan excelled at the plate, crushing a pair of home runs and picking apart the Indian defence.
The win improves Japan’s record to a perfect 5-0.
The other undefeated team from Group A also took the field Wednesday afternoon, in a game where the start time was delayed 40 minutes by rain.
Australia took its perfect record into a match against the South Africans, who came in with a 1-3 record.
The South Africans held the powerful Australians to just three runs in the first and managed to score one of their own on a triple from Jordan Atkin, but that would be as close as they would get. Australia used speed and contact to build a sizeable lead. They also showed off their power, smashing four home runs in the game, which ended in a 17-1 four-inning win for the Aussies.
With the win, Australia also improved to 5-0. But they’ll face their toughest challenge of the tournament to date Thursday when they take on Japan for first overall in Group A.
On paper, the teams are fairly evenly matched. Japan has outscored their opponents 56-8, for a run differential of 48, while Australia has outscored opponents 54-5, for a run differential of 49.
Japan, though, sits at the top of the leaderboard for individual runs, hits, triples, stolen bases, RBI and batting average. All of those tournament bests, save for stolen bases, have been posted by one player, Shoki Matsuo, the first baseman who has been picking opposing teams’ defences apart.
While Japan will be the toughest test of their tournament so far, Australian head coach Robert Harrow said the team hasn’t taken anyone lightly.
“One thing we talked about before is it doesn’t matter what opposition we face, we’re ready to go,” he said.
“We’re trying to be at our peak when it comes to Thursday and Friday. Obviously, number one seed is on the spot and we’re going to have to show up and play quality ball against this club. We’re just looking for the challenge.”
Harrow said a key will be to put runs on the board early.
First Baseman Jett Wright agreed.
“(We have to) just keep working as a team and hopefully get the job done,
“We have to keep going at bats, our pitching is doing very well, pitching and catching. Just got to go in there with the same mindset as always.”
The teams face off for the top spot in Group A Thursday at 5:30 p.m. on Field 1. The loser will face off against Canada Friday in a playoff game at 8 p.m., also on field one.
India downs Denmark
As the weather improved, so did Team India’s prospects, as they faced off against winless Denmark in the 5:30 game Wednesday.
India rode a big fifth inning and a home run from pitcher Guarav Chaudhari in a 9-2 victory that belied how close the game was for the first few innings. The home run was India’s first of the tournament.
India jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, but Denmark fought back. The teams traded runs in the third and entered the fifth with just two runs separating the two sides.
Neither team could gain an edge until the fifth when a few fielding mistakes and Chaudhari’s home run cost Denmark a loss in their sixth, and final, round robin game.
With the win, India improves to 2-3, while Denmark finishes the round robin 6-0.
Denmark will have one more opportunity to put one in the win column, as they face off against the fifth-place finisher from Group B in the placement round. As of Wednesday, Guatemala sits in fifth in Group B.
Mexico and Argentina slug it out
Wednesday’s action ended with a slugfest between Mexico and Argentina, with the winner moving into sole possession of third place in Group A.
Teams traded home runs in the early going of the game, including a pair of back=-to-back jacks from Mexico. After three innings, each side had two home runs, and the score was tied at 4.
Argentina scored a pair in the fifth, setting up a dramatic bottom of the seventh.
Mexico got its leadoff runner on with a bloop single. Mexico attempted to steal second – while the throw beat the runner to the base, Argentina’s second baseman couldn’t apply the tag.
That put a runner in scoring position, a runner who scored on a looper just over the second baseman’s head.
Mexico advanced the runner to third on a passed ball, but Argentinian pitcher Jose Pepe struck out the next two hitters to end the game. Final score: Argentina 6, Mexico 5.
Full schedule for Thursday
Canada returns to action Thursday, taking on winless Hong Kong at 8 p.m. on field 1.
India vs. Argentina, 12:30 p.m. (field one)
Mexico vs South Africa, 3 p..m. (field one)
Guatemala vs. New Zealand, 5 p.m. (field 2)
Australia vs. Japan, 5:30 p.m. (field one)
United States vs. Czech Republic, 7:30 p.m. (field two)
Canada vs. Hong Kong, 8 p.m. (field one)