Mexico and Argentina keep title hopes alive

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Iram Torres races over to celebrate with teammate Daniel Sanchez after his diving catch gave Mexico a 4-2 win over the Czech Republic Friday.

With their backs against the wall to start off the playoff round Friday, Argentina and Mexico withstood the pressure on Rotary Field.

In the first two elimination games at the 2018 WBSC Junior Men’s World Softball Championship, Mexico stayed in the tournament with a 4-2 win over the Czech Republic and Argentina’s pursuit of a gold medal continued after a 9-2 triumph over the United States.

“Our team has been working for a whole year to get ready for this event,” Mexico coach Oscar Cordova said through a translator. “We have a young group of kids here and we are going to fight right until the end to try and win the championship.”

“After we lost our first two games in the round-robin, I told the guys that we have nine more games left in this tournament and we’re going to treat each one of them like it’s a final,” Argentina coach Andres Gamarchi said. “We’re trying to enjoy the moment and so far that’s been working for us.”

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald
Argentina’s Juan Jose Pepe struck out eight American batters Friday to keep his team’s playoff hopes alive at the 2018 WBSC Junior Men’s Softball World Championship.

Argentina rattled off their fifth straight win in a six inning affair, as they scored five runs to jump out to a 6-0 lead in the second frame and followed that up with three more runs in the top of the sixth.

“Our style of play is very offensively minded,” Gamarchi said. “We’re always looking for that big hit no matter what the strike count is.

“As we go forward in this tournament, we’re feeling happy about how we are doing as we’re back to playing our style of game.”

Centre fielder Lautaro Machuca led the way for Argentina on offence with a pair of hits and three runs batted in.

Mexico’s triumph came in dramatic fashion as left fielder Daniel Sanchez made a diving catch on Czech Republic batter Jiri Seda, who represented the tying run.

“Our defence has been good all week long and it was great to see him be in the right place at the right time to make that catch,” Cordova said.

“I think the difference for us today was our pitching. Felix (Herrera) pitched all seven innings for us and he did exactly what we needed him to do.”

Herrera allowed two runs on four hits and had a pair of strikeouts in his complete game performance, while shortstop Jorge Lopez had two hits in the win.

Mexico will now gear up for another elimination contest Saturday against the loser of Friday’s playoff game between Japan and New Zealand, while Argentina will face the loser of a Friday night matchup between Australia and Canada.

“I think both of us will be coming in on a high note compared to the teams who are coming off losses, so that might help in that round of games,” Gamarchi said.

“Every game’s a new story though and you never know what’s going to happen.”

After winning the tournament in 2012 and 2014, Argentina finished in fourth place two years ago in Midland, Mich.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s best result came at the very first tournament in Edmonton in 1981 as they earned a bronze medal.