The first pool to begin was always going to be the first to wrap up, but it took only four of the six scheduled games (and a potential tie-breaker) to learn which teams would advance. In an upset about as big as they could possibly come in this WBC, 2016 qualifier team Israel beat Korea in game one 2-1 in extra innings. On the pitching side, both starter Jason Marquis, and reliever Josh Zeid, pitched three scoreless innings with both pitchers staying under the 50 pitch limit that would allow them to play again during round one. No pitcher is allowed to throw two days in a row, however, so team Israel won game two against Chinese Taipei without their top hurlers.
This time, Corey Baker went 4.2 innings, allowing just three hits while walking none and striking out three, but it would be the bats that brought Israel to the second round. First baseman Nate Freiman went 3 for 6 with four RBI and three runs scored while number eight hitter, Tyler Krieger, went 3 for 5 with three RBI. It was largely his success with the bases loaded that lead to Israel’s success as his RBI walk against Korea allowed that game to reach extra innings and twice against Chinese Taipei he came through with the bases juiced.
After the four run first, it was a home run by Ryan Lavarnway in the third that put Israel up 6-0, although a late run by CT would make Israel’s five run seventh to put things away. While the upset of Korea was huge, this was more to be expected. Chinese Taipei went 1-4 in their first two classics, then had surprise success when a 2-1 start in 2013 allowed them to reach the second round, where they went 1-2.
Of course, it takes two teams going 2-0 and the other two going 0-2 to wrap things up before the final games. The Netherlands were easily the top seed in Pool A and they quickly dealt with team Korea, winning 5-0 in their first pool game. The Netherlands success started early, going up 2-0 in the first and Rick van den Hurk pitching four shut out innings, allowing just three base runners. Unlike the other teams in the pool, the Netherlands line-up is stacked with stars and the top of the lineup, Andrealton Simmons and Jurickson Profar played as expected.
In the second game for the Netherlands both Simmons and Profar played fine, but it was Wladimir Balentien and Didi Gregorious (one of the best defensive short stops in baseball playing DH to make room for Simmons) who combined for seven hits, 3 RBI and 3 runs scored. Here again the Chinese Taipei offense came to life, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Netherlands.
The win by the Netherlands officially eliminated Taipei and they had already eliminated Korea, clinching second round advances for Israel and the Netherlands. The two teams finally met on Wednesday night (or Thursday afternoon depending on your location) to decide who would be the top seed heading into round two.
Again, Israel’s offense got on the board first, scoring three in the first behind Jason Marquis, who pitched only one inning. Ike Davis and Nate Frieman were big in the scoring again with Ryan Lavernway knocking in the third run of the inning. Israel would end up winning 4-2 as they secured the top seed.