The 2023 World Baseball Classic is now three days in, and one of the biggest storylines has been the success of the teams from Europe. In the tournament to date, the Netherlands are in first place in Pool A with a perfect record of two wins and zero losses, Italy has upset Cuba 6-3 in 10 innings, and on Friday, the Czech Republic proved they belong in the 20-team tournament, as they won their first ever game at the World Baseball Classic by beating China 8-5.
The Netherlands are a nation with a rich baseball history. They have won 24 of the 36 European Baseball Championships. The first time I ever saw the Netherlands in international competition in person, they clobbered Great Britain 27-0 at the 2001 European Baseball Championships in Bonn, Germany.
So, the fact that the Netherlands have been competitive against the Central American countries of Cuba and Panama should be zero surprise. In the Netherlands’s 4-2 win over Cuba in Taiwan on Wednesday, Atlanta Braves top catching prospect Chadwick Tromp had a key two-run RBI single, which scored Luis Robert Jr. and Jonathan Schoop. In the Netherlands’s 3-1 win over Panama on Thursday, the Dutch hero was San Diego Padres All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who had three hits including a third inning home run.
Like the Netherlands, Italy had success against the baseball superpower of Cuba to open the tournament. At Taichung Stadium on Wednesday, the Italians came through with a 6-3 win in 10 innings. Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Miles Mastrobuoni hit two doubles from the ninth spot in the batting order, and Kansas City Royals shortstop Nicky Lopez had a big two-run RBI single in the top of the 10th inning.
The Czech Republic won the first ever game they played in the history of the tournament on Friday. At the Tokyo Dome from Japan, Czech Republic came away with an impressive 8-5 win over China. Martin Muzik was the Czech hero as he hit a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning. A the time, Czech Republic was trailing China 5-4.