FIRST DAY OF THE FINAL POOL WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC QUALIFIERS, BRAZIL AND NEW ZEALAND SQUARE OFF IN PANAMA CITY

— Chief Correspondent, Matt Tallarini

The last time Brazil was in the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers was during the 2016-2017 international circuit. The Qualifiers were held at MCU Park in Brooklyn, NY now home of the New York Mets High A Affiliate the Brooklyn Cyclones. Brazil had the Bichette brothers Dante Jr and Bo Bitchette. Their father Dante Bichette Sr. was a great power hitter during his career with multiple teams and record setting years with the Colorado Rockies in the mid-90’s. Brazil did not end up qualifying for the 2017 World Baseball Classic after losing two games in the qualifiers. They had former MLB players as coaches with Barry Larkin as manager, LaTroy Hawkins, and Steve Finley on the staff. Brazil’s first appearance in the World Baseball Classic was in 2013 in Pool A. Brazil qualified for the main tournament by beating Panama on their home soil 1-0 during the third ever World Baseball Classic. This was the first time ever that the qualifying events took place under new structure supervised by the World Baseball Softball Confederation ranking system. Despite Brazil losing all three games in their first appearance in the World Baseball Classic what lied ahead for Brazil in the international landscape has been truly bright. Brazilian players and Brazilian American players were playing in the Independent-Pro leagues not just in the United States but in Japan as well. 2013 was a great success bridge for Brazil. Barry Larkin who coached the first two World Baseball Classics for Brazil set the stage for the future. Catcher Major Leaguer Brazilian-American star Yan Gomes helped Brazil in the 2012-2013 World Baseball Qualifiers is still an active Major League player. This is New Zealand’s third appearance in the qualifiers for the World Baseball Classic and looking for their first berth to the classic in their nation’s history.


The first game of the double elimination World Baseball Classic 2022 qualifiers between Brazil and New Zealand went into a heavy battle of pitching cat and mouse scenarios along with certain innings of tack on baseball from a few defensive miscues. Pitcher Ben Thompson got the nod to start Game 1 of the Qualifiers for New Zealand while Gabriel Barbosa took the ball for Brazil. During the bottom of the first inning Brazil CF Gabriel Maciel ledoff the inning with a double to right center field. The next at bat SS Vitor Ito grounds out to 2B Nikau Pouaka-Grego advancing Maciel to third base. During LF Tim Lopes at bat Ben Thompson threw a wild pitch over starting catcher Beu Te Wera Bishop that allowed Maciel to score the first run of the ball game for Brazil. In the same at bat Tim Lopes hits a single past second basemen Nikau Pouaka-Grego. The next at bat 3B Leonardo Reginatto hit a line drive double past CF Max Brown putting runners on second and third and one out. First basemen Christian Lopes steps to the plate and hit a check swing ground ball on the right side of the infield off Ben Thompson’s glove scoring Leonardo Reginatto making it a 2-0 lead for Brazil. With two outs to begin the top of the second DH Andrew Marck drew a walk for New Zealand. Then a ground rule double by C Beu Te Wera Bishop advanced Marck to third base. In the middle of 1B Daniel Lamb-Hunt’s at bat starting catcher for Brazil Daniel Molinari had to leave the game with a concussion protocol risk due to a foul ball hitting his catcher’s mask. In the next at bat Max Brown drove a 3 run double down the left field line which eventually led him to being cut down for the third out at third base by second string catcher Marcio Kikuchi as the Brazil lead was shortened by one run to 4-3. Later in the bottom of the fourth with one out Vitor Ito was hit by a pitch and Tim Lopes dug in with eyes on gaining more insurance runs for Brazil. Lopes sat back on the pitch and drove a home run over the left field wall to make it a 6-3 Brazil lead. During the bottom of the seventh inning Tim Lopes led off with a walk then Leonardo Reginatto doubled to center field and Tim Lopes advanced to third base. In stepped Christian Lopes to drive a single to right field that scored Tim Lopes to make it a 7-3 game for Brazil.


Brazil would not look back on certain miscues from the New Zealand defense and pitching staff as they took apart their bullpen for a six run seventh inning. New Zealand would inch a few runs closer with a lead-off single from Max Brown followed by a lead-off double by SS Jason Matthews. Third basemen Chayton Krauss stepped to the plate and drove a two run double to center field to cut the Brazil lead to 12-5. Next at bat Nikau Pouka-Grego drove a home run off the right field foul pole to add a few runs. Brazil with the score 12-7 entered the ninth inning. Relief Pitcher Igor Kimura in his second inning of relief shut the door on New Zealand after giving up a single to Connar O’Gorman he struck out Daniel Lamb-Hunt and Max Brown. With two outs SS Duncan Izaak walked which led to Chayton Krauss grounding out to 2B Lucas Rojo as he flips it to shortstop Vitor Ito at second base for the 12-7 win in Brazil’s first qualifier game of the 2022 World Baseball Classic. Manager Steve Finley is leading a great group of caliber talent and they are riding high into tomorrow’s action against the second seed Nicaragua ball club slated for 1 PM EST first pitch.


A few weeks back the global baseball spectrum was captivated with the Czech Republic and Great Britain capturing a berth to the World Baseball Classic in March of 2023. The Czech Republic and Great Britain will be in the first two groups of pool play in the World Baseball Classic.


Due to the pandemic it has been six years since the last World Baseball Classic Qualifiers and main tournament have happened.