Great Britain routs France, will face Germany next

The Regensburg Qualifier in Germany at Armin-Wolf-Arena is underway, and only two will earn a chance to play in the World Baseball Classic tournament beginning this March.

The six nations in the Pool A Qualifier are Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Great Britain and South Africa.

All qualifying games will be available to fans around the world on the World Baseball Classic YouTube and Facebook pages, as well as at WorldBaseballClassic.com and on MLB.TV. (Note: Times are ET and subject to change.)

Friday, Sept. 16
Game 1: Spain 5, South Africa 4

We are in for quite an entertaining World Baseball Classic if the first game of the qualifying round was any sign of what’s to come. The 2023 WBC officially got underway Friday as Spain defeated South Africa, 5-4, at Armin-Wolf-Arena in Regensburg, Germany.

Justin Connell, a 23-year-old outfielder in the Nationals’ system, led Spain’s offense by going 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs. He opened the scoring when he got a fastball from South Africa right-hander Justin Erasmus and ripped it far beyond the left-field wall to lead off the bottom of the fourth. He added an RBI double in the seventh.

South Africa, the lowest-ranked club to take part in the Regensburg Qualifier, erased a 2-0 deficit in the top of the seventh thanks to an RBI groundout from second baseman Victor Ngoepe and a run-scoring single by third baseman Jonathan Phillips. But Spain immediately responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame.

That rally started with a one-out walk from shortstop Noelvi Marte, the No. 18 prospect in MLB, who came around to score the go-ahead run on Jesus Ustariz’s triple. Designated hitter Chris Kwitzer followed with a double to the opposite field, setting the stage for Connell’s third hit of the day.

Former Astros and Blue Jays reliever Rhiner Cruz bent, but he didn’t break in the ninth inning. After allowing a two-run double to Tyler Smith, Cruz notched the save by retiring the next two batters on an infield popout and a strikeout.

Spain will continue its run through the six-team Regensburg Qualifier when it faces the Czech Republic on Saturday at 7 a.m. ET. Meanwhile, South Africa will be competing for its tournament life in the double-elimination tourney on Sunday at 1 p.m. against either Great Britain, France or Germany, depending upon the other results on Friday and Saturday.

Game 2: Great Britain 14, France 4

In a matchup of two teams looking to qualify for the World Baseball Classic for the first time, France got on the board first on Ivan Acuna’s solo homer in the bottom of the second, but Harry Ford — the Mariners’ No. 1 prospect — answered with a two-run blast in the top of the third, and Great Britain never looked back. 

Britain scored in each of the final six frames en route to a 14-4 victory that was called after eight innings. Every Great Britain starter reached base at least once, and all but one had at least one hit. Ford, a 19-year-old catcher who went 12th overall in the 2021 MLB Draft, set the tone out of the leadoff spot, going 2-for-3 with three walks, a double and his go-ahead homer.

Great Britain advances to play host Germany on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

Saturday, Sept. 17
Game 3: Spain vs. Czech Republic, 7 a.m.
Game 4: Great Britain vs. Germany, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 18
Game 5: France vs. Loser Game 3, 7 a.m.
Game 6: South Africa vs. Loser Game 4, 1 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 20
Game 7: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 7 a.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 1 p.m.