Chief Correspondent, Matt Tallarini

October 3, 2022

On the brink of elimination, Argentina looks to bounce back from the night before against Panama in an 11-0 mercy rule loss. Argentina will call upon starting pitcher Federico Robles to stop the pesky New Zealand offense. New Zealand’s starting pitcher Ryan Sanders got the call to start in a do or die situation for the ball club as they took a loss from their first game against a mighty Brazil team during the first day of the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers. 

During the first inning Federico kept his composure as he recorded his first strike out of the game against leadoff hitter SS Jason Matthews who has been having quality at bats during the qualifiers.  The next batter 2B Nikau Pouaka-Grego singled to center which remained the only hit allowed by Federico Robles as he retired the next two batters of the inning with no harm done.  New Zealand would not score until the 6th inning.  Leaving runners on the base paths during the third inning without having a run score. In the top of the sixth inning 3B Chayton Krauss came up to the plate looking to do damage as he drove the first pitch over the right center field wall to capture a 1-0 lead for New Zealand.  In the bottom of the sixth, Argentina had their backs against the wall.  Shortstop Agustin Tissera was due up for The Gauchos ball club to lead off the top of the sixth inning.  Agustin was hit by pitch on a 2-1 count than ended up attempting to steal second base until he was cut down by catcher Beau Te Wera Bishop. The score was still 1-0 New Zealand until the bottom of seventh inning.  Could this be the inning Argentina could get on the board?

First batter of the seventh was catcher Lucas Nakandakare as he worked a 3-1 walk to lead off the inning.  Next batter was PH Jose Gerez who replaced starting right fielder Matias Robles.  Jose Gerez ended up walking on a full count to draw a first and second on base scenario with no outs.  3B Andres Kim was up looking to square a sacrifice bunt and move the runners over to second and third.  Andres squared the bat head on an 0-1 count to place the bunt and got hit by the pitch in his helmet questioning the umpire crew if he went around as an attempt for a strike instead of being awarded  first base.  The umpire crew huddled and discussed the call to award Andres Kim first base.  Ryota Okumoto would come into to pitch for New Zealand in the middle of the seventh inning to take over for relief pitcher Ellot Johnstone who pitched an inning and a third, allowed 3 earned runs to cross, and give up three walks during his appearance. 

Leftfielder for Argentina Lucas Stalman stepped to the plate looking to put the ball club on the board for the first time.  Lucas placed a single that dropped in for a base hit which allowed Lucas Nakandakare to score to tie the game at 1 apiece and moving the runners station to station.  Still bases loaded and no outs CF Sebastian Garcia draws a hit by pitch on a 3-0 count to score the go ahead run for Argentina as Jose Gerez comes across for a 2-1 lead over New Zealand.  The damage would not be done yet during the bottom half of the seventh inning as relief pitcher for New Zealand Connor Gleeson enters the game to replace Ryota Okumoto.  In the middle of Agustin Tissera’s at bat Connor throws a wild pitch and Andres Kim comes around to score to add more insurance for the Argentina ball club as they took a 3-1 lead.  A few batters later DH Eduardo Zurbriggen drew a full count walk with the bases loaded to cushion Argentina for a three run lead to make it 4-1 in the seventh inning as Lucas Stalman came in to score.  Argentina would not look back the rest of the way as they called upon relief pitcher Jose Mendoza to get the final six outs of the game to put a hold on New Zealand’s offense. 

First hitter of the top half of the eighth was 1B Daniel Lamb-Hunt who drove a ball to left field. As he was rounding first heading to second LF Lucas Stallman picked up the ball and fired a strike to second to cut down Daniel as the first out of inning.  Jose would not look to falter and close out the game.  No harm was done in the eighth as Jose entered the ninth inning for Argentina in his second inning of relief.  Argentina was just three outs away from setting a date with top seed Nicaragua for a Tuesday showdown to decide an extra play in game for Wednesday between the loser of Brazil-Panama and to have their ticket punched for their first ever World Baseball Classic.  Joe Mendoza retired the side in the ninth 1-2-3 as he got Andrew Marck to ground out to first base to finish the job for Argentina setting a date against Nicaragua on Tuesday.  Federico Robles finished a spectacular pitching performance going seven full innings giving up four hits, one earned run, no walks, and six strikeouts to prevail a come from behind victory against New Zealand making Argentina one of the final four teams in the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers.