By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)
MARYVILLE, Tenn. – New Zealand scored in every inning and 17-year old Makauley Fox Rolfe dominated on the hill as the Diamondblacks ousted Thailand from the World Baseball Classic, 12-2. The win was easily the biggest in New Zealand’s baseball history.
The Kiwis got their offensive outburst started quickly, as Alan Schoenberger led things off with a single. After stealing second, he advanced on a ground out. With two down, Red Sox minor leaguer Boss Moanaroa laced a ball to center to drive in Schoenberger. New Zealand would load the bases with two outs before Thailand’s Nattapong Meeboonrod got his second strikeout of the inning.
Fox Rolfe dispatched Thailand in the bottom of the frame, giving up only a single to Johnny Damon. The Diamonblacks again jumped on Nattapong in the second. Moko Moanaroa started things off with a single, before the porous Thai defence had its first error of the contest to allow Max Brown to reach.
Schoenberger plated both runners on a line drive-double to left and scored on a single by the next batter, Daniel Lamb-Hunt. Lamb-Hunt, a European superstar for the Bonn Capitals, has had a rough Classic, going only 1-for-9, but there was no doubt about the hit to score what would turn out to be the winning run.
The Kiwis were not done, though, as the Kiwis would load the bases with one out in the inning and score a fourth run on a RBI single by Daniel Devonshire. Fox Rolfe would dispose of Thailand in the bottom half of the frame, using only 12 pitches on three batters, two of which went down swinging.
Schoenberger was at it again in the third, stroking a single after Brown reached on fielding error by the third baseman. New Zealand’s second baseman once more stole second, though he was stranded at third after a Scott Campbell sacrifice fly scored Brown.
Siraphop Nadee replaced Nattapong, but the Kiwis struck for another run on two walks and a sacrifice fly by Brown. Fox Rolfe quickly got two out in the latter half of the fourth, but the southpaw walked two batters before catching Jack Daru looking.
The fifth saw the Diamondblacks tally two more runs. For the fifth inning in-a-row, the leadoff man reached, and it was Schoenberger once again. After the second sacker reached on a base on balls, he advanced on another stolen base and scored on a Scott Campbell RBI single. Another error at the hot corner allowed Campbell to reach home. It was Thailand’s fifth error by a third baseman in their two games.
Thailand finally reached Fox Rolfe, who threw on 78 pitches in five innings. The damage once again came after two outs, as Adichat Wongvichit worked a free pass and stole second. Leadoff hitter Nathan Lorentz, who reach base twice in the game, laced a single to center to score the blue-and-red’s first run.
Schoenberger reached for the fifth time in-a-row in the sixth and, perhaps predictably, pilfered the second sack. Scott Campbell would drive him in with another run-scoring hit.
Christian Wise was next to toe the rubber for the Diamondblacks. Damon led off with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Joseph Daru, only a college freshman, plated the 18-year big league veteran with grounder up-the-middle as Damon hustled home. Wise continued to struggle and was replaced by Yong-Min Lee with runners at first and second and two out. Lee escaped the jam with pop fly for the third out.
The Kiwis, who by now had three bench players in the game, saw the moves pay off, as each singled in the frame. The latter, by Daniel Bradley, plated Regan Hoet. Lee stayed on the hill for three more outs, disposing of Damon for the third out.
Needing a single run to force the mercy rule, Boss Moanaroa stepped up the plate with one out in the eighth and blasted a ball over the right field fence for run number 12. It was the first four-bagger for any team in the tournament.
Wayde Bremner finished the contest for New Zealand, and induced three straight grounders to Scott Campbell. Campbell gobbled them up and the Kiwis had their first major tournament victory.
Fox Rolfe earned the biggest win of his young career with an impressive five innings of one-run ball. He walked three and allowed only two hits. The left-hander struck out five. Meeboonrod took the loss, giving up eight hits, two walks, and four earned runs in three frames, whiffing four.
Schoenberger had three of the Diamonblacks’ 14 safeties, scoring four times, and driving in two. Campbell and Moanaroa each had a brace of hits, with the former driving in three to lead the squad. All 12 New Zealand batters reached base at least once and seven different players crossed the plate.
Damon had a pair of one-base knocks for Thailand, with Lorentz and Joseph Daru, also Thai-American, had the only other hits for the blue-and-red. Thailand committed four more errors after seven miscues a day earlier. Catcher Jack Daru threw out 2-of-6 baserunners, though he could not stop the fleet-footed Schoenberger.
Thailand’s trip to Chinese Taipei is over after two games, but New Zealand will face the Philippines for the right to advance to the title game against the hosts. The Diamondblacks will take on the Filipino squad at 6 a.m. GMT on Saturday, Nov. 17.
All games are televised on www.worldbaseballclassic.com.