By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)
MARYVILLE, Tenn. – Brazil’s hurlers struck out 10 and the blue-and-gold scored in their last five times at bat, outlasting Colómbia, 7-1. The shocking victory sent Brazil to the championship game on Monday, while Colómbia will have to battle back through the loser’s bracket.
Neither side scored through the first three frames, despite Colómbia losing their starter, Marwin Vega, to an injury after only one batter. His replacement, Iván Julio, turned in 2 2/3 scoreless innings to match Brazil’s Oscar Nakaoshi. Nakaoshi, a collegiate pitcher, scattered five hits and two walks through four frames, whiffing four.
Colómbia had its chances during the opening innings. They loaded the bases against Nakaoshi in the first and had two runners on with one out in the second, but the southpaw escaped each time.
After Julio gave way to Cristián Mendoza, Brazil finally threatened. Reinaldo Sato got things started with a single to left and moved up a base on a balk. Mendoza then got two outs, but Felipe Burin plated a run with a line drive single to right. Mendoza notched a strikeout for the third out.
Carlos Yoshimura came in to pitch for Brazil, and Colómbia continued to put runners on base. Édgar Rentería reached on a one-base hit to left and moved to second on a grounder. Jolbert Cabrera laced a single to right to tie up the game and Luís Martínez reached on a single to center.
Yoshimura buckled down and got out of the inning on a dribbler to the mound that he fielded and whipped to shortstop Pedro Okuda. Okuda finished the double play with a thrown to first.
Mendoza appeared to have settled down for Colómbia, getting two easy outs to begin the fifth, but once more ran in to trouble. Leonardo Reginatto doubled and crossed home on a single by Yan Gomes. A grounder ended the inning, but Brazil’s bullpen would make the lead stand up.
Barry Larkin brought in another collegiate hurler, California State University-Los Angeles’ Gabriel Asakura. Asakura settled in like a veteran against the much more experienced Colombian lineup in the top of the sixth. Asakura set down the yellow, blue, and red in order for the first time in the game and Brazil would tack on another run in the bottom of the frame.
Daniel Matsumoto and J.C. Múñiz walked to lead off the inning and Burin bunted them over a base. Brazilian veteran Tiago Magalhães hit a sacrifice fly to score Matsumoto and Larkin’s men were up 3-1.
Asakura gave up two hits in the top of the seventh, but once more, Colómbia failed to score as Brazil’s hurler struck out the side, including major leaguers Rentería and Martínez.
After Asakura’s clutch pitching, the blue-and-gold would put the game out-of-reach. Paulo Orlando was hit by a pitch to start the frame, and Reginatto bunted him over. Gomes, Brazil’s first-ever major leaguer, was intentionally walked, but Sato ripped a single to center to score Orlando.
Múñiz ripped a pitch off of Colombian third baseman Giovanny Urshela’s glove and before the ball could be retrieved, Gomes scored and Múñiz had a double. Matsumoto, who had moved to third, crossed the plate on a wild pitch. A ground out by Burin would end the threat, but Brazil’s pen would continue to post zeroes.
It was three up, three down in the top of the eighth, though Asakura exited after the second out to keep his pitch count low enough to preserve him for the title game. Rafael Moreno would join Asakura with a strikeout in the frame.
Magalhães ripped his second two-bagger of the Classic to start the eighth and, with two outs, Reginatto bounced over second that would score Magalhães with the final run.
Moreno ran in the game, but Colómbia did not go down without a fight. With one out, pinch hitter Ismáel Castro blooped a single through the left side of the infield. Dilson Herrera batted for Rentería and the move worked, as Herrera ripped a safety to center. Dónovan Solano walked to load the bases, and Larkin brought in Daniel Missaki.
Once more, Larkin called on the right pitcher as Missaki, only 16 years old, needed only five pitches to dispose of the final two batters and preserve the surprising win.
Yoshimura was credited the win despite giving up the only run of the game. Asakura earned a hold after an impressive 2 2/3 frames during which he gave up only one hit and whiffed five. Moreno and Missaki each retired two batters.
Reginatto had three hits to lead the blue-and-gold, while Sato and Múñiz each had a brace. Múñiz had two doubles, a walk, and a stolen base. Six different batters had a RBI.
Colómbia had 11 hits as a team, including three by Solano, but left eight runners on base. Solano had a double and a walk. Seven pitchers toed the rubber for the yellow, blue, and red. Julio was the most successful, while his replacement, Mendoza, took the loss.
The losers will take on Panamá for the right to face Brazil for the winner-takes-all championship game on Monday, Nov. 19. Colómbia will attempt to upset the hosts on Monday at 12:05 a.m. GMT in Rod Carew Stadium.
Stay tuned to www.worldbaseballclassic.com for live video feed of all games.