Italy put together one of the most impressive displays in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and used three big innings to shock the baseball world with a 14-4 massacre of Canada. One of the biggest underdogs in the tournament, Italy is now 2-0 in Pool D and has qualified for round two in Miami. Canada will have to defeat the US to join Italy.
Italy scored in the first inning and never trailed in the game, pounding out 17 hits, the most by any team in the tournament so far. Five of the blows went for extra bases, and Italian pitching did enough to ensure that Canada could not mount a comeback.
The Azurri set to work quickly against Canadian starter Shawn Hill, who pitched well in the WBC qualifying round. Leadoff hitter Nick Punto singled went to second on a wild pitch and third on a ground ball, scoring on a grounder by Anthony Rizzo.
Hill got out of the jam, and it was up to native Italian Alex Maestri, who pitches for the Orix Buffaloes in Japan, to preserve the lead. The right-hander looked good in the first inning, but ran in to trouble in the second.
Michael Saunders led off with a two-base hit, but Maestri got the next two hitters and almost escaped the jam. Pete Orr, the No. 8 hitter, tied the game up with a double to right, but it would be the last time that Canada was even.
Italy did not score in the second, and Maestri had a strong third. The Italian induced two grounders and then struck out Joey Votto looking. Maestri mixed a low-80s/high-120s slider with a curveball and a changeup, hitting the low-90s/mid-140s with his fastball.
Maestri’s teammates delivered him the win in the bottom of the frame. Anthony Granato singled to start the inning, stealing second base with no outs. Hill walked Punto and then erased him on a double play that moved Granato to third. That was all for Canada’s starter, and Scott Mathieson entered needing only one out to keep the game tied.
Mathieson promptly walked Rizzo and Alexi Liddi followed with a blooper to left to give Italy the lead for good. Chris Colabello put an exclamation point on the two-out rally, blasting a three-run home to center field for the 5-1 lead. Mike Constanzo had a double before Mathieson finally got out of the inning.
Maestri started the fourth, but after giving up a hit to Justin Morneau, Chris Cooper came on for Italy. Cooper and Mathieson both posted zeroes in the fourth to keep the score at 5-1.
Taylor Green had a two-out double against Cooper in the fifth, but the southpaw struck out Votto to end the threat. Italy loaded the bases on two walks and a Colabello hit in the bottom of the frame, and Mario Chiarini drove across a run with a sacrifice fly.
The vaunted Canadian offence finally scratched out another run in the sixth, but the single run only reduced the deficit to four. After holding Italy scoreless, Canada mounted a rally in the seventh to make the game interesting.
The red-and-white jammed the sacks on a Cale Iorg single, a walk by Votto, and a hit batter of Morneau. With two outs, it was Saunders who delivered, driving home two on a one-base blow. Canada would pull Dan Serafini, who had started the inning, and new pitcher Brian Sweeney struck out pinch hitter Tim Smith, who had looked very impressive in the qualifier.
The Azurri got the runs back in the bottom of the inning on another two-out rally. Colabello singled and Mike Costanzo walked to put two runners on, and Chiarini dropped a base hit into left field to plate Colabello. Drew Butera then added Italy’s eighth and ninth runs on a double.
After Pat Venditte faced only three batters in the top of the eighth, Italy continued to batter Canadian pitching. Punto stroked his second two-base hit of the WBC and scored when Denorfia struck a single. Italy then jammed the bases on a base on balls to Rizzo and a safety by Liddi. Colabello continued his night to remember with a RBI-single.
Costanzo stroked a ground-rule double down the left field line to send home Rizzo and Liddi. There were still no outs in the inning when Chiarini rapped a single to centre to make the score 14-4. The game ended immediately via the mercy rule, which states that after the seventh inning, if a team is ahead by 10 runs or more the game will end automatically.
Italy is now one win away from winning the group and taking the number one seed to the second round. They were led by Colabello’s career day. The first baseman had four hits and four RBIs, scoring three times. Six other players had two hits. Costanzo had two doubles for a brace, walking twice and driving in two. Chiarini had three RBI and a pair of safeties. The team hit an incredible .486, dialling it up to .563 with runners in scoring position.
Saunders was the only Canadian to have two hits for a team that amassed seven and walked four times. Six pitchers toed the rubber for the losers, with Dustin Molleken the only hurler to avoid a blemish. He pitched the fifth and sixth innings. Maestri earned the victory and Sweeney a hold for Italy.
Stay tuned for coverage of the rest of the World Baseball Classic.