BROOKLYN, New York – Driven by a combination of great pitching and a barrage of hits, Great Britain advanced to the semifinal of the World Baseball Classic Brooklyn Qualifier with a mercy rule win over Pakistan. Team GB will face Brazil, who lost earlier to Israel, 1-0.
It took until the second inning for Great Britain to start scoring, but it would put a run on the scoreboard in every inning thereafter. Albert Cartwright got things started in the second, crushing a 3-1 fastball to the wall in dead centerfield for a leadoff triple. A Chris Berset sacrifice fly made it 1-0.
A frame later, Britain finally started to get to Pakistan starter Muhammad Zohaib, who otherwise had made only a single mistake on the pitch to Cartwright. Kyle Simmons and Champ Stuart opened the third with base on balls, and Jasrado Chisholm bounced a ball to the right side that Stuart carefully ran over, blocking the second baseman’s view and allowing Simmons to score. A double play erased Chisholm, but Stuart scored to make it 3-0.
After a single run in the fourth on a RBI-single from Chavez Young, Britain opened the floodgates in the fifth to put the game away. Chisholm started with a single and stole second. Jordan Serena worked a one-out walk, and a double steal left two runners in scoring position for Cartwright, who responded with a line drive to right that found its way past the rightfielder. The speedy second baseman took advantage and scampered to third with another triple, and later scored on another one-base knock from Young.
Britain would add on three more in the frame to make the score 10-0, and from that point it was only a matter of how quickly the hot-hitting Lions would finish the game.
The sixth saw three more runs cross the plate, with the big blow coming from pinch hitter Nateshon Thomas, who fought off nine pitches before blooping a ball down the left field line and racing to second for a RBI-double and giving Britain two runners on. Stuart would drive both home with a ball to the shortstop hole that he beat out for a single. Thomas hustled all the way home from second to give Stuart two RBI on the play.
After a final run scored in the ninth on an error, Britain sealed its place in the semifinal with the convincing victory. The club pounded out 13 hits and worked eight walks, both of which, along with the run total, are the highest totals of the qualifying tournament thus far.
“The atmosphere was awesome in the dugout during the game, but also well long beforehand,” remarked Britain’s skipper Liam Carroll. “We didn’t take this game for granted, but took it seriously.”
Chisholm topped the team with a 3-for-5 game, while Stuart continued his exhilarating play from day one. The centerfielder was 2-for-4 with a walk and three RBI. Cartwright and Young joined him with a pair of hits, while Cartwright crossed home three times.
“It’s a rush to wear the name of your country on your shirt and to look down and see that it says ‘Great Britain’,” noted Chisholm with a grin after the game. “There’s nothing like it in baseball.”
“Our vision includes qualifying for the World Baseball Classic and the Olympics, but it’s more than just performance,” added Carroll. “We want to inspire children back home to play, and with the way our layers have adopted the ‘GB Way’ and how we’ve played, people are talking about us on social media and there is a buzz about British baseball.”
“Baseball in the Bahamas is really growing, and kids are starting to love it more and really wanting to play it, not just because their parents want them to play a sport. Playing like this [raises the profile]” noted Chisholm. “In the past few years as [teammate] Antoan Richardson made the big leagues and Albert Cartwright has advanced to Double-A, people have started to become much more excited about baseball.”
Lost in the impressive performance was the pitching of Greg Hendrix, who was lights out through four innings. The veteran of Britain’s squad gave up only a single hit in the start, striking out three. The win would go to Paul Kirkpatrick (1-0), one of three relievers after Hendrix. Each tossed a scoreless frame to preserve the shutout. British pitching faced only one batter over the minimum.
Zohaib (0-1) took the loss, but flashed a nice breaking ball in hurling 3 2/3 innings. The southpaw surrendered four runs on five hits and three walks, striking out three. Aswar Ahmad and Muhammad Asif finished off the game for the Green-and-White.
“I was playing my first international match in any country,” said Zohaib, as his manager interpreted. “I learned a lot and will be more confident next time.”
“Pakistan is in pretty good shape [in their development],” observed Carroll. “They are raw, but they have some tools to build on. They’re quick, they’ve got a couple guys who can throw hard, and they have a lot of athleticism. Their shortstop made a great throw early, and they just need more game time.”
“There is a large Pakistani population in Great Britain, and we talked about growing that relationship in baseball,” continued Carroll. “We’ll be developing our contact with their federation as they grow.”
Pakistan’s charismatic manager, Syed Fakhar Ali Shah, agreed. “Now we can see what the difference is between professional players and us. All of the team know about the major leagues, but not they have seen them play, but have also been on the stage themselves.”
Great Britain (1-1) will face Brazil (1-1) later today, with a midnight GMT first pitch that can be watched at www.worldbaseballclassic.com. The winner will face Israel on Sunday for the final place at the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Follow Mister-Baseball.com’s live reporting from Gabriel Fidler on Twitter @extrainnings_bb for exclusive updates, statistics, and interviews.
This post first appeared on www.mister-baseball.com.