BOKSBURG, South Africa – South Africa drilled France for the second consecutive day in their friendly series, riding a 9-0 lead to a 14-8 victory at the Gauteng Ballpark. Robert Lewis Walker gave the hosts an excellent pitching performance, but the sides combined for five home runs before the day was finished.
South Africa, batting first in the game, set the tone once more with a good start. Rowan Ebersohn hit his second home run in as many games, with the round-tripper scoring Kyle Botha, who had earned a walk with one out. The hosts actually had a chance to put up a crooked number in the frame after Benjamin Smith lined a triple to right and Keegan Swanepoel walked, but the Cubs’ Donato Auguste got France out of the jam with a bouncer back to the mound.
Walker got off to a great start in the bottom of the frame, sending down the first two batters swinging before getting a flyout for South Africa’s first 1-2-3 of the series. A walk turned into an unearned run in the second and Walker held the 3-0 lead in the second with ease.
Auguste finally had a scoreless inning in the third despite a pair of hits, and Walker once more went three-up, three-down to finish inning No. 3.
Esteban Prioul, who was excellent in the third, was battered an inning later as South Africa broke the game wide open. Jonathan Phillips singled to start the frame, moving to second on an error and a walk and an infield hit loaded the bases. Swanepoel beat out an infield single to shortstop to score one before back-to-back free passes made it 6-0.
An error with one out added another run before Kyle Botha stroked a single to centre that plated Brandon Bouillon, but Charl Cordier was caught off the bag for out number two. Prioul induced a bouncer in front of the plate to end the inning, but the damage had been done.
Walker’s no-hitter was finally broken up with one out in the fourth as Andy Paz went yard, but France could not break throw to score again in the frame.
South Africa then put up another big inning, with Bouillon ripping a double to left to score one. A Kyron Bibis single pushed the score to 11-1, but the host nation plated another pair in the frame on a series of miscues by France.
The sides swapped zeroes in the next two half-innings before France mounted a comeback in the sixth. Walker came out of the game after having tossed a mere 62 pitches, with Head Coach Neil Adonis aiming to get his pitching staff some work. France took advantage immediately, however.
Maxime Lefevre doubled to centre to start the frame, scoring a batter later on a one-base hit by Paz. Leonel Céspedes ripped a triple to the left field wall to score Paz and came home on a wild pitch. With one out, France capitalised on another mistake, as Frédéric Hanvi took first after being plunked.
Bastien Dagneau immediately sent him home on a first pitch longball to right. José Paula added a four-bagger of his own after a strikeout and, in a matter of minutes, France had narrowed the score to 13-7.
Both sides, however, quickly went cold as the bullpens got to work. Neither side scored in the seventh, while South Africa added only one run after an error and two walks in the eighth. Ebersohn had the only hit in the frame, roping a double.
After France sent only three batters to the box in bottom of the eighth, South Africa left three on base in the ninth and the ballgame was in Kevin Townend’s hands. Felix Brown had other ideas and led off the final inning with a blast over the wall in centre, the second time in two days he had homered with the bases empty.
Hoping to prevent any further damage, Adonis went to the pen again and came up with Timothy Lee. Lee battled Lefevre for eight pitches to start, losing him at 0-2 and giving up the free pass. Ariel Soriano followed with a single before Céspedes blooped a ball to left, but Lee escaped the jam with a little help from his fielders. Ebersohn fielded the dinky hit and threw a perfect strike to Phillips at third to nail Lefevre. A final groundball secured South Africa’s second win in as many tried against the French side.
Walker (1-0) earned the win with an impressive line: five innings, two hits, two walks, one run, and five strikeouts. Jayde Thorpe was blasted in an a third of a frame, but Townend (2 2/3) and Lee finished off the win.
Auguste (0-1) surrendered two runs in the opening two frames before Prioul was ripped for eight runs on eight hits and four walks in 2 1/3 innings. Clifford Heberden, Franklín de la Rosa, and Céspedes did not allowed an earned run in the final 4 2/3, scattering five hits and four walks. The first two each struck out a pair as South Africa went down on strikes nine times, with an equal total for France.
Ebersohn had an incredible day for the victors, going 3-for-4 with seven total bases, two walks, and four RBI, reaching base six times and coming up huge in the ninth on defence. Smith also had three hits, while Phillips, Bouillon, and Bibis all had a hitting brace. Paz and Céspedes were the only French players with multiple hits.
After a day off, the series will resume at Durban at Hoy Park. Game time is 2:30 p.m. local time.
A big ‘thank you’ to South Africa’s scorekeeper, Augusta ‘Gussie’ Phillips, for the box scores and statistics. All pictures copyright Extra Innings.