Bichette Drafted No. 1 for Don’t Blink Home Derby

Excitement continues to build for the second annual Don’t Blink Home Run Derby in Paradise, for which we had an exclusive preview last week [link]. A new feature of this year’s edition premiered today as best friends and rival team captains Todd Isaacs and Lucius Fox faced off for a player draft in setting their team rosters. The squads feature a big leaguer, Lewis Brinson, plus three Top 100 prospects, but it was 2018 Derby Champion Bo Bichette that was the No. 1 overall pick by Team Fox.

Bichette won the first home run derby with 23 home runs, including nine in the championship round, taking his swings against his father, long-time Colorado Rockies star Dante Bichette, Sr. When we first saw Bichette, he was an 18-year old playing for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers in Brooklyn, where his side was upset by Isaacs’ Great Britain, which also featured derby participants Jazz Chisholm, Chavez Young, and Reshard Munroe, plus fellow Bahamian Champ Stuart, who will be unable to attend.

Since then, Bichette has rapidly shot up the prospect charts after a massive 2017 that saw him slash .362/.423/.565 with 22 stolen bases in the Midwest and Florida State Leagues. Challenged with an assignment to Double-A New Hampshire this year, the 20-year old held his own against competition that was more than four years older than him on average. Bichette hit .286/.343/.453 with 32 swipes on a loaded team that included Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Cavan Biggio.

“The reigning champion is going to be here to defend his crown and I have great confidence in him,” explained Fox. “I feel very confident making him the first pick of this draft.”

Isaacs went outside the box for his team’s No. 1 draft pick, selecting teammate Will Benson. The towering outfielder is Cleveland’s No. 25 prospect ( after ripping 22 home runs for Lake County. The 20-year old already has 38 dingers in his young career thanks to his 6-5 (1.96m), 225 (102kg) frame.

“This guy is a guy that I believe will put us over the edge,” noted Isaacs. “[Benson] hit 22 home runs this year so he will be out there to put on a show.”

The second round saw a pair of brothers pitted against each other, with Fox taking teammate Josh Lowe and Isaacs answering with Nathaniel Lowe. The former is a 20-year old centerfielder who played with Fox on the Charlotte Stone Crabs, hitting .238 with six home runs as the No. 15 prospect in the Tampa Bay system. The elder sibling, only 23, advanced all the way to Triple-A in a breakout campaign that saw him mash 27 homers and hit .330. The first sacker is ranked thirteenth among Rays minor leaguers.

A pair of fast-rising prospects went in the third round, with Team Fox putting the first Bahamian on the board in Kristian Robinson. Robinson only turned 18 a few weeks ago, but had a sensational debut in the Diamondbacks’ organisation, hitting .279 with seven home runs in 222 at bats against much older competition. The 6-3 (1.9m), 190-pound (86kg) outfielder is Arizona’s No. 12 prospect.

Meanwhile, Isaacs took teammate Nolan Jones, the No. 84 prospect in baseball and No. 2 among Cleveland minor leaguers. At 20, Jones excelled across two levels of A-ball, slashing .283/.405/.466 with 19 home runs.

In the fourth, Fox was fortunate to find Jazz Chisholm still on the board. We have touted Chisholm as a future big leaguer since seeing him play for Great Britain in Brooklyn at only 18. Slowed by injuries in 2017, the 20-year old shortstop had a breakout performance in 2018. Chisholm was a Midwest League All-Star after ripping 15 homers among 36 extra-base hits in only 76 games, turning things up in a promotion to the California League.

Arguably now the Bahamas’ brightest rising star, Chisholm smashed 10 roundtrippers in his final 36 games for Visalia, hitting .329 and running his season stolen base total to 17. The lefty-swinger concluded with one of the most memorable Arizona Fall League performances in recent memory, hitting .442 and flashing power (seven extra-base hits, including three homers) and speed (seven stolen bases) to finish with 25 home runs and a .287 average for the campaign.

Team Isaacs was then the beneficiary of a spot to draft Shed Long, Cincinnati’s No. 7 Prospect. The second-sacker played the year in Double-AA at 22, finishing up with a stint in Arizona as well. Long hit .259 overall, cranking 12 home runs for an even 50 in his career.

Two more high-ranking prospects were taken in the fifth, as Fox claimed Monte Harrison and Isaacs took Jonathan India. Harrison is the Marlins’ No. 2 minor leaguer after coming over from the Brewers in the Christian Yelich trade. A true five-tool player, Harrison smacked 19 homers in Double-A before teaming up with Chisholm in Arizona, where he showed much-improved plate discipline.

Meanwhile, India is already the No. 51 prospect in baseball, fourth among Reds’ farmhands, and had a solid debut after being taken fifth in 2018 MLB Draft. India slashed .240/.380/.433 across three levels of the Cincinnati system, playing with Munroe for a handful of games.

Two more big names were called in the sixth round as major leaguer Brinson fell to Fox, while Isaacs took countrymate Chavez Young. Brinson now has over 100 professional home runs (103), by far the most in the event. The Marlins’ centerfielder underwent trial by fire in the bigs this year, but hit 11 home runs in only 382 at bats.

Young was yet another Bahamian with a breakout 2018, shooting up from rookie ball to Single-A and finishing among the leaders for steals, hits, and extra base hits in the Blue Jays’ organisation. Young, another key cog in the ascendant Great Britain side, hit .285 with 44 steals and 50 extra-base hits, including eight bombs.

Team Fox rounds out with Munroe, Tyler Frank, Larry Alcime, D’Shawn Knowles, Dominique Collie, and Warren Saunders selected by Fox in rounds 7-13. The 12 total players hit 99 home runs in 2018, with 280 total professional home runs.

Frank was the Rays’ second-round pick in the 2018 draft, while Knowles, one of two Bahamian baseball twins, had a superb debut for the Angels, slashing .311/.391/.464 for to rookie league teams at only 17. He is ranked No. 24 in the system.

Fox has been consistently challenged after signing the largest contract ever for a Bahamian in 2015. The shortstop was a Futures Game selection in 2017 and this year was a Florida State League All-Star and Arizona Fall League Rising Star. Fox hit .285 with 36 stolen bases and superb defence between High-A, Double-A, and the AFL.

Isaacs was labelled as the ‘fastest player in college baseball’ in 2015, when he was selected by Cleveland. A New York-Penn League All-Star the following season, Isaacs played his second year in the Midwest League in 2018. The fleet-footed outfielder played all three positions on the grass and set career highs in doubles (20), runs (47), and stolen bases (30).

The rest of his squad features Bahamians Trent Deveaux, Courtney Smith, Anfernee Seymour, Keithron Moss, D’Vaughn Knowles, and Orveo Saint. All but Seymour just wrapped up their first professional seasons. In total, Team Isaacs hit 103 dingers this past season, with 194 over all players’ careers. Continue reading

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Brinson, Toussaint, Chisholm Lead Don’t Blink Home Run Derby’s Loaded Lineup

When we last spoke with Bahamian Todd Isaacs, the first Don’t Blink Home Run Derby in Paradise had just concluded in sensational fashion, with Blue Jays’ top prospect Bo Bichette winning the home run crown before a large and enthusiastic crowd. In January, the next generation of Bahamian talent had yet to arrive, with many still amateurs, and the country absent from Pan-American tournaments in recent years. The event will return on Jan. 5, 2019 from Montagu Beach, with even more fanfare than its first edition.

In the 11 months since our last report, those of you who follow us on Twitter will have noticed the ascendancy of Bahamian baseball, from breakout seasons by young prospects Jazz Chisholm and Lucius Fox, plus impressive debuts from D’Shawn Knowles and Kristian Robinson. Meanwhile, Isaacs spent the year with Single-A Lake County and again teamed with country-mate and best friend Lucius Fox to recruit minor leaguers to attend.

Isaacs told us after the event last year that he had put the event together in only three months with help from his father and Fox, an incredible accomplishment given it was the first baseball event in the Bahamas featuring professional players in history. A number of highly-rated prospects participated and attended, including Nick Gordon, a derby finalist, and pitchers Triston McKenzie and Juan Hillman. Charles Johnson and Dante Bichette, Sr. were in attendance as well.

This year, Isaacs and Fox have expanded what was already an excellent event by pitting themselves as captains of Team Isaacs and Team Fox.

“With more Bahamians signed since our first Home Run Derby, Lucius and I put a twist on to the format,” Isaacs told us. “This year we will select teams from the pool of players. Each team will represent a respective charity where a 60-40 donation will be made to the winning and losing team’s charity.”

The two sides will draft a team of 14 total players from a mixture of Bahamian minor leaguers and top prospects, including defending champion Bichette, who last year took tosses from his dad. Stay tuned for the pre-recorded draft will be televised on all @DontBlink242 social media platforms this weekend.

“The Don’t Blink Home Run Derby powered by Aliv Draft was hosted at Atlantis. The draft was very exciting for us because we got to be GMs for a day.”

In addition to the returns of Bo Bichette and Gordon, two young studs that saw major league time this year will be in attendance. The first is Lewis Brinson, the headliner in the Christian Yelich trade, who spent most of the year with Miami. The other big leaguer is the Atlanta Braves’ Touki Toussaint, a Top 60 MLB end-of-season prospect. Toussaint, a rifle-armed hurler, is of Haitian and Kenyan descent and grew up in Florida, but is becoming an important figure as Caribbean baseball gains rapid momentum.

Jazz Chisholm is now the biggest name among Bahamians after an All-Star season in Single-A that culminated in an even more impressive performance to High-A. Overall, Chisholm hit .287 with 28 dingers and 24 swipes for the three teams as the Arizona Diamondback’s Minor League Player of the Year.

Chisholm will be joined by four of his Great Britain teammates, including Chavez Young, Champ Stuart, Reshard Munroe, and Isaacs. These four formed an electric outfield in the 2017 World Baseball Classic Brooklyn Qualifier for a young team that upset Brazil and lost two heart-breakers to Israel, which advanced to the second round. Munroe had a strong season in rookie league and should be a dark horse along with Robinson and Knowles, while Young had a mammoth season to break into the Blue Jays’ top prospects ranks.

On Friday, Jan. 4, the teams will host a kids’ camp at the Atlantic Resort, with five former players aiding the impressive roster of participants in teaching young Bahamians about the game. As Isaacs and I discussed in February [link], the Bahamas lacks top-level coaching and international standard facilities, adding extra importance to the clinic and derby for both instruction and awareness.

“Baseball here in the Bahamas is continuing to show steady, promising progress with an additional three players, with Orveo Saint, Chavez Fernander, and Warren Saunders being added into the professional system this calendar year.

“We are still without proper training facilities nor a conventional baseball field, so our resilience continues show. Inspiring the youth baseball players here in the Bahamas is something that we all find pivotal into the continued growth here in the country so being able to host this Home Run Derby every year is something we are proud of because we know the lasting impact it holds amongst our future baseball superstars.”

The derby begins on Saturday at noon. There will be a team winner and the top four hitters from each side will go head-to-head for the individual winner. As in the 2018 edition, players will aim for targets set in the water off Montagu Beach, with kayakers retrieving the balls for use in youth leagues around the island.

Each team will represent a charity, with Team Isaacs supporting Sister Sister Breast Cancer Support Group [link]. Meanwhile, Team Fox will raise money for Cancer Society of The Bahamas [link].

“We chose to represent both Cancer societies because Cancer is one of the top causes of death throughout the Bahamas. Many of the guys that are participating in the event have lost their mothers, grandmothers and aunts to cancer. I myself have lost both grandmothers and grandfather to cancer. We want families to know that they are not fighting alone and we are proud to help.”

The full list of players is as follows: Larry Alcime, Will BensonDominique Collie, Trent Deveaux, Chavez Fernander, Tyler Frank, Monte Harrison, Jonathan India,  Nolan Jones, D’Vaughn Knowles, Shed Long, Josh Lowe, Nate LoweKeithron Moss, Alexis PantojaOrveo Saint, Warren Saunders, Anfernee Seymour, Courtney Smith, Shameko Smith, and Tahnaj Thomas.

Those wishing to attend the event will want to stay tuned to our Twitter @ExtraInningsUK and follow @DontBlink242 for updates. The Atlantis Resort will be offering discounted rates for the entire week of the derby, with more information here [link].

Photos courtesy of Rev TV and Don’t Blink with the exception of Jazz Chisholm, copyright Extra Innings UK. 

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Seventh Hong Kong International Baseball Open

Over the weekend, the annual Hong Kong International Baseball Open returned in its seventh addition. Over the years, it has featured a similar set of teams, including three national teams from small Asian countries, two universities, travel teams from North America, and clubs from Asia.

This year, it featured its three usual teams in the national team category: Hong Kong, Singapore, and a club team from Vladivostock playing as ‘Russia’. It is worth noting that Sri Lanka was offered a place, but could not attend due to the cost of travel and lodging in Hong Kong. The club version has universities from the Phillipines and Australia, plus a club from Taiwan and the Hong Kong Junior National Team.

After finishing round robin play at 4-0, Hong Kong claimed the No. 1 seed against Singapore (2-2). The hosts slashed .405/.529/.579 with a 2.45 ERA and .148 batting average against (though they walked 17 against 29 Ks in 22 innings), while Singapore beat up on Russia and struggled against Hong Kong. No team hit a home run or fielded above .885. Full statistics are available here [link].

In today’s final of the HKIBO, Hong Kong defeated Singapore, 14-4 in eight innings, to win the title, its fourth in-a-row and second straight since the switch to a national and club team grouping.

Additionally, the HK Juniors (‘Blue’) upset Ateneo 14-7 to dethrone the Filipino university, which has won the HKIBO every year it has entered (2014, 2017), either as overall champions or club champions. Hong Kong Blue was 3-0-1 overall, defeating Ateneo twice, the only losses the Pinoys have ever suffered (11-2 all-time).

Leading the Blues was Lawrence University (Wisc.) spring graduate Matthew Holliday [bio], a Third Team All-Central Region first baseman [article]. Holliday was 7-for-10 with three doubles, a walk, and no strikeouts, the top performance by any batter in the tournament.

Hong Kong does appear to be improving as a result of the tournament, going from one team that finished third out of four clubs in the first edition in 2012 to two champions in 2018, moving up slowly each year. They are 15-6 in seven tournaments.

Continue reading

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2018 Pan-American Under-10 Championship

Honduras played host to a historic first for baseball and, possibly, for all major international sport: a tournament for Under-10 baseball players. This inaugural Pan-American Championship for this age level had little fanfare and it is unclear how the site was selected or why no other countries participated. Our understanding was that the event was WBSC-sanctioned and would include rankings points, but the latest rating did not offer any points.

An additional note of interest is that the player listed by Brazil as ‘Juan Muniz Filho’ is J.C. Muniz’ son. Muniz is a long-time veteran of Brazil’s national team and has also played in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, NPB’s Chiba Lotte Marines, and in the Florida Marlins’ system.

Brazil started off by winning its first three games, including a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Dominican Republic, but were then shut out by Nicaragua and lost to Guatemala for the latter’s only win. Nicaragua thus cruised to the No. 1 seed in the semis, while Brazil had a rematch with the D.R.

This time, the Dominicans cruised to a 10-2 victory, while host Honduras kept things surprisingly close against Nicaragua. Having dropped from a tie for first through three days, Nicaragua instead played a close one against Honduras, ultimately winning 3-0. The final saw Nicaragua properly challenged for the first time, squeaking by the Dominicans, 2-0.

All First-Round days were 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. Games were scheduled for seven innings. Full results and some awards are available below. Continue reading

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Ebersohn’s Two Homers Secures Fifth Win for South Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – You heard it here first: South African baseball is on the rise! With yet another dominant performance, South Africa put an exclamation point on its series with France, claiming an 11-4 victory to defeat its European visitors five games to two. Rowan Ebersohn jacked two home runs and drove in six to finish with five of the hosts’ 16 round-trippers.

If the following sounds familiar, it is not a coincidence: South Africa came out charging, scoring two runs before French starter Yoan Antonac could record an out. In fact, for the sixth time in seven games, the home side scored in the opening frame.

It was Kyron Bibis, who has served in the leadoff spot with Victor Ngoepe unavailable for the three games in Cape Town, who got South Africa started. The centerfielder walked to start the game and went to third on a two-bagger by Nicholas Eagles. Ebersohn then drove both runners home on a single to centre. Antonac, as he did in first start, recovered momentarily to notch a pair of strikeouts, but his defence let him down.

Benjamin Smith bounced a ball to shortstop that should have erased Ebersohn, but the transfer was bungled and South Africa had two on. Dayle Feldtman made France pay with a hit up-the-middle, and the score read 4-0. A strikeout, Antonac’s third of the frame, ended the threat.

Dean Jacobs, who had walked a pair and thrown a wild pitch in the top of the first, settled down in his second inning of work. Jacobs went 1-2-3 with a whiff to keep France off the board.

The bottom half of the frame was all Charl Cordier. Benjamin Bodet replaced Antonac for the visitors, but Cordier greeted him with a first-pitch homer to left field. Bodet got the next three batters, but South Africa now sported a five-run lead.

France fought back in the third against reliever Damon King. F. Kovals reached on a defensive miscue and stole second before Dylan Gleeson took a free pass. King then induced a groundball to second that turned into a nifty double play, but veteran Andy Paz singled through the left side to break up the shutout.

An inning later, South Africa’s defence imploded. Leonel Céspedes started a rally with a leadoff double and José Paula joined him on the bases after a walk. A double steal moved both runners into scoring position and groundball by Kovals turned into a two-error, two-run safe call. Gleeson then bounced another ball to shortstop with the same result, with Kovals coming around to score. A fourth error on the infield sent Gleeson to third, but the unlucky Timothy Lee finally generated a grounder that was fielded and the nightmare inning was over. France, however, had posted three runs on the board.

The next two half-innings saw three-up, three-down in each, with South Africa clinging to a 5-4 lead. A switch by France to Jonathan Mottay, however, jumpstarted South Africa’s bats again.

With one down against Mottay, Ebersohn mashed a longball to centre for one run and Brandon Bouillon took a pitch before belting his four-bagger, targeting the left field wall for back-to-back jacks. A pair of walks spelled the end of the day for Mottay and Clémént Esteban had to come in to get France out of the inning.

Neither club could change the 7-4 scoreline until the eighth inning. Yesterday’s hero Kyle Botha, who had entered as a defensive replacement at first, led off with a base on balls issued by Franklín de la Rosa and moved over two bases on an errant pickoff throw and a wild pitch. After a free pass to Cordier, Bibis drove a ball to centre for the sacrifice fly and Eagles drew yet another base on balls.

Up stepped Ebersohn and crushed a home run to right field and the scoreboard changed to double digits for the fourth time in seven games. Jayde Thorne then concluded the contest with a quick 1-2-3 and South Africa celebrated its resounding series win.

South Africa picked up 110 rankings points during the recently concluded Under-23 World Cup and will add at least six more points for its defeat of France. As previously reported [link], when the new WBSC World Rankings are released, South Africa will find itself at No. 23, quite possibly the first time it appears inside the Top 25. France will fall a place to 25th.

Ebersohn finished 3-for-5 with six RBI and three runs, the only player on either side with more than one hit. His pair of dingers gave him five in his last 10 games. Bibis reached base three times in the victory. South Africa totalled nine hits and eight walks as a team, while France could muster only five hits and four free passes. Maxime Lefevre, Paz, Céspedes, Paula, and Kovals all had a hit and a walk for France.

Six pitchers saw action for France, with Antonac (0-1) taking the loss. The Phillies’ farmhand had his second-straight rough appearance as one of the youngest players in the tournament. Bodet put in one of France’s better pitching performances of the series with three innings of one-run relief, sending down three on strikes. Clémént and Maxence Esteban each were unscored on the bump.

Seven moundsmen took the hill for South Africa, with Brad Erasmus earning his second win. He struck out two in two scoreless, while Jacobs did not allow a hit in his two innings to start. Jacobs issued two free passes but struck out four. All four runs for France were unearned.

We will release a list of tournament awards and statistics tomorrow. An unofficial box score is available [here]. Other articles for this series: Game 1 [link], Game 2 [link], Game 3 [link], Game 4 [link], Game 5 [link], and Game 6 [link].

A big ‘thank you’ to South Africa’s scorekeeper, Augusta ‘Gussie’ Phillips, for the box scores and statistics. All pictures copyright Cape Town Baseball Federation, with the exception of the first picture of Ebersohn, copyright Extra Innings.

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Elario, Botha Clinche Series Victory for South Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – With its offense still clicking in high gear, South Africa emphatically claimed its series with France this afternoon, defeating the visitors 13-1 for its fourth win in the seven-game set. Jared Elario hurled six shutout frames and South Africa homered for the sixth-straight contest.

The hallmark of this series has been the immediate onslaught by South Africa’s offence. The home side had its best start yet in today’s game, blasting seven hits and taking advantage of two errors and two wild pitches to score nine runs in the first frame.

French starter and Cubs’ minor leaguer Donato Auguste saw four runs cross the plate before retiring a batter, but the first and fourth batters reached via defensive mistakes. The first run scored after Kyron Bibis reached on an error, Kyle Botha doubled down the left field line, and Rowan Ebersohn singled home Bibis. An error plated Botha before Hein Robb singled home Ebersohn, with the fourth run coming on a wild pitch.

Auguste got back-to-back outs, including a K, but Josh Halvorsen and Nicholas Eagles laced one-base hits to keep the runners moving. Halvorsen would swipe home on a double steal before Bibis plated Eagles. France’s misery then continued as Botha blasted a round-tripper to left field before the nightmare inning was over.

After such a long opening frame, Elario only gave his fielders a quick break, sending three up and three down in the bottom of the first.

France’s starter, only 20, snapped out of his funk by the second inning and Auguste and Elario matched zeroes for the next four frames. While Auguste issued free passes in the second, third, and fifth, the French lineup only solved Elario in the bottom of the fifth.

Having allowed his only baserunner via error, Elario finally lost his no-hitter when Ariel Soriano bounced a ball through the right side to start the fifth. Elario’s D picked him up, however, turning a 6-4-3 double play. Back-to-back base on balls gave France some hope, but South Africa’s moundsman got the third out on a strikeout looking.

Auguste ran out of steam in the sixth, plunking Botha with a pitch. The South African catcher shook off the blow and promptly took second by theft. A grounder moved him to third and a walk knocked Auguste out of the game. Hein Robb greeted reliever Antoine Rault with a run-scoring single and Brandon Bouillon followed with a base-knock of his own and France found itself in mercy rule territory at 11-0.

Although Rault buckled down for two outs to end the frame, South Africa had taken a commanding lead after the scoreless middle innings. Elario did face a threat in the bottom of the sixth, as Felix Brown singled and Andy Paz laced a two-base hit, but a popup retained the lead.

With the game entering mercy rule territory, South Africa struck a final blow in the top of the seventh. Nicholas Eagles, playing in place of injured captain Jonathan Phillips, roped a two-bagger down the left field line on the inning’s first pitch. Bibis dropped a safety into left to put runners on the corners.

Eagles was picked off, taking an RBI away from Botha, who stepped up a notch as vice-captain with Phillips injured. The South African backstop boomed a double off the left-centre field wall to score Bibis and came home as Ebersohn beat the shift and bounced a ball through the infield.

Needing a 13-run miracle, France came up to the dish in the bottom of the seventh having yet to score in the contest. Jayde Thorne entered on the mound and got two outs with ease, the second erasing Frédéric Hanvi, who had singled, with F. Kovals on a fielder’s choice. David Gauthier finally put the French side in the scoring column, ripping a double to left-centre on the first pitch. A final groundball sealed France’s fate and South Africa ensured the series win. Continue reading

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Lewis-Walker Tosses Gem for South Africa in 7-1 Defeat of France

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – South Africa continued its excellent approach early in the game, jumping out to an early lead, and Robert Lewis-Walker tossed his second gem of the series as the host nation cruised to a 7-1 victory over France. The result gives South Africa a 3-2 lead in the seven-game series, with two more games at the Durbanville Ballpark.

As it has done in all but one game this series, South Africa scored in the game’s opening frame. Jonathan Phillips doubled with two down and Rowan Ebersohn bounced a ball up-the-middle to score a single run against France’s Owan Ozanich.

After a nifty double play in the top half, Kyron Bibis gave South Africa a big boost in the bottom of second. The slender leadoff hitter ripped a two-run bomb to score Dayle Feldtman and boost his team’s advantage to 3-0.

Meanwhile, Lewis-Walker appeared very comfortable throughout his appearance. In the third, Bastien Dagneau ripped a long double to start the frame, moving to third on a bloop hit to right by José Paula. Lewis-Walker kept his easy pace, however, and pumped fastballs by veteran Felix Brown before sending him down swinging.

In the third, Keegan Swanepoel laced a two-bagger to right with one down. Feldtman then sent his own safety to right and the home side took a four-run lead.

Both pitchers then settled into a groove. Lewis-Walker gave up another long hit to Ariel Soriano, but sent down a pair of batters on strikes in the top half of the fourth. It was nothing doing against Ozanich in the bottom of the frame before Lewis-Walker returned for a scoreless fifth, striking out his seventh batter.

The game’s defensive highlight came in the latter half of the frame, as Charl Cordier lined a ball into shallow left field, but Maxime Lefevre raced from the regular shortstop position to make a leaping catch at full extension [video].

South Africa finally broke through again in the seventh after Benjamin Smith led off with a one-base hit to centre. Brandon Bouillon immediately took advantage, lacing a two-bagger to left centre for the 5-0 lead. A walk to Feldtman would follow, but reliever Meylian Marin would get out of the inning without further damage. Continue reading

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Lefevre’s Hustle, Mottay’s Pitching Tie France – South Africa Series at Two

DURBAN, South Africa – After three days of early South Africa leads on the way to offensive outbursts from both sides, France waited until the game’s final frame to win the pitching duel, 5-4. The walkoff win tied the series at two, with the series shifting to Cape Town for the final three games.

Kyle Townend and Jonathan Mottay, both of whom had already pitched in the game, matched goose eggs for the first two and one-half innings. Each side put the leadoff on base to start the frame, but neither team could scratch a run until the third.

With France batting as the home side, Dylan Gleeson walked to lead off the bottom of the third, moving to second on a wild pitch. Felix Brown received identical treatment, with Townend’s second wild pitch putting runners in scoring position with nobody out. Townend buckled down for a K, but veteran Andy Paz elevated a fly ball to right to score Gleeson. The relay throw went wild, however, and France took a 2-0 lead without a single hit. Continue reading

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Céspedes’ Arm, Bat Lead France to First Victory in South Africa

DURBAN, South Africa – South Africa continued its onslaught on the French pitching staff, but France piled it on in the middle innings and defeated South Africa 11-9. After 12 home runs left the park in Boksburg over the weekend, the two sides combined for another three, with Rowan Ebersohn homering for the third straight day.

Once more, the host nine started hot, knocking recent Phillies’ signee Yoan Antonac out of the game after only six batters. The tall right-hander struggled badly with his control, striking out the second batters he faced, but walking four and surrendering a hit to captain Jonathan Phillips. Benjamin Bodet shut down any further threat in relief, but South Africa scored four in the game’s opening frame.

France answered in the third after José Paula led off with a single through the left side, advancing to second on a wild pitch. A walk set up a sacrifice bunt, but South Africa mishandled it and a run scored. After a walk, Ariel Soriano lifted a fly ball to centre to score one and, with two down, the hosts had a chance to escape. Leonel Céspedes ensured the rally would pay off, however, ripping a double to centre to score two. The fifth run of the frame came on a Frédéric Hanvi one-base hit.

An inning later, having held South Africa scoreless, France was at it again. Felix Brown and Maxime Lefevre drew two-out walks and Gary-South Shore Rail Cats’ Andy Paz ripped a longball down the right field line. The three-run bomb, Paz’ second in two days, gave France an 8-4 lead.

South Africa immediately answered, however, with a one-out double by Kyle Botha setting up former Twins’ prospect Ebersohn. Ebersohn blasted a two-run dinger to right to get within two. It was the third straight day that Ebersohn had sent a ball out of the yard. Dating back to the Under-23 World Cup, he has four round-trippers in his last eight games.

Free passes continued to be trouble for South Africa in the fifth. Céspedes drew a base on balls to start the frame and Bastien Dagneau launched a ball over the wall in centre for a 10-6 lead.

The hosts answered for a single run in the bottom of the frame, with a walk to Dayle Feldtman and a sacrifice bunt all that Kyron Bibis needed to score on a one-base hit. It was Feldtman again in the sixth as the backstop drilled a two-run double to score Phillips and Benjamin Smith, who had both drawn free passes. The Feldtman knock brought the South Africans within one, but that was as close as they would get.

Franklín de la Rosa and Céspedes would slam the door in the final three innings, however. Although de la Rosa struggled with his control, he did not give up a run in the seventh or eighth. An RBI-single by Soriano scored Paz in the eighth for an insurance run and France’s closer came on. Céspedes coaxed a line-out for one down and then struck out No. 3 and 4 in South Africa’s lineup for the save.

After escaping Antonac’s disastrous start, France held South Africa to five runs on eight hits and seven walks the rest of the way, just good enough to outlast their hosts. Bodet (1-0) earned the win despite surrendering three runs on six hits and two walks in 4 2/3 frames, whiffing three.

Dean Jacobs (0-1) took the loss, with errors contributing four unearned runs among the eight he allowed. Jacobs gave up four hits in 3 2/3, but walked five. He got three punchouts. Brad Erasmus saw action for the second time in the series, dishing out three free passes and two runs on one hit. He whiffed two in 2 1/3 innings. Kieran Cree then offered a solid 2 2/3 (two hits, one run, two walks, three Ks) before Timothy Lee got the final out.

Paz, France’s most experienced player, continued to swing a hot bat with a 2-for-3 performance, though he was the only player with multiple hits. France’s eight hits and 11 walks were mixed evenly up-and-down the lineup.

Botha was the only South African with a multi-hit game, going 3-for-6 with two doubles. Phillips had a hit and two walks, while Feldtman drew three base on balls to go with his two-baggers.

Unofficial box score available [here]. Wraps from Game 1 [link] and Game 2 [link] are also available.

The series remains in Hoy Park for the fourth contest on Wednesday, due to start at 1:30 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. 

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Ebersohn’s Big Day Drives South Africa to Second France Win

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.

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