Italy wins, advances (with Cuba) after 5-way tie
Team Netherlands had loaded the bases with nobody out in the fifth inning. They were down, 6-1, to Italy in a must-win game and Team Italy manager Mike Piazza had turned to LaSorsa -- a Rays Minor Leaguer -- to shut things down. It was a huge moment for the 24-year-old. He was pitching to keep his ancestral home alive in the World Baseball Classic against three formidable former big leaguers.
Jonathan Schoop. Strikeout.
Roger Bernadina. Strikeout.
LaSorsa then put on one of the more animated celebrations in recent baseball history -- stalking to the dugout, slamming his hat to the ground and hugging anybody and everybody he could find in Italy’s dugout.
The great escape helped Italy to an eventual 7-1 win, produced an unbelievable five-way tie in Pool A and, most importantly, clinched a trip for Italy to Tokyo for Round 2 of the Classic. Cuba also advanced via the tiebreaker formula.
Things didn’t look great for Team Italy at the outset. In what was mostly a pitchers' duel for the first 4 1/2 innings, Netherlands struck first with a Chadwick Tromp home run.
Italy wasn’t hitting in key situations, as Piazza stressed was the issue during its loss against Chinese Taipei. But then, in the bottom of the fourth, Italy exploded for six runs -- almost as many as it scored in its last game.
Dominic Fletcher doubled, Vinny Pasquantino singled and then, after Vito Friscia was hit by pitch, the bases were loaded with nobody out.
Brett Sullivan singled in a run and a Mike Bolsenbroek wild pitch brought in another to give Team Italy a 2-1 lead. Singles by Ben DeLuzio and Sal Frelick brought in two more before Nicky Lopez -- who did nothing but hit and play Gold Glove-level defense here in Taiwan -- laced a two-run triple into the gap. You could hear the cheers from Italy’s espresso-ready dugout all the way to Nettuno.
Those were all the runs Piazza’s squad needed. A line of pitchers, including, of course, LaSorsa, held down Team Netherlands’ dangerous lineup. Matt Harvey struck out three and gave up a run over four strong innings, Andre Pallante, LaSorsa and Vinny Nottili tossed one more apiece and Matt Festa closed things out in the eighth and ninth.
This is Italy’s first trip to the quarterfinals since their Cinderella run in 2013.