The first day somewhat went to form except for the final game of the night.
Game 1 of the day at Lake Buena Vista, Florida matched up two of the powerhouse teams of the tournament: Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. The game was a matchup between the power of the D.R. and the pitching of Venezuela.
And it was the power of the Dominican Republic that prevailed in a 11-5 win in Pool D. David Ortiz and Adrian Beltré each hit two home runs and that offset homers by Miguel Cabrera (who narrowly missed a second) and Edgardo Alfonzo. A 5-run ninth secured the win.
The second game took us to Phoenix where the USA took on Mexico at Chase Field. The USA got solo home runs from Derrek Lee and Chipper Jones in a 2-0 win in Pool B. USA manager Buck Martinez trotted out seven pitchers who gave up just four hits, walking none while striking out nine.
Game 3 took us to San Juan where the home country (or commonwealth if you will) team, Puerto Rico, edged past Panamá for a 2-1 win in Pool C
Panamá scored a run in the fourth when catcher Carlos Ruiz drew a bases-loaded walk, but left the bases loaded. In the fifth, Puerto Rico tied the game on a home run by Alex Rios and then took the lead when leadoff man Bernie Williams, who started only because Carlos Delgado had a sore elbow, singled home Alex Cintron.
After that, Puerto Rico kept the Panamanians under wraps. Box Score
Game 4 brought us back to Lake Buena Vista for a matchup between Australia and Italy in Pool D. With neither team expected to have a chance against D.R. or Venezuela, this was a big game. But it turned into no contest as Italy battered Australia for a 1--0 win shortened to 7 innings by the mercy rule.
Australia could manage just one hit (a double by Trent Durrington) while Italy had 12, including home runs by Mark Saccommano and Vincent Sinisi. The three Italian major leaguers in the lineup: Frank Menechino, Frank Catalanotto and Mike Piazza were a combined 5 for 12. Detroit Tigers picher Jason Grilli went 4 2/3 innings for the win.
Game 5 took us to Scottsdale, Arizona for the second game in Pool B. Canada was taken on the supposed easy marks of the tournament, South Africa, but the game hardly went to form.
The game was scoreless through four. Canada broke through for three runs thanks in part to an error by third baseman Jonathan Phillips. But in the bottom of the fourth, Canada brought in veteran reliever Paul Quantrill, who was awful.
Quantrill gave up a single and then walked a batter and hit a third to load the bases for shortstop Brett Willemburg, who cleared the bases with a double. One batter later, Canadian shortstop Pete Orr misplayed Nicholas Dempsey's grounder and Willemburg scored to put RSA up 4-3.
The 4-3 lead held through the sixth, but in the seventh, Canada struck back. Jason Bay and Justin Morneau had back-to-back doubles to tie the score. One batter later, Corey Koskie smacked a 2-run home run to put Canada up 6-4. Pete LaForest doubled and then moved to third on a wild pitch by 17-year old South African pitcher Jared Elario. Matt Rogelstad ran for LaForest and scored on another wild pitch by Elario. In all, South African pitchers threw eight wild pitches. Catcher Willem Kemp also had a passed ball.
In the bottom of the seventh, South Africa got a run back and trailed 7-5 and took that score into the eighth. Chris Reitsma came into pitch the eighth for Canada and walked Kyle Botha and then hit Jason Cook with a pitch. Shannon Ekermans singled to load the bases. Ian Butcher struck out, but Paul Bell, who go for 3 for 3 and reach first safely five times, doubled home three runs to put South Africa up 8-7 going to the ninth, three outs away from an improbable upset.
But it was not to be. Elario was still pitching and clearly had nothing left. Ryan Radaminovich led off with a wind-blown triple. Adam Stern followed with a sharp double down the rightfield line to tie the game at 8-8. Orr sacrificed, but Phillips threw the ball away and Stern scored and Orr went to second. Three wild pitches and an RBI double by Sebastian Boucher made it 11-8 and Jesse Crain held off South Africa in the ninth. Box Score