SYDNEY, Australia -- South Africa took down New Zealand in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier at Blacktown International Sportspark. Leading the 7-1 win for Sourth Africa was Dylan Unsworth, as he pitched scoreless baseball across 8.0 innings.
"I think everything [was working]. Just commanding the fastball, changeup, curveball, everything," said Unsworth. "When you have a three-run cushion, you feel confident, you feel good. Honestly, all you have to do is throw strikes and everything will happen after that."
Brett Willemburg singled on a line drive to center field, which allowed Jonathan Phillips to score and give South Africa the first run of the game. Ben Cone gave up the run after replacing Scott Cone, who went 2.2 innings, while giving up just one hit and two walks.
Two more runs were given up by Ben Cone as his wild pitch allowed Kyle Botha and Brett Willemburgh to score. Willemburgh, however, scored on the throwing error by the catcher Connar O'Gorman. It was a nightmare of an inning for New Zealand, but South Africa had no problem taking the 3-0 lead in the third inning.
Another pitcher was replaced for New Zealand, as Ben Cone exited for Blair Johnstone, a right-handed pitcher, in the fourth inning. Gift Ngoepe walked for this second time of the game with two outs, but Johnstone was able to get out of the inning by getting Anthony Phillips to ground out softly.
In the top of the sixth inning, Johnstone walked Benjamin Smith and was immediately replaced by Jamie Wilson, who became the fourth arm out of the bullpen for New Zealand. Wilson, a right-handed pitcher, faced Ngoepe and was able to retire him on a fly out for the second out. Wilson walked Anthony Phillips, but he was able to get to pop out to shortstop for the magical third out.
Unsworth pitched an absolute gem for South Africa to pace the team throughout the event before being taken out of the game due to the 85 pitch limit. The 23-year-old right-handed pitcher went 8.0 scoreless innings, while giving up two hits and striking out four. As a matter of fact, Unsworth struck out the side in the eighth inning with tremendous fastball velocity.
"He just competed. He attacked us. He came right after us with his fastball. He was able in certain counts to pitch behind a little bit. He was relentless," said New Zealand manager Chris Woodward, who is the Los Angeles Dodgers' third-base coach. "I actually had him in Seattle, and I knew him pretty well. I love the way he competes and I wouldn't say he's got Cy Young stuff, but he's got good enough stuff to where he can pitch at a pretty high level because of his competitiveness."
He made it to Double-A Jackson in the Seattle Mariners organization last season, but has not yet landed in the major leagues. Unsworth's outing against New Zealand showed the world that he can play with anyone. Unsworth will not be seen again in the qualifying tournament because if a pitcher reached the 85 pitch limit, he must wait five days to toss on the mound.
Randy Yard took over for Wilson in the top of the ninth inning and allowed a bunt single to Anthony Phillips. Wilson pitched 2.2 scoreless innings, giving up two hits and a walk. Jonathan Phillips singled up the gut to put runners on the corners with no out for South Africa. Botha loaded the bases with nobody out as the catcher was hit in the right scapula with a 90 mile per hour fastball.
The lead for South Africa was increased to 4-0 on an RBI ground out by Willemburg to drive in Anthony Phillips during the top of the ninth inning. The run forced New Zealand to bring in Riki Paewai to relieve Yard.
With two outs and runners on the corners, Brandon Bouillon singled to left field, which scored Botha. The run gave South Africa a 5-0 lead in the top of the ninth. Keegan Swanepoel singled on a line drive up the middle to score Rowan Ebersohn and Bouillon. South Africa took a 7-0 lead over New Zealand into the bottom of the ninth inning.
Garth Cahill, a 20-year-old right-hander, replaced Unsworth, who was absolutely dominant for South Africa. Moko Moanaroa, a pinch-hitter, singled to right field off of Cahill. The next batter, Daniel Bradley, was hit by a pitch and just like that New Zealand had their first two batters on-base. Max Brown drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases with one out in the ninth. Cahill walked Boss Moanaroa to allow the first run of the game for New Zealand to score.
"I thought our pitchers did a pretty good job," said Woodward. "I thought they kept us in the game, and if it wasn't for a couple mistakes, it would have probably been a scoreless game going into the ninth inning."
Cahill was pulled from the game in exchange for Jared Elario, a 27-year-old, with one out in the bottom of the ninth and a six run lead. Elario got Scott Campbell to ground into a double play to end the game.
"We felt at one stage we should have been five or six runs up, but in a game of this nature we'll take the three and we'll have to work from there," said South Africa manager Alan Phillips.
It was the second all-time win for South Africa in World Baseball Classic games. The team will battle in the winners bracket against Philippines or Australia on Thursday night or Friday morning in hope of eventually reaching the final game to get a shot at making the World Baseball Classic tournament.