SYDNEY, Australia -- Kyle Botha broke open the game with a bases loaded double in the sixth inning to help give South Africa a 9-2 victory over New Zealand at Blacktown International Sportspark in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier.
With the win, South Africa has secured a spot in the qualifying tournament final on Sunday at 2:00 PM AST (Saturday at 10:00 PM ET) against Australia. The winner will advance to the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Brett Willemburg got the scoring started for South Africa with a ground out double play in the top of the first, but it gave Jonathan Phillips enough time to race home and put South Africa ahead, 1-0.
John Lee got the start for New Zealand and gave up two runs on three hits and three walks across 2.0 innings of work. Blair Johnstone came in after and gave up three runs in just 1.0 inning. It was not a good day for the pitchers of New Zealand as four-of-five gave up at least one run.
While Botha broke open the game with his double, Keegan Swanepoel tallied four hits for South Africa. The most important was a two-run single that scored Wesley Hoskins and Rowan Ebersohn to give South Africa a 5-0 lead in the third inning. Ebersohn got on with a double to right field.
"We had to put our all into it, come out, guns blazing, because for us, there wasn't a tomorrow," said Swanepoel, who is making his first appearance with the senior national team this year. "We all went in with the mindset of, 'We need to get on, we need to get hits, we need to move the guys around.' And everyone came to the party with that today."
Scott Cone, who gave up the two run single to Swanepoel, went 2.2 innings, but he gave up the two runs. While registering four strikeouts, Cone gave up one hit and two walks to the South African hitters.
Swanepoel was a defensive replacement in the first two games for South Africa. He managed to get an RBI single against New Zealand in on Thursday and then a double against Australia in the teams second game of the qualifier. Swanepoel earned his starting role in the on Saturday and proved himself.
"Keegan is one of those guys who's been knocking on the door for quite some time. I'm just glad we got him into the roster this year," said South Africa manager Alan Phillips. "And he's stepping up big-time."
Moko Moanaroa doubled in the fourth inning for New Zealand, which scored his brother, Boss Moanaroa, and Daniel Lamb-Hunt. The two runs cut the deficit of New Zealand two just three runs, but then Botha struck gold.
Jared Elario went very deep in the game, 4.1 innings to be exact, to help South Africa get an upper hand on New Zealand with their arms. Elario gave up two runs on two hits and five walks, while striking out three hitters. The 27-year-old right-handed pitcher got into a few jams, but has no problem finding his way out of the situation.
On a line drive to left field, Botha doubled off of Jimmy Boyce to score Gift Ngoepe and Athony Phillips in the sixth to take an 8-2 lead.
In the top of the ninth, Ngoepe drew a walk from Jamie Wilson, which automatically forced in Allan Randall and closed the game out as South Africa took the 9-2 win.
Lloyd Stevens pitched 2.0 innings of scoreless relief and Robert Lewis-Walker gave up two hits and struck out one batter across 2.2 innings to close down the shop with a save in Sydney.
"We didn't get to the inning that we wanted to [with our pitching], so that kind of cost us," said New Zealand manager Chris Woodward. "We walked too many guys, 10 or 11 guys. You can't win a baseball game when you walk that many guys. If we had attacked the hitters, [maybe] it would have given us a chance to get deeper into the game."
Australia and South Africa will face off with a chance to advance to the 2017 World Baseball Classic that starts in March. The two parties will square off at 2:00 PM AST on Sunday, which is 10:00 PM ET on Saturday. Australia has a 2-0 record in the qualifier, so they will be the home team against South Africa, who are 2-1 in the qualifier.
"The World Baseball Classic is sometimes surreal. You watch these guys on TV and playing in the big leagues and you get to be on the same field as these guys," said South African designated hitter Brett Willemburg. "It is so amazing. It just broadens your vision to see what is possible and what more is out there. For the new guys, one of the guys is like, 'This is awesome, this is baseball.'"