Hosts out after extra-innings defeat

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Nov 16, 2015 - Page 1

Taiwan were yesterday knocked out of the World Baseball Softball Confederation Premier 12 tournament when outfielder Aldo Mendez hit a walk-off grand slam homer in the 12th inning to give Puerto Rico a 7-4 victory over the cohosts in a thrilling game filled with riveting drama and last-gasp rallies by both sides.

Another result from last night confirmed Taiwan’s exit, with Cuba prevailing over Italy 2-1, leaving them and Taiwan as the bottom two finishers in Group A. The top four of the six teams, split into two pools, advanced to the quarter-finals.

It was a heartbreaking loss for Taiwan in front of a capacity crowd at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium and a bitter disappointment for home fans after the exhilaration of beating baseball powerhouse Cuba the previous night.

Starting pitchers Kuo Chun-lin (郭俊麟) of Taiwan and Puerto Rico’s Andres Santiago dominated in the regulation nine frames, leaving the score at 1-1.

Slugger Ngayaw Ake (also known as Lin Chih-sheng, 林智勝) got Taiwan on the scoreboard with a solo shot, his fourth homer in as many games, for a one-run lead in the top of fourth.

Puerto Rico replied in the bottom half of the inning, when clean-up man Joiset Feliciano ripped a double and came home one batter later on a wild throw.

In extra innings, the “two runners on” rule applied to boost scoring chances, with the batting side starting each frame with men on first and second.

Both teams had several good chances to snatch a win.

In the top of the 10th, Taiwan pushed runners to second and third, but pinch hitter Chen Chun-hsiu (陳俊秀) hit a fly out to end the rally. In their bottom-half at-bat, Puerto Rico had the bases loaded, but failed to score on a squeeze bunt play.

In the 11th inning, pinch hitter Chiang Chih-hsien (蔣智賢) stroked a line-drive to right field for the go-ahead run.

Then reserve catcher Kao Chih-kang (高志綱) drove in another run with an RBI single for the hosts to lead 3-1.

Taiwan could have added more to put the game out of reach, but outfielder Wang Po-jung (王柏融) hit a bouncer that resulted in a double play, killing the rally.

In the bottom half, Puerto Rico first baseman Jorge Jimenez delivered a double to send two runners home, leveling the score.

In a tense 12th inning, Taiwan got a run on a wild pitch, but Lin struck out and Chen ended the inning on a fly out.

Facing a one-run deficit, Puerto Rico loaded the bases with a bunt to set the table for left-hitting outfielder Mendez. He unloaded on a low breaking pitch from Taiwan’s fifth pitcher, Pan Wei-lun (潘威倫), and the ball bounced off the top of the right-field wall, ending the contest.

The sudden end stunned the crowd and Taiwan’s players, who could only watch as Puerto Rico celebrated their hard-fought win.

“Our players put in their best efforts, but we made some errors, so it turned into a tough battle,” Taiwan manager Kuo Tai-yuan (郭泰源) said after the game. “Let us not blame the players, I will bear the responsibility for the loss.”

“Both teams had an outstanding performance, they did not give up and fought to the end,” Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “I am proud of my players for the win.”

In other games yesterday Mexico beat the Dominican Republic 9-6, Japan downed Venezuela 6-5 and Canada defeated the Netherlands 3-1. The US and South Korea were playing extra innings at press time last night.