Poor pitching, coupled with a lack of timely hitting led to an ugly 13-3 defeat at the hands of Team Italy, as Taiwan dropped the opening game of the 2006 XVI Intercontinental Cup Baseball Championship in Taichung on Thursday night.
The hosts committed the cardinal sin of underestimating their opponents, spotting the Italians a seven-run cushion after only three innings of play and never recovered.
"I never thought we would lose by as much as we did," a shocked Taiwanese skipper Yeh Chih-shien said after enduring the worst defeat to Italy by Team Taiwan in tournament history.
A wild Pan "Du Du" Wei-luen (President Lions) whose fastball only topped out at 138kph compared to his normal 148kph, allowed a run in the opening inning to the Italians on an RBI single by designated hitter Max De Biase and found himself in a world of trouble in the top of the third, giving up three runs on as many hits before being relieved by fellow right-hander Lin Keh-chien.
Lin, who was tagged for four runs while recording no outs in the third, not only could not stop the bleeding, but added fuel to the fire, as Team Italy capitalized on a total breakdown by the Taiwanese pitching to erupt for six unanswered runs in the inning and claim a shocking 7-0 advantage.
Taiwan's second reliever Lee Cheng-chang finally stopped Italy from doing as it pleased with four scoreless innings of relief. But it was too little too late as the Italians ultimately solved him in the eighth with three doubles that knocked Lee out of the game before ringing up four more runs off lefty Yang Yao-hsuin in the ninth to end the slaughter.
Offensively for Taiwan, a 0-for-13 effort by the heart of the order, consisting of Hsieh "the Ugly" Jia-shien (Macoto Cobras), Chang "Prince of the Forest" Tai-shan (Sinon Bulls) and top amateur slugger Lin Yi-chuan, led to unusually inefficient run production, managing only three runs on the eleven hits collected in the game.
Any three of the dozen runners that Taiwan stranded over the first seven innings could have made it a brand new ball game because Italy did not pull away until the final two innings.
The loss set Taiwan back as it tries to reshuffle a starting rotation that has lost confidence while trying to forget about this ugly loss in the face of the stiff competition to come.
With tough contests against Japan, Australia and South Korea over the weekend, Yeh must find a way to rally his troops in a hurry before the 10-day tournament turns into an embarrassment for the hosts.