Italy pulled off another European shock at the World Baseball Classic, eliminating Canada with a 6-2 win on Monday to remain on course for a spot in the second round. The baseball minnows Italy and Netherlands have been the surprise packages of the opening round, claiming two of the biggest scalps of the 16-nation tournament. Italy's victory over a Canadian side loaded with Major League hitting followed the Netherlands' stunning 3-2 win over championship contenders the Dominican Republic on Saturday.
The Dutch nearly pulled off a second surprise on Monday, taking a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning in San Juan before Puerto Rico rallied for a 3-1 win to go top of Pool D and clinch their place in the next round. But while members of the Canadian team went back to their Major League sides and spring training, both the Italians and the Dutch are eyeing unlikely spots in the last eight. Playing at home in front a small but boisterous crowd, Canada fell behind early and never recovered as the Italians kept up the pressure with slick fielding, timely hitting and gritty pitching.
Chris Denorfia led Italy at the plate going four-for-four, including a World Baseball Classic record three doubles. The centre fielder also made a spectacular diving catch in the eighth inning to help defuse a Canadian comeback. Italy rattled the Canadians as they built up a 4-0 lead, pushing across one run in each of the first four innings. Canada grabbed half that back in the bottom of the fourth when Jason Bay ripped a line drive double into the left field scoring Joey Votto and Justin Morneau.
Italy restored their four-run cushion with a two-run burst in the seventh, then turned the game over to their bullpen to shut down Canada and seal the victory. In Tokyo, Olympic champions South Korea wrapped up Pool A play with 1-0 victory over the champions Japan. Asia's top two teams had already qualified for the second round before the final group game. South Korea gained a measure of revenge for a humiliating 14-2 loss to their fierce rivals in their first meeting at the weekend.