In this game between South Africa and New Zealand it became clear that New Zealand is still quite a bit away from competing with the rest of the world. But since the New Zealand baseball federation was founded in 2002, you can say that baseball in New Zealand is pretty much in its infancy so there is nothing to feel ashamed about as they gave their best.
New Zealand starting pitcher Lee did not have a big variety in his pitch arsenal and had problems in finding the strike zone at times. This resulted into two runs on three hits in two innings and a batter faced in the third. Lee’s successor Blair Johnstone did not fare much better as he started with a walk. Kyle Botha then laid down a sac bunt to advance the runners to third and second. After Johnstone intentionally walked Brett Willemburg, Wesley Hoskins drove in a run by hitting into a 6-4 force out. A double by Rowan Ebersohn and a single by Keegan Swanepoel drove in three more runs to give the South Africans a 5-0 lead.
But New Zealand did something back in the bottom of the fourth. Boss Moanaroa drew a lead off walk. With one out, South African starter Jared Elario started to show some fatigue as he threw a wild pitch and gave up another walk. Moko Moanoroa hit an 0-2 offering to center field for a double to drive in two runs.
South Africa extended their lead to 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning when, with the bases loaded, Kyle Botha hit a 2-1 offering (a melon, hanging slider high in the strike zone) away to left field for a bases clearing double.
South Africa added one more run to their score in the top of the ninth when Gift Ngoepe, who got his first basehit of the tournament earlier in the game, drew a bases loaded walk of Jamie Wilson.
Robert Lewis-Walker, who entered the game in the seventh inning as a replacement of Lloyd Stevens, retired the side in the ninth to secure the 9-2 win for South Africa.
According to the box score, Jared Elario earned the win after 4.1 innings of work. He gave up two runs on two hits, walked five and struck out three.
Though Kyle Botha had the most impact with his sole basehit in the sixth inning, Keegan Swanepoel was the best hitter for South Africa, going 4 fo 5 with two runs batted in.
Even though South Africa collected six more basehits than New Zealand, the number of walks given up by the Kiwis was decisive at times. In the third inning and in the sixth inning the New Zealand pitchers gave up two walks each and they led to three runs in each inning.
Tomorrow, South Africa will face highly favored Australia in this qualifier’s final.