Friday, December 8, 2023

It’s a slammin’ upset win for Chinese Taipei over Netherlands

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TAICHUNG, Taiwan — Teams before had been warned of it, and although Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens said his squad wouldn’t be bothered by the deafening Chinese Taipei crowd noise in its Pool A matchup, he did have some idea of what was coming.

“It’s going to be present all game, and it’s going to be loud and it’s going to be nonstop,” he said before the game. “And we’ve just got to focus on what we’ve got to do to win the game tonight.”

From Pitch 1 to Yu Chang’s epic grand slam to every hit and strike and walk, the fans lived and died with every pitch. The combination of that support in the stands and the talent on the field carried Chinese Taipei to a 9-5 victory Saturday and a big-time upset of Europe’s biggest baseball power, the Netherlands.

The Dutch struck first in their at-bat of the game on a Didi Gregorius RBI single to left field. There were also a couple of passed balls and a dropped popup by catcher Kungkuan Giljegiljaw in the frame. It wasn’t an ideal start.

Chinese Taipei went scoreless in its half of the first, but in the second, manager Yueh-Ping Lin’s crew went off for five runs. It loaded the bases with no outs and CPBL’s 2022 Triple Crown winner Li Lin tied things up with a single up the middle.

And then, with the bases still loaded, Chang — one of the heroes from Chinese Taipei’s win over Italy — stepped up to the plate with the crowd in a frenzy. Drums rattled, Thunderstix clapped and Chang sent one to the moon — a 5-1 advantage for Chinese Taipei.

The Netherlands came back to score one in the third on a Gregorius groundout to make it 5-2, and it looked like it could get one or two more, but reliever Che-Yuan Wu came in to retire Josh Palacios on a flyout. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, because Intercontinental Stadium’s home team for the week wasn’t done plating runs.

Taipei loaded the bases for the second straight inning. Kun-Yu Chiang knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly, and Tsung-Che Cheng bunted in another. In the fourth, you guessed it, Taipei scored again on a long Chieh-Hsien Chen triple. And it could’ve scored more, if not for a fantastic Jurickson Profar-to-Xander Bogaerts relay on a Giljegiljaw double into the left-field corner.

The Netherlands posted a couple of runs in the eighth on a Juremi Profar single and a pinch-hit single by Wladimir Balentien, but that was all it could muster. Taipei added another run in the eighth, and when the final out rang out in the ninth, its roaring crowd had witnessed the greatest upset of Pool A thus far.

Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands are now both 2-1. Chinese Taipei controls its own destiny and can advance to the quarterfinals with a win against Cuba on Sunday (11 p.m. ET, Sat., FS2). While the Netherlands, which faces Italy on Sunday (7 a.m., FS2), also controls its own fate and can move on to the quarterfinals with a win. Panama is done with play at 2-2.

However, if both Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands lose, there’ll be a five-way tie in Pool A with each team at 2-2, and the top two squads will be settled by tiebreaking procedures.

If either Chinese Taipei or the Netherlands loses its final game of pool play — and the other wins — the team that won would advance, while there will be a three-way tie for second that includes Panama (who completed pool play at 2-2) and two other to-be-determined teams, which would also bring the tiebreaker scenarios into play.

Each team faces the other four in round-robin play, with the pool’s winner and runner-up advancing to the quarterfinals in Tokyo against the top teams from Pool B.

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