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The New Daily
The New Daily
Roger Vaughan and Ian Chadband

Australia makes history by reaching quarter-final at World Baseball Classic

Australia has reached the World Baseball Classic quarter-finals for the first time. Photo: EPA

Australia has made history, reaching the World Baseball Classic quarter-finals for the first time.

It rivals the semi-final win over Japan and the silver medal at the 2004 Olympics as the greatest moment in the history of the national men’s team, given the classic allows professional players.

Monday’s 8-3 win over the Czech Republic in Tokyo, their final group game, confirmed the Australians would finish second in Pool B behind the host nation and progress.

Manager Dave Nilsson’s men now face baseball powerhouse Cuba on Wednesday night, again in Tokyo.

After only two wins combined in the past four editions of the Classic, Australia has had three wins so far in this tournament.

It opened with a shock win over world No.4 South Korea and then enjoyed a mercy rule success over China.

On Sunday night the Australians hit a roadblock in the form of Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, who hit a monster three-run homer as the host nation overwhelmed Australia 7-1.

But Australia rallied impressively less than a day later in a match that was much tighter than the final score suggests.

Australia and Czechia were tied on one-all and had combined for just three hits going into the seventh inning.

But shortstop Logan Wade broke the game open with a two-run double in the seventh, before Australia added three more in the eighth.

Designated hitter Alex Hall was prolific, hitting a solo home run in the first and a two-run triple in the eighth, ending the match with four RBIs.

Tim Kennelly also picked up two hits and made two outstanding catches in right field.

Australia went deep into its bullpen with five pitchers, none of whom threw more than 2.2 inning.

Between them, Jack O’Loughlin, Mitch Neunborn, Dan McGrath, Jon Kennedy and Sam Holland kept the Czechs to eight hits and striking out 11.

McGrath, pitching in middle relief, was credited with the win.

The night before, Australia had been brought down to earth in a crushing loss to Japan, the tournament favourites.

It was effectively sealed from the spectacular moment in the first inning when Ohtani, one of the MLB’s biggest stars and a Japanese icon, smacked a massive three-run home run to right field which landed over 136 metres away, fittingly finishing just below his vast image on an video advertising board.

The chanting 40,000 crowd went wild, but the unfortunate 20-year-old Australian pitcher Will Sherriff didn’t even bother watching the ball sail towards the lights as he simply bent over and put his hands on his knees.

It was just the prelude to a terrific display from the Los Angeles Angels superstar Ohtani, who went on to have four RBIs and there was another stand-out performance from Pacific League MVP pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who struck out eight batters over four innings and gave up just one base hit.

Australia could take some consolation in the fact that their six-run loss was the closest any team has come to a Japanese powerhouse team whose players earn an estimated $US110 million ($A167 million) a year between them.

-with AP

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