Australia has suffered their worst loss of the 2006 Intercontinental Cup, going down 13-0 to Cuba in a rain-shortened five inning contest.
The Aussies had no answer for a relentless Cuban offence that scored 13 runs on as many hits in just four times at bat.
Veteran knuckleballer Phil Brassington started for Australia but couldn’t conjure the same magic that saw him dazzle some of the planet’s greatest hitters during the World Baseball Classic earlier this year.
Brassington showed exactly what can happen when the knuckleball fails to “dance”; surrendering nine runs, on 10 hits, while walking four during his three innings of work. Unfortunately for “Brass”, the damage was made worse by some untimely errors that contributed to four of the nine runs he gave up being unearned.
Offensively the story wasn’t much better for the Aussies, who managed just four hits against a Cuban line-up that now finds themselves as run-away favourites to win the tournament.
The saving grace for Australia may have been the ‘November rain’ that ended the game after the top of the fourth inning – giving the Aussie bullpen a much needed rest.
After using five pitchers in yesterday’s match-up with Korea and seven the day before against Italy, Australia’s staff now enters the must-win game verus the Netherlands fully replenished, with all 12 pitchers available if necessary.
With Cuba (6-0) and Japan (5-1) already assured of the top two places entering the semi-finals, the battle for the remaining two spots comes down to a three horse race between Australia (3-3), the Netherlands (4-3) and host nation Chinese Taipei (3-3).
The possible scenarios for the final two spots play out as follows;
If the Aussies can beat the Dutch and Taiwan lose their final match against Cuba, then Australia will finish 3rd and play Japan in the semi-final. This would be the best possible result for the green and gold as it means avoiding the Cubans in the first round of play-offs.
If Australia beat the Netherlands and Taiwan beat Cuba it would force a three way tie. Under IBAF rules, in order for Australia to advance, Cuba would need to score 9 more runs against Taiwan than the Netherlands do against the Aussies. A highly unlikely scenario, but if so, Australia would finish fourth. (Mathematically the Aussies could still finish 3rd if they beat the Dutch by more than 18 runs)
If both Australia and Taiwan lose tomorrow, the host nation would advance because they beat Australia head-to-head.
So with that the Aussies will be leaving nothing in reserve tomorrow in their final round-robin game. Be sure to stay glued to your computer screens and follow the progress as it happens. Click here
The game against the Netherlands commences at AEST on Thursday.