2013 WBC: Pool 1 Review

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The second round of the WBC has gone through the halfway point with Pool 1 finishing off the Asian leg of the tournament. In the end two teams would survive and earn a trip to California for the semi-finals and a 1 in four chance at the WBC Championship. Pool 1 would simply continue the trend that has been set for this tournament with the unexpected around every corner. The pool would have the favorites and teams that were seen as having a great tournament by just making it to this round. In the first category were the teams from Pool A as Japan and Cuba would be the overwhelming favorites in this round. Japan had already won two tournaments while Cuba is considered a baseball power throughout the world. Then there were the Pool B teams in Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands. Chinese Taipei were a good baseball nation but not a power and were not expected to do much in the second round. The Netherlands on the other hand were a team not known for their baseball team and would surprise everyone by making it into the second round. Pool 1 would be seen as an almost sure thing for the Japanese and the Cubans as they were expected to walk through the pool and into the semi-finals. The Cubans would get a surprise at the start of the second round though as they would lose their first game against the Netherlands. The Dutch would continue their surprising tournament to beat Cuba in the first game in what many people saw as Cuba’s game to lose. The Cubans would go into the loser game against the Chinese Taipei team that had predictably lost to Japan in their opening game of the second round. Chinese Taipei would become the first team eliminated from the second round as they would lose to Cuba who would stay alive with another chance to play in the semi-finals. Meanwhile the Japanese would bring the Netherlands back down to earth in a blowout 16-4 game. The Netherlands and Cubans would play in a rematch that many saw as one of the most anticipated matchup in Pool 1 with the Cubans looking for revenge. In the best game of the tournament so far the Cubans and the Dutch would go back and forth in a tight battle. They would enter the 9th inning tied at 6-6 with one of the biggest upsets of the tournament on the line. The Cubans would not get the lead they needed in the top of the inning and would look to shut down the Netherlands in the bottom of the inning to extend the game. Then the surprise that surrounded the Netherlands this entire tournament would return with Andruw Jones on first and Kalian Sams at the plate. Sams would hit a big pop fly with one out that would send Jones home and give the Netherlands their biggest win ever. The Netherlands would win game and move on to the semi-finals eliminating Cuba from the tournament. With one game left the Japanese would fend off a late comeback from the Dutch to take the win and the top spot in the pool while the Netherlands would take the second spot. It would be a very surprising finish to the Asian leg of the tour but one that truly expressed the feeling of this tournament.

Now the Netherlands and Japan sit in the semi-finals waiting for the second round in the American pool to finish. The Japanese are used to being in this position as they will take on the second place finisher in Pool 2. They have done this before as they have already won two WBC titles and are the clear favorites to do it again. They have come through close games and blowouts to get their spot in the semi-finals and will try to win their third straight WBC championship. If they do this they will be considered the dominant power in baseball as they would have won all three WBC so far. The Netherlands are in an entirely new experience but they do have experience in championships. The Netherlands may not be a dominant team in the WBC but with 7 European Championships they know how to win. Now they will look to take their magical tournament and turn it into a medal performance in their first WBC. They have already accomplished more than anyone thought and there is nothing stopping them from going all out to beat any team that is in their way. As these two teams get a break to adjust to the time change they will wait and see who comes out of Pool 2. If the first three parts of the tournament are any indication Pool 2 and the rest of the tournament will be very entertaining with the unexpected sure to make an appearance.

Final Standings:
1. Japan
2. Netherlands
3. Cuba
4. Chinese Taipei

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