SYDNEY, NSW – Overcoming an early deficit and a slow start in their first game of the World Baseball Classic Qualifier, Team Australia’s Southern Thunder took down the Philippines 11-1 in seven innings on Thursday night at Blue Sox Stadium in Sydney.
Aussie shortstop and Minnesota Twins minor leaguer James Beresford led the offensive charge with four hits in the game, driving in three runs for the home side. Participating in his third WBCevent, the 27-year-old native of Victoria helped to back a solid six-inning start from Canberra’s Steve Kent. The left-handed Atlanta Braves farmhand allowed one run on four hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.
“Kent was outstanding tonight,” Aussie manager Jon Deeble said. “That first inning he really battled, and he started changing speeds in the third or fourth inning. He was dominant today and Beresford really swung the bat well, as did Logan Wade [who doubled twice in the matchup]. We had some hard hits…it was a good all-around effort.”
The underdog Philippines squad took a lead in the opening frame of the matchup, with third baseman Brady Conlan driving in the team’s only run of the game in the first, bringing Twins farmhand – and Beresford’s teammate for the last three seasons – Eric Farris around after he led off the game with an infield single for the visitors.
“That was a really tough ballclub,” Deeble said. “The score did not indicate how good they are. They’ve got some good arms and an athletic infield. It is going to be a tough tournament and tomorrow is another day.”
Team Australia came back with a run in the bottom half of the first, went ahead with one in the second and added two in the fifth, before ending the game with a seven-run seventh and sealing the deal with a 10-run lead and international game-ending rules taking effect.
“It was a tough way to end it because we played a pretty solid game,” Philippines skipper Tim Hulett said. “We made some mistakes early but they didn’t fold because of them, and we were in the ballgame. [Visiting starter J.R.] Bunda did a fantastic job. He was a little bit of an unknown for us but…he was really competing well.”
Added Beresford: “Don’t let that score fool you. They’ve actually got some guys on that team who can really play. We blew it open a little bit at the end but we’re not looking at that as a 10-run win. It was kind of a three or four-run game for most of the game.”
Philippines righty Bunda went 2 1/3 innings before leaving the game after straining his throwing elbow. The right-hander allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits, walking two and striking out one. The visiting squad followed with five different relievers, including big-league southpaw Clay Rapada, whose WBC Qualifier appearance marks the end of his playing career.
“It was nice to come out here; the experience to me is priceless,” Rapada said. “Our nation has it tough coming out here, not being in season. I was impressed with how our guys battled…I gave them what I had tonight. I have to tip my cap to these guys; they’ve got a good squad.”
Australian first baseman Stefan Welch had three RBI in the matchup, and former big leaguer Trent Oeltjen drove in two of his own. Veteran major league hurler Peter Moylan threw the seventh inning and struck out the side.
“Team Australia is a very good team,” Hulett said. “There were no weaknesses in the lineup. There was not one guy where you felt like, okay, we can get by this guy. They all swung the bat well, they played the game the right way, it was very impressive.”
With the win, the Southern Thunder will match up against South Africa on Friday night, following the battle between winless squads New Zealand and the Philippines during the day.
“It’s always hard to come out in these competition games; the first game is really important,” Beresford said. “All the boys knew that from the get-go and we put some good at-bats together to start, and obviously Steve Kent had an outstanding game, which got us off to a good start. Now we prepare for tomorrow and hopefully put another good performance up there.”
To keep up to date with the latest Southern Thunder information make sure you follow Team Australia on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Story and Photo Credit to Alexis Brudnicki