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March 13, 2009 at 1:32 am ET
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WBC All First Round Team

Never ones to let excellence go unrespekanized, Bugs & Cranks honors the 11 men who played better at their positions when it counted than anyone else in the first round of the 2009 World Baseball Classic:

1B Adrian Gonzalez, Mexico (Padres)

In two games with Mexico facing elimination, Gonzalez drove in 7 runs while the games were still within 3 runs or less.

2B Gift Ngoepe, South Africa (Pirates, signed last October at age 18)

In the first three innings of South Africa’s elimination game, Ngoepe hit two triples off Mexico starter Elmer Dessens (who appeared in 4 games with the Braves in 2008), scoring one run and driving in another.テつ While Mexico eventually won 14-3, at the seventh inning stretch the home team only had a 3-2 lead.

3B Alex Liddi, Italy (Mariners, A in 2008)

Liddi had an RBI sac fly in the third and an RBI single in the 7th, both times extending Italy’s lead over Canada to three runs.

SS Ray Chang, China (Pirates, AAA in 2008)

Against Taiwan, Chang’s RBI double in the 5th and solo homer in the 8th stretched China’s lead to three runs.テつ His first-inning single against Korea was one of only two China managed as they were eliminated.

LF Hyun-Soo Kim, Korea (Doosan Bears)

Kim went 2-for-5 against China, and drove in the first of 14 runs for Korea.

CF Chris Denorfia, Italy (Athletics)

Denorfia went 4-for-4 with 3 doubles and 2 RBI to lead Italy’s offense to a 6-2 win over Canada in Toronto.

RF Gene Kingsale, The Netherlands (Neptunus)

Coming from Rotterdam’s Honkbal Hoofdklasse team, Kingsale drove in the tying run and in the 11th inning of the Dutch’s elimination game against the Dominican Republic, and then scored the winning run later in the inning.

DH Hou Fenglian, China (Tian Lions)

Hou Fenglian went 3-for-4 in the elimination game against Taiwan, scoring China’s first run and driving in their second.

C Ramon Hernandez, Venezuela (Reds)

Hernandez went 1-for-3 and drove in 2 runs in Venezuela’s elimination game against Italy.

SP Tom Stuifbergen, The Netherlands (Twins, Rookie ball in 2007, out all 2008 because of injury)

With the Dutch facing elimination, Stuifbergen’s stuff wasn’t as flashy as Ubaldo Jimenez’s record-breaking strikeouts, but he matched the Rockies hurler’s four shutout innings and kept the Dutch in it.テつ Stuifbergen got the Dominicans to strand runners in all four innings, and in the fourth worked out of no-out men-on-the-corners jam.

RP Jason Grilli, Italy (Rockies)

Grilli entered in the bottom of the 6th to protect a two-run lead, and worked the final 3.1 innings against Canada, allowing no runs and only one hit to earn the save.

***

You might be thinking what about Japan, Team USA, Cuba, and Puerto Rico?テつ I said up top “when it counted.” If they didn’t face elimination, I’m not impressed — might as well be spring training pretend games.テつ These 11 men proved themselves in actual pressure situations, and they should be commended.

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One Response to “WBC All First Round Team”
  1. Matt says:

    Nice. Ray Chang made some awesome plays at SS too.

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