In the end, Team Venezuela proved to be too much for Italy to handle.
Last Saturday, Italy failed to score against Venezuela. Tonight, they couldn’t score until the seventh inning. Too little, too late. Not enough pitching, not enough hitting.
The Italians have plenty of heart, though. They never gave up. They go home proud of their showing in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. They will continue to improve, and they will be heard from again.
Venezuela took nothing for granted in this game. They got great pitching from starter Enrique Gonzalez. The Boston Red Sox minor leaguer threw four exceptional innings, yielding just two hits, striking out three, and walking none.
Three more Venezuelan pitchers, including one of the game’s best closers, Francisco Rodriguez, wouldn’t allow the Italians to get any momentum.
The starting pitcher for Italy—Adam Ottavino, who pitched in Double-A last year for the Cardinals—was replaced after three innings. Although he had not allowed a run, he had accumulated 50 pitches at that point. Manager Marco Mazzieri decided that was enough.
The game got away from Italy in the next two innings. Venezuela scored four runs in the fourth, helped by a costly error by shortstop Nick Punto.
In the fifth inning, they scored five more times. Bobby Abreu led off the inning with home run deep into the right field seats. Miguel Cabrera followed with one of his own to left field.
After two pitching changes and with a runner on second base, Jose Lopez belted a two-run shot. Ramon Hernandez followed with the second back-to-back homer of the inning. Four home runs in one inning!
The shell-shocked Italians never recovered.
Venezuela plays the United States Wednesday night for first place in this group. Watch out, Team USA. The Venezuelan bats have awakened.