Venezuela knocks off defending champion Australia to reach gold medal game

Written by Bob on March 9th, 2013

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – The Venezuelan fastball team doesn’t rely on one pitcher to carry the load, choosing instead more of a “pitching-by-committee” approach.

Through pool play and in the playoffs, four pitchers took their turn in the circle.

On Sunday in the Bronze medal game against Australia, it was Erick Urbaneja’s turn, and he responded with five innings of shutout pitching. After he gave up a lead off single in the sixth, “the committee” summoned right-hander Ramon Jones.

It proved a wise change because Jones responded by continuing the shutout the rest of the way as Venezuela knocked off Australia, 2-0, to advance to the Gold medal game against New Zealand.

The victorious Venezuelans celebrated after the final out by rushing the mound, embracing Jones, dancing about and back slapping in glee. And rightfully they should.

For this marked an epic achievement: it’s the first time Venezuela has ever advanced into the ISF World Championship Gold medal game.

No one was happier and more exuberant than catcher Rafael Flores. He was so excited that he embraced an Australian coach. And then sprawled face-first on the ground from sheer emotion.

“We are a family,” said Flores through an interpreter. “I am really proud of our team.”

Venezuela put single runs on the board in the first and second innings. Flores, with a powerful throwing arm, hit a flair down the first base line, scoring Iran Perez, who reached safely on a single.

Then in the second, Franklin Gonzalez singled, and Yelder Chirinos drilled an Andrew Kirkpatrick change up to the base of the right-centerfield fence for a double, scoring Gonzalez with the final run of the game.

Kirkpatrick started but left after Chirinos’s double, bringing on Adam Folkard. The right-hander –considered the hardest throwing and best pitcher in the game – shackled Venezuela the rest of the way. He struck out nine, allowed but two hits and no walks.

But with the two runs and Venezuela’s shutout pitching, Australia would not repeat as champions. Urbaneja numbers read: five innings, six hits and seven strikeouts. And for Jones, one hit and two strikeouts over the final two frames.

The two pitchers compliment each other very well. Urbaneja (3-0 record) relies on a rise ball, rise-curve, and a wicked change up to confuse and retire batters. While Jones comes at hitters with a hard-breaking drop ball.

But it wasn’t just the pitching, the defense also performed well.

In the third inning, Australia threatened with runners on first and second with no outs. But Flores showed off his arm behind the plate by gunning down James Todhunter trying to steal third. Then after Urbaneja struck out Mark Harris, right-fielder Herwins Querales hauled in a line drive off the bat of Michael Tanner to end the inning.

Flores arm proved valuable again in the sixth when he threw out Joel Southam trying to steal second after scooping up a strikeout pitch in the dirt.

But Urbaneja helped himself too. Especially in the fifth inning.

With two out and runners on second and third, he struck out Australia’s lead-off batter Michael Tanner with a great change up to end the inning.

The Steelers mounted a final threat in the bottom of the seventh, when Todhunter lined a sharp single to left field with one out. But Jones got Nick Norton to hit into a double play to end the game. And then the Venezuelans began celebrating.

“Everything went well and we wanted to win,” Flores said.

Pitching Totals: Urbaneja went 5 innings, allowed six hits, no walks, and struck out 7. Jones gave up one hit, walked one, and struck out 2 in his two innings.

For Australia, Andrew Kirkpatrick pitched 1 1/3 innings, allowed 2 earned runs on 4 hits, with no strikeouts. Folkard finished the final 4.2 innings with a two-hitter and 9 strikeouts.

Batting totals: Venezuela was led by Paez 2 for 3, run; Flores 2-3, RBI; Gonzalez 1-2, run, and Chirinos 1-2, RBI.

Australia picked up the seven hits led by Todhunter 3-3, Norton 2-3, Southam 1-3, and Winters 1-3.

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