03/09/09 11:36 PM ET
Bravissimo: Italy boots out Canada
Denorfia's 4-for-4 night, Cooper's strong 'pen work carry Italians
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com
Center fielder Chris Denorfia led the charge with four hits, including three doubles, as Team Italy upended Canada, 6-2, in Pool C play in the World Baseball Classic before a stunned crowd of 12,411 at Rogers Centre on Monday night.
With the win, Italy kept alive its hopes of advancing to the second round of the Classic and knocked Canada out of the tournament after just two games.
"There's so much pride in our dugout," Denorfia said. "Guys didn't want to go home today, and we played like it."
Denorfia, who tied the World Baseball Classic single-game marks for hits and doubles, was in the middle of nearly every Team Italy rally. He put the Italians on the board with an RBI single in the first inning, doubled and scored in the third, doubled home a run in the fourth and doubled and scored again in the seventh.
Denorfia credited Italy hitting coach Mike Piazza with helping him to make adjustments to his swing during batting practice.
"He really kind of nailed home some points for me," Denorfia said. "It just ended up being one of those days where the ball just hits the barrel. They don't come around very often, and I'm just really happy it came around today."
The A's outfielder also made the defensive play of the game, ranging far to his left to rob Joey Votto of extra bases with a diving catch in the seventh inning.
"He's just incredible, just a very good ballplayer," Team Italy manager Marco Mazzieri said. "I had all the scouting reports, I had talked to him and all this, but to see him live, that's a pretty special thing to do."
Denorfia was not the only Italian to come up big. Third baseman Alex Liddi went 2-for-4 and knocked in a pair of runs. First baseman Giuseppe Mazzanti chipped in two of Team Italy's 10 hits on the night.
Starter Dan Serafini took a one-hit shutout into the fourth, but he was knocked out of the game after allowing three consecutive doubles to begin the inning, the last a two-run knock by Jason Bay. In all, Serafini limited the potent Team Canada lineup to two runs on four hits and two walks in three-plus innings.
Left-handed reliever Chris Cooper followed Serafini by tossing 2 2/3 shutout innings. His best work came in the fourth, when he struck out Peter Orr to leave the bases loaded, then got Chris Barnwell to fly out to center to end the threat.
"They had so many lefties in the lineup, and I think we did a good job keeping them off balance and mixing pitches up," Cooper said. "This is awesome. To be here is amazing, and to represent Italy, it's a big win for the country ... and makes a statement. Hopefully, we can do it again [Tuesday]."
The win was the second for the Italians in the Classic. They knocked off Australia during a 1-2 run in the '06 tournament.
With one upset win already under their belts, Team Italy will face a heavily favored Venezuelan squad on Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET in a rematch of Venezuela's 7-0 victory in the Pool C opener for both clubs. The winner of that game will earn a spot in the second round of the Classic this weekend in Miami.
"One of the great things about international ball is, it's a one-game final every day," Denorfia said. "Any given day, any team can beat any team. I like the lineup we're throwing out there every day, so I would not count us out."
Another big win would not only send Italy to the second round, it could also impact the long-term growth of baseball in that country.
"If we can win and continue to do well, then the media will [take notice], the fans will [take notice]," said Piazza. "We want to encourage the kids to play baseball in Italy and realize that you know, soccer is a great game and it's a great game to play and everyone plays it, but baseball can be viable over there, too."
Ed Eagle is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.