11/15/12 10:55 AM ET
Big fifth lifts Chinese Taipei past New Zealand
By Debby Wu / Special to MLB.com
Chinese Taipei's offensive fireworks in the bottom of the fifth lifted the team to victory ahead of its meeting Friday with the Philippines, likely its toughest competition in the qualifier.
In front of a crowd of 9,788, Chinese Taipei third baseman Yung-Chi Chen of the local professional The Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions and catcher Chih-Kang Kao combined to go 4-for-4 with five RBIs. Chen delivered three RBIs and Kao a pair.
Chen initiated the fifth-inning rally with a double to left field, followed by an RBI double from Kao. A series of singles ensued until Chen returned to the plate again later in the frame with the bases loaded, and he proceeded to clear the sacks with a double. Kao then singled home Chen.
Chen, who batted eighth, deflected some of the credit for his performance to the teammates who hit ahead of him in the order.
"I [hit at the bottom of the] batting order, so I got to ask my teammates who hit in front of me about the New Zealand [pitchers], and that's why I managed to make hits," said Chen. "My good performance should not be reckoned solely a result of my own efforts."
The win went to 21-year-old Chinese Taipei starter Yao-Lin Wang, a right-handed hurler in the Cubs organization. He pitched 3 2/3 innings and gave up four hits with no runs.
Chinese Taipei manager Chang-Heng Hsieh said he was satisfied with the stellar performances of both his hitters and his pitchers.
"I feel that our hitters have performed well over the past year, so I've been working with pitchers more," Hsieh said. "Indeed, our pitchers have performed very well."
After neither team could get on the board in the first two innings despite collecting hits, Chinese Taipei broke the standoff in the bottom of the third with the game's first run. And while New Zealand was able to get runners aboard throughout the first five frames, it was plagued by a lack of clutch knocks.
The Kiwis had a chance to get back into it in the fifth inning when, trailing by two runs, they put runners on second and third with one out. Hsieh then replaced reliever Chin-Chih Huang with Ta-Yuan Kuan, who struck out the next two Kiwi batters -- Alan Schoenberger and Daniel Lamb-Hunt -- to escape any damage.
New Zealand manager Andy Skeels said that while he was not happy with the result, he thought his club was holding its own before the fifth inning.
"I don't feel good about [the loss]," Skeels said. "We found out tonight why Taiwan is ranked seventh in the world. They've got a great club.
"Bottom line is, with the exception of the fifth inning, which kind of got away from us in a hurry ... I was really, really pleased with the way our guys were playing. It was a 2-0 game going into the fifth."
Taiwan will face the Philippines -- which routed Thailand, 8-2 -- on Friday at 5:30 a.m. ET. The winner will advance to the qualifier final.
Only one of the four teams in the qualifier will advance to the 16-team World Baseball Classic next spring.
Debby Wu is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.