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Must-win game for Mexico, South Africa

Winner of Monday's contest will go on to play Cuba or Australia

South Africa outfielder Martin Gordon and Co. are looking for their first win of the 2009 Classic. (AP)

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MEXICO CITY -- Following the completion of Day 1 for Pool B in the World Baseball Classic, no team would have liked to be playing Monday night and standing in the face of elimination.

But one team in particular didn't actually think it would be in that position.

South Africa duels with host Mexico at Foro Sol Stadium after both teams dropped their opening games on Sunday.

South Africa was handed an 8-1 lost by Cuba, and Mexico was blown out by Australia, 17-7.

Playing in front of a home crowd with a roster full of Major Leaguers, the loss by Mexico was startling to say the least.

"These are things that happen in games, in baseball," Mexico manager Vinny Castilla said Sunday night. "The guys didn't expect this."

How Mexico responds will depend largely on whether the team moves quickly past its defeat to Australia or if the loss lingers beyond one night.

"We can't do anything about what's happened," Castilla said. "We have to forget it, and we have to proceed [Monday] with a better mindset to work against South Africa.

Castilla has tabbed Elmer Dessens as his starter for Game 2. Dessens should feel more than comfortable throwing inside Foro Sol Stadium, considering he spent much of 2008 pitching for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico of the Mexican League. Given that Castilla used more than half of his pitching staff against Australia, Mexico will need all it can get from Dessens.

South Africa counters with 19-year-old Justin Erasmus, a Boston Red Sox prospect who has trained with the MLB Australian Academy Program.

South Africa, at the very least, will be hoping to achieve a fraction of the offensive success Australia had against Mexico's staff en route to setting a Classic record with 22 hits. Cuba limited South Africa to just four hits, the first of which didn't come until the fifth inning.

Christopher Ramirez is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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