It Has Finally Arrived - 2023 World Baseball Classic Group Stage Recap
After COVID canceled the 2021 World Baseball Classic, it has finally been the end of the six-year hiatus of the World Baseball Classic, the last one taking place in 2017 with the United States being crowned the champions. Last night with the United States’ win over Colombia, the group stage of the 2023 World Baseball Classic came to an end and we now move onto the single elimination knockout round. While a pair of matches have already been played in the quarterfinals, this piece will focus on the groups, specifically their final standings and who moves on. This also will replace the University of Arizona baseball Weekly Rundown for this week and potentially next week as the tournament runs until Tuesday the 21st of March. Without further ado, let’s see what went down.
All of Pool A’s matches took place at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taichung, Taiwan, with Taiwan (playing under the name of Chinese Taipei) acting as the host and entering as the #2 ranked squad in the world. The first matches took place on March 8th and the last wrapped up on the 12th. At the end of the play, all five teams ended up in a tie with a 2-2 record. Ultimately, under tiebreaker rules based on runs allowed per defensive out recorded, Cuba won the pool while Italy finished as the runners up, both moving onto the quarterfinals and qualifying for the 2026 World Baseball Classic. The Netherlands and Panama finished in 3rd and 4th respectively, automatically qualifying for the next WBC. Taiwan finished last and will have to go through qualifiers in order to qualify next time. The pool’s biggest upset came to be Italy’s 6-3 win over Cuba on the 9th, which proved crucial in helping to take the runner up spot.
All of Pool B’s matches took place at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, with the #1 ranked Japanese squad the hosts. All of the matches took place from the 9th-13th of March. Japan won the group, sweeping their opposition to finish with a 4-0 record, which included a 13-4 dismantling of South Korea and 10-2 victory over the Czech Republic. The runner up for the group was Australia, who finished with a 3-1 record, taking the last spot to the quarterfinals. South Korea finished in 3rd with a 2-2 record, which included a complete annihilation of China 22-2 in the last game of group play. The Czech Republic finished in 4th, their sole victory coming against China 8-5. In last place was China, who went 0-4, surrendering 50 runs while scoring only 10 to miss automatic qualification for the 2026 WBC.
Pool C took place at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona from the 11th-15th of March. The Pool C winners proved to be Mexico, who finished 3-1, with their 11-5 victory over the US proving to be the tiebreaker to win the group. The runners up of the group was thus the United States squad, finishing 3-1, with that loss to Mexico sending them into a tough part of the bracket and an underwhelming 3-2 win against Colombia leaving little to be hopeful for. Canada finished 2-2 and took the 3rd spot in the group, a 12-1 loss to the US putting them close to last but a well earned 5-0 win against Colombia propelling them to their final placement. Finishing in 4th place came Great Britain, who quickly became infamous for having by far the worst uniforms in the tournament. The British team finished 1-3, their 7-5 win over Colombia ensuring their position as Colombia also finished 1-3 and unfortunately were the odd ones out despite some strong outings that came without the win.
All of Pool D took place at LoanDepot Park in Miami, Florida from the 11th-15th. The top team in the group was far and away Venezuela, who finished 4-0, including a strong 5-1 win over the Dominican Republic. The runners up were Puerto Rico, who finished their group play 3-1, their 5-2 victory over the Dominican Republic to close out Pool D play the crucial factor to getting them into the knockout round while also unfortunately leading to Edwin Diaz losing his entire 2023 MLB season due to injury. The Dominican Republic finished in 3rd, their record 2-2 proving an underwhelming result for the 6th ranked squad entering the tournament. The 4th place finisher was Israel, who finished 1-3, their sole win a 3-1 win over hapless Nicaragua, who finished 0-4 with four total runs scored to 22 runs surrendered to miss automatic qualification for the 2026 World Baseball Classic.
With the group stage wrapped up, the bracket for the quarterfinals is complete. Cuba, the Pool A champs, played Australia, the Pool B runners up, yesterday at the Tokyo Dome, with Cuba taking a 4-3 win to move onto the semifinals. Venezuela, the Pool D winners, will play the US, the Pool C runners up, on Saturday the 18th at LoanDepot Park, with the winner going on to face Cuba on Sunday the 19th in Miami. Japan, the Pool B champs, played Italy, the Pool A runners up, today at the Tokyo Dome, with Japan winning 9-3 to move onto the next round. Tomorrow, Mexico, the Pool C champs, will play Puerto Rico, the Pool D runners up, at LoanDepot Park, with the winner going on to face Japan on Monday the 20th in the same venue. Once the semifinal matches conclude, we’ll see who will fight for the world crown on Tuesday the 21st. Next week I will recap the entirety of the knockout round as the matches are much too close in timing. Here’s hoping for a good conclusion, and let’s go Mexico.