Four pitchers combined to strike out 11 as Team Australia (2-0) moved within one win of returning to its fourth World Baseball Classic following a 4-1 win over South Africa (1-1) on Friday night at Blacktown International Sportspark.
New Zealand (1-1), which eliminated the Philippines (0-2) with a 17-7 win on Friday, will play South Africa on Saturday at 2:30 a.m. ET/6:30 p.m. local time. The winner of that game will face Australia in the Qualifier championship at 2 p.m. local time Sunday (10 p.m. ET Saturday). Fans can watch all games live on MLB Network, MLB.com and WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Former Major Leaguer Travis Blackley will start for Australia.
"Our goal is to win, and the good thing is we've got our best pitcher going at the end," said Australian manager Jon Deeble. "Our programs in Australia are about pitching and defense, and that came to the floor tonight.
"Warwick [Saupold] was on a pitch count, so we had to get him out of there, but Ryan Rowland-Smith threw the ball as good as I've ever seen him throw it, and [Todd] Van Steensel was outstanding, too. And then [Ryan] Searle, who's had a good ABL, he continued his good work."
Saupold, who reached Triple-A with the Tigers last season, went the first three innings for Australia, giving up one run on three hits with three strikeouts. Rowland-Smith, a former Mariners right-hander, then struck out three over three shutout innings. Van Steensel followed with two perfect innings, before ABL saves leader Searle earned the Qualifier's first save with a scoreless ninth.
"I was able to command my fastball, and my little backdoor slider was good," said Rowland-Smith. "If I see something from these hitters, I am going to just keep attacking it and attacking it. That's where the experience comes in. I felt good tonight, and hopefully it is something I could build on."
Aussie pitchers scattered six hits and retired 12 batters in a row until there were two outs in the ninth.
South Africa's only run came on a gift double that was dropped by left fielder Luke Hughes in the third inning, followed by Kyle Botha's two-out single.
Australia jumped on South Africa Olympian Carl Michaels with four straight hits to start the first inning, scoring three times on five hits. Michaels settled down after that 35-pitch first inning to pitch the first three innings.
"That's the type of character [Michaels] that we hope our younger guys latch onto," said manager Alan Phillips. "He talks a lot to them. They look up to him a lot. He's been around. The reason why we pulled Carl as well was not because of the situation in the game, it was more the situation that comes Sunday. We're going to need someone, if everything goes well on our side."
Australia did not have another hit until the fifth, a two-out double to left from Trent Oeltjen. It did have seven left on through five and another at third in the sixth, despite pushing across the fourth run with a James Beresford groundout to make it 4-1. It was the third RBI for the Aussie leadoff hitter.