Team Puerto Rico remained scorching hot at the plate as it beat Team Italy, 9-3, on Sunday afternoon at Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico, to win Pool D and advance to the second round in San Diego.
Italy (1-2) now faces Venezuela (1-2) in a tiebreaker game at 9 p.m. ET on Monday to determine who will move on to Pool F with Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the United States.
Puerto Rico completely dominated its competition in Pool D, outscoring its opponents, 29-7, and managing at least nine runs each game.
"I mean, every game, the offense was there, and the pitching was there, so the defense was there," Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "So we have a very good balanced team in the defense and the offense. We have a very good combination of veteran players and young players with a lot of energy. They are very committed to what we're trying to do here, and they showed that on the field. So we are very confident moving forward."
In fact, Italian manager Marco Mazzieri said he believes Puerto Rico has a good shot to reach the championship round in Los Angeles (March 20-22 at Dodger Stadium).
"I believe so because they are good, good pitching, good fielding, good baseball, and besides, I think that they have the passion that they need to play a tournament like this," Mazzieri said. "They are very proud. They looked good. It's a very strong team. It could be that -- I think they're going to be in the last four games in L.A."
Not surprisingly, Puerto Rico also feels good about its chances in WBC '17.
"From the beginning, from before we started practicing, once we started getting together and knew who the guys on the roster were, there wasn't a doubt that we could get past this first round because our goal is to get to the finals, get to L.A. and win it all," Hernandez said.
Italy scored three early runs, thanks to a two-run shot from Cubs Minor Leaguer John Andreoli in the first inning and a solo shot by Royals catcher Drew Butera in the second.
Puerto Rico's pitching staff shut down the Italians after Butera's homer, as starter Jose Berrios (Twins) and Hiram Burgos (Brewers) combined to record 15 outs in a row before Chris Colabello (Indians) drew a walk with two outs in the seventh.
"I would like to give credit to the pitching of the Puerto Rican team because the first two innings, they adjusted on our hitters, and they started throwing the first pitch for strikes," Mazzieri said. "We couldn't adjust."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Correa goes yard: Correa launched a three-run homer to left to give Puerto Rico a 7-3 advantage in the fourth. Correa took Blue Jays Minor Leaguer Jordan Romano deep for his second homer of WBC '17.
"Well, the quality of the game, the talent, they are young athletes with a lot of energy," Rodriguez said. "Every one of them, one by one, the first, Carlos Correa, today against Italy, that three-run hit, Javier Baez the second night, and defensively, what we were expecting from them, every fan enjoyed it, definitely. I think this short three days here -- because they are fans of each other, as well. They got together, and they played together." More >
Nimmo leaves with injury: Italy starting center fielder Brandon Nimmo was removed from the game in the bottom of the fifth after he appeared to get injured while tracking down Hernandez's RBI triple. The Mets outfielder came up lame as he chased the ball in the gap, but he was able to walk off the field on his own.
"Actually it's a right hamstring strain, grade 1, so it should take him a couple of weeks," Mazzieri said. More >
ITALY'S MAZZIERI TO RETIRE Mazzieri told his team after the game that if it doesn't play in the tiebreaker, Sunday would be his last game managing Italy.
"Well, it's not about my career," said Mazzieri, who has managed the Italian national team since 2007. "It's about all the players that played for me, because wins and losses are in the books, but the emotions and the feelings, it doesn't matter 20 years from now, it will be there forever. It's about them, it's not about me. I want to thank all of them through these 10 years that we had in different events and competitions because they made it special." More >
QUOTABLE "We're really proud. We have a lot of pride, and what we showed is what we're going to bring to the table. We're going to bring a lot of energy, a lot of passion, and we're going to play hard from the first pitch to the last pitch of the game. What you saw here is what you can expect from us." -- Hernandez, on Puerto Rico's mindset
"I think we gave all out, and I hope that people watching from the stands appreciated that because these guys, they've been all out. They played with their heart, and not only with their heart, their souls and everything. We are pleased with our performances. We're not so pleased with the outcome, but that's sport." -- Mazzieri, on Italy's showing
WHAT'S NEXT Italy: Italy faces Venezuela in a tiebreaking game at 9 p.m. ET Monday that decides who moves on to San Diego with Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico is on to the second round in San Diego, where it will play the Dominican Republic on Tuesday at Petco Park. First pitch is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.