Australia, South Africa win opening games in WBC qualifying

SYDNEY, Australia _ Australia scored seven runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, the final two on a throwing error, to beat the Philippines 11-1 on Thursday in a World Baseball Classic qualifying game shortened by the mercy rule.

The home side had 11 hits and was helped by three errors by the Philippines. Under the tournament mercy rule, the game ends when a team leads by 15 runs after five innings or 10 runs after seven.

Earlier, Seattle Mariners prospect Dylan Unsworth allowed two hits over eight shutout innings and designated hitter Brett Willemburg had two hits and drove in two runs to lead South Africa to a 7-1 win over New Zealand.

The results set up Friday’s games between the Philippines and New Zealand and a night game between South Africa and Australia at Blacktown in western Sydney.

The winner from the four-team tournament, which ends Sunday, will qualify for next year’s 16-team World Baseball Classic.

Unsworth, a 23-year-old right-hander who reached Double-A last season, induced 15 ground balls and retired the first 11 New Zealanders he faced. He struck out the side in his final inning.

“When we arrived in Australia, one of the guys we targeted for this game was going to be Dylan,” South Africa manager Alan Phillips said of Unsworth. “He is probably our most experienced starter.”

South Africa took advantage of some New Zealand fielding miscues in the top of the third inning, scoring two runs on two hits, a wild pitch and two errors.

New Zealand starter Scott Cone was taken out of the game with two outs in the third, having allowed one unearned run on one hit with two walks and two hit batters in 2 2/3 innings. He was replaced by his brother Ben Cone, who gave up two runs on two hits before ending the inning.

South Africa added four runs in the top of the ninth inning to put the game out of reach for the New Zealanders.

Other WBC qualifying tournaments will be held from March 17-20 in Mexicali, Mexico (Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico and Nicaragua), and Panama City, Panama (Colombia, France, Panama and Spain); and from Sept. 22-25 in Brooklyn, New York (Brazil, Britain, Israel and Pakistan).

Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Spain finished last in their respective pools in 2013, forcing them to requalify.

Qualifiers will join Canada, China, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States and Venezuela in next year’s tournament. It is expected to be held in March 2017 though a host country or countries have not been announced.

The Dominican Republic won the 2013 title, beating Puerto Rico 3-0 in San Francisco.

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