Australia manager John Deeble laid out a simple game plan for his team after its loss to Japan on Wednesday.
Beat China, beat Cuba and go to the second round.
Luke Hughes homered and drove in four runs, Trent Dantonio had a two-run triple, and Australia hit one of its goals with a 11-0 win over China on Thursday night at Tokyo Dome.
“It was a big game for us,” Hughes said. “We knew we had to go out there and get a win for ourselves, for Australia, and give ourselves an opportunity to go up against Cuba tomorrow. Destiny’s in our hands, now we’re looking forward to the challenge tomorrow, and we’re excited. We know what we need to do and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
The game ended after eight innings due to the early termination rules in effect that award a win to a team leading by 10 or more runs after seven innings. James Beresford pushed Australia over the threshold with a grand slam in the eighth that made it 11-0.
Now comes the hard part, a date with Cuba on Friday to determine which team will advance to the second round out of Pool B.
“We’re very confident,” Deeble said. “I think that we’ve got a great chance to win, and the players believe too. It’s all systems go for us, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow’s contest.”
The winner will be the Pool B runner-up behind Japan, which clinched the top spot by virtue of its earlier wins over Australia and Cuba, coupled with China’s loss. Japan is the only team in the pool without a defeat.
“As we have qualified through the first round, I believe that it is a result of how cohesively we’ve played,” Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo said in a statement. “We will have tougher games from this point on. We would like to go into every game as prepared as possible on the way toward our goal of becoming world champions.”
Thursday’s result eliminated the Chinese, whose participation in this year’s WBC will end with the Pool B finale against Japan Friday night.
China managed just five hits in the loss. Starter Ju Kwon took the loss after allowing a pair of run in three innings on the mound.
“A very disappointing game,” said China manager John McLaren. “We never got into the flow of the game. I thought Ju Kwon did a nice job, he made one bad pitch. He competed well. He was impressive. We just didn’t show up tonight.”
Hughes finished 2-for-5 and drove in four runs. He got Australia on the board in the third with a deep drive to left off Ju. He drove in two more with a double to center in the seventh.
Dantonio came up with his two-run triple in the fourth, and Timothy Kennelly hit an RBI single in the seventh. Beresford capped the offensive attack with his grand slam.
Australian starter Travis Blackley, who pitched for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2014, threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the win. Blackley allowed two hits, one on a bunt single in the first, and struck out two.
Australia has participated in all four editions of the WBC. The country’s only other victory came in 2009, against host Mexico. The Aussies were forced the qualify for this year’s WBC after losing all three of their games in 2013.
Now they stand a win away from a first-ever berth in the second round with mighty Cuba standing in the way.
“I think the Cubans have been decimated with guys who have played in the major leagues,” Deeble said. “You look at (Yoenis) Cespedes, (Jose) Abreu, the list goes on and on. But they’re a fantastic baseball country. It’s not going to be easy tomorrow, we understand that. They keep producing good baseball players. (Alfredo) Despaigne, (Frederich) Cepeda, they’ve been good over a long period of time.
“I think this is our chance. I think this one’s our chance. It’s our turn.”
Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.