Coming into the tournament, host Australia was the heavy favourites to come out on top and advance to the main event of the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
They were able to do just that, avoiding a scare from an upstart South Africa team, winning the championship game 12-5.
The final score did not indicate just how close this game was, as the back and forth affair was 6-5 heading into the bottom of the 8th before Australia put up 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th.
Gift Ngoepe got the scoring started for South Africa as he hit a leadoff home run to start the game. Australia was able to get one back in the bottom half off a Trent Oeltjen RBI double. Oeltjen finished 3-for-4, with 2RBI, 2R, and a walk.
Big leaguer Travis Blackley started on the mound for the home side and was solid through 5, but ran into trouble in the 6th inning. After a broken bat single and a walk, Kyle Botha crushed the first pitch he saw for a go-ahead 3-run home run.
Australia rebounded from there, scoring 1 in the 6th, 2 in the 7th, and 6 in the 8th to put the game out of reach.
The difference in the game, like many WBC games, was the depth of the bullpen. Australia outscored South Africa 8-1 from the 7th inning on.
Big leaguer Peter Moyland and Ryan Searle closed out the final 3+ innings for the Aussies.
Australia has competed in all 3 prior classics, going a combined 1-8. Their lone win came in a 17-7 win over Mexico, where they set a WBC record with 22 hits.
This year’s team could be the strongest that they have had. Young prospect James Beresford will lead the way, with a lot of veteran presence like Luke Hughes and Trent Oeltjen.
The pitching will be strong with big leaguers Travis Blackley and Peter Moylan leading the way.
The youth movement is also strong with Australia with 15 of the 28 qualifier players being born in 1989 or later.
We will have to wait a few months to see who the Australia draw in their pool. They have bounced around historically, competing in the pool of death in 2013 in Taiwan, in Mexico in 2009, and in the United States in 2006.
They are the only team to never be in the same pool as another team twice. The only team they have played twice is Mexico, due to the modified double elimination tournament in 2009.
After a strong showing at home, and the continued growth of the Australian Baseball League, it is even possible that they can host an opening round pool come next March.