Taiwan secures final Olympic baseball berth
March 14, 2008, 12:00 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The win was ugly but it was enough. Taiwan's national baseball team beat South Africa 4-0 yesterday in the central city of Douliou to clinch a berth in the 2008 Beijing Olympics along with South Korea and Canada.
Canada edged out South Korea 4-3 as Taiwan, Canada and South Korea won the final three places in the eight-team Olympic baseball qualifying event in a three-way 5-1 record tie with one day to go in the 2008 Final Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
The top three finishers in the tournament, which is being held in the central Taiwan cities of Taichung and Douliou March 7-14, earn spots in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Having clinched an Olympic seed after Mexico's 4-0 win over Germany earlier in the day, Taiwanese manager Hung Yi-chung opted to rest his veterans and put seldom-used youngsters on the field.
The inexperienced starting lineup struggled against South African starter Barry Armitage, who limited Taiwanese hitters to three hits in seven innings but had five walks.
However, the host team finally found its rhythm and grabbed opportunities to punish the visitors.
Lin Yi-chuan led off the top of the fifth inning with a deep double that hit the right field fence and put the first run on the scoreboard on consecutive sacrifice flies by Chiang Chih-hsien and Wang Sheng-wei.
Chiang Chih-hsien offset his two defensive errors earlier in the seventh, blasting a solo home run over the center field fence to make the score 2-0.
A pair of walks placed Taiwanese runners on the first and second bases at the top of the eight before Kao Kuo-ching and Peng Cheng-min's consecutive sacrifice flies added two more runs.
Taiwan starter Chiang Chien-ming had six strikeouts and allowed three hits in six innings. Younger teammates Cheng Kai-wen, Lin Ko-chian and Lee Wei-hua closed out the game, pitching one inning apiece.
Facing a game it had little chance of winning, South Africa decided to be aggressive by stealing base every time it had the opportunity. The strategy was negated by Taiwanese catcher Kao Chih-kang, who tagged out three runners — two of them in the bottom of the third.
South Africa, which struck out 10 times against the Taiwanese pitchers, remained winless after six games.
With all Olympic seeds determined, the final day of the tourney will only affect the final placing. Taiwan will enter its final game versus South Korea Friday playing solely for national pride. — Standings: (* - clinched Olympic spots) *South Korea 5-1 *Taiwan 5-1 *Canada 5-1 Australia 3-3 Mexico 3-3 Germany 2-4 Spain 1-5 South Africa 0-6