Moanaroa goes 4-for-5 with a homer in mercy-rule win over Philippines
By Niall Adler
Special to MLB.com |
SYDNEY -- Former Red Sox prospect Boss Moanaroa went 4-for-5 with a homer, two doubles and seven RBIs to make a winner out of 18-year-old American high schooler Jimmy Boyce (1-0) and give New Zealand (1-1) a 17-7 mercy-rule win in eight innings over the Philippines (0-2) in a World Baseball Classic Qualifier elimination game on Friday at Blacktown International Sportspark.
"This was basically our last chance," said Moanaroa. "We said in the changing room, 'This is our final chance. Let's enjoy it and have fun.' And that's what we did."
The Kiwis will now face South Africa -- which fell to Australia, 4-1 -- on Saturday (2:30 a.m. ET/6:30 p.m. local) in another elimination game. Australia will face the winner between New Zealand and South Africa in Sunday's Qualifier championship game, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. local time (10 p.m. ET Saturday). Fans can watch all Qualifier matchups live on MLB Network, MLB.com and WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Moanaroa's homer, a three-run shot, came in a six-run sixth inning that helped New Zealand pull away in what started out as a back-and-forth contest. Moanaroa had tied the game in the fifth with the first of his two doubles, and the 24-year-old first baseman added a two-run single in the seventh to make it 14-7.
"The presence of him in the lineup is everything for us," said New Zealand manager Chris Woodward. "He's our best hitter. He is our most powerful hitter. Like I said, he just has a presence about him that makes our whole lineup work."
Moanaroa, who led the pregame Māori Haka chant, also was cheered on by a vocal set of Kiwi fans down the right-field line. They regularly chanted the following for many of their players, including Moanaroa:
Aotearoa (New Zealand)
Kia Kaha (Be strong)
Aotearoa (New Zealand)
Kia Mana (Be proud)
Aotearoa Hi Aue Hi (Hello, we are New Zealand)
Boyce, who came on in the sixth after the Philippines took a 7-4 lead, gave up a single to start before retiring the next four batters he faced. Boyce currently attends Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, Wash., but taking the mound for his native country was a decision that will impact his prep career.
According to a story by MLB Network reporter Jon Paul Morosi for FOXSports.com, Washington Interscholastic Activities Association rules indicate that Boyce -- a junior who was born in Tauranga, New Zealand, and lived in that country until moving to the U.S. in 2012 -- is now ineligible to play for Mount Si High School because rules prohibit student-athletes from competing in team sports with or against professional players.
Leadoff hitter Eric Farris, who played for the Twins' Triple-A affiliate the past two seasons, had four hits, including two doubles, for the Philippines and was 5-for-7 during Qualifier play.
"We got into the sixth inning and took the lead, and I said it in the dugout, 'We've got a lot of game left, fellows, a lot of game left,'" said Philippines manager Tim Hulett. "We had a lot of pitching, but we did not have a lot of guys who were in good shape. I think it got us in the end."
A key moment for the Philippines came after a ground-rule double by Farris kept Adriane Ros Bernardo at third in a 3-3 game in the fifth inning. After a strikeout of Matt Vance, Woodward set up a matchup of former Major Leaguers by bringing in Indians pitcher Nick Maronde to face former Mets and Marlins outfielder Chris Aguila.
Aguila won the battle with a medium-depth sacrifice fly to give the Philippines its first lead of the game, 4-3. After Moanaroa's RBI double tied it at 4-4 in the fifth inning, the Philippines retook the lead for good in the sixth.
"I think they have turned the corner," said Hulett of the Philippines' ability to compete against countries with a more established history in the sport. "I think they can say the Philippines can play some baseball. We've got a way to go, don't get me wrong, but I like what I saw today."