Sydney sweep! Aussies seal spot in '17 Classic

S. Africa finishes 2-2 after Qualifier final

Sydney sweep! Aussies seal spot in '17 Classic

SYDNEY -- Australia (3-0) is headed back to the World Baseball Classic following a 12-5 win over South Africa (2-2) at the Qualifier final at Blacktown International Sportspark on Sunday.

Australia also beat out the Philippines (0-2) and New Zealand (1-2) to advance to the Classic, slated for March 2017. The Sydney Qualifier was the first of four, with four-team tournaments set in the coming weeks to determine three other teams to round out the field. The others will be held in Mexicali, Mexico, from March 17-20 (with Mexico, Czech Republic, Germany and Nicaragua competing), in Panama City from March 17-20 (Colombia, France, Panama and Spain) and in Brooklyn, N.Y., from Sept. 22-25 (Brazil, Great Britain, Israel and Pakistan).

"I knew from the start that this wasn't going to be an easy competition," said Australian manager Jon Deeble, whose team trailed twice on Sunday. "People said it would be a walk in the park, and I said, 'This is going to be tough.' They proved that. 12-5, they sort of lacked a bit of depth in their bullpen, but a couple more arms in the bullpen and it might be a one-run game."

Every Australian starter had at least one hit, seven had multihit games, and the team finished with 17 in all. Mitch Dening and former D-backs and Dodgers outfielder Trent Oeltjen delivered RBI singles in the seventh to give Australia its final lead of the weekend. Oeltjen, who came out of retirement to play, finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs. Dening had two hits and two steals and Trent D'Antonio added three RBIs.

Dening's RBI single

"It is amazing to be in another World Baseball Classic. We did what we came here to do and we will be in it next year, so it is very exciting," Oeltjen said. "I think I'm back, I think I have to keep on going. I'm having a blast, and this is a great team, and I want to be a part of it."

Added Deeble, "We deserve to be there, and that's significant. ... We deserve to be in the Premier 12 too, so it's great for the sport."

Former Brave Peter Moylan (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the win and Australian Baseball League save leader Ryan Searle picked up his second save of the tournament. 

South Africa scored a run off Searle in the top of the eighth to close to within 6-5, before six unearned runs came home for Australia in the bottom of the frame.

Photo gallery: Australia rallies to rout S. Africa, 12-5

"The pitching started to get tired, and then once we got beyond the guys we were comfortable with, we had to go to some rookies who have not been exposed to this level of baseball," said South Africa manager Alan Phillips."It is difficult to play this level if you are not exposed to this level on a regular basis, and make no bones about it, that is a pretty professional staff over there. They have quality pitchers and their position players are outstanding. Australia has a habit of producing pretty decent sportsmen all around." 

Australia's Brad Harman and Allan de San Miguel, and South Africa's Gift Ngoepe all homered on a warm day in Sydney.

Australia hits back-to-back HRs

South Africa, which was 1-2 in the last Qualifier after two Classic appearances, led twice on Sunday with a team made up of veterans from three Classic and multiple Olympic teams. Former Olympic catcher Kyle Botha hit a three-run homer on Sunday and drove in seven over four games, while fellow veteran Anthony Phillips had two hits in the final and was 6-for-13 with seven runs for the tournament.

Botha's three-run homer

Callan Pearce (0-1) took the loss, giving up those two runs in the seventh after Australia tied the game at 4-4 with an Oeltjen RBI double in the sixth.

"We have been very fortunate [with] guys who have been around a bit," Phillips said. "I hope that the lessons learned here can be taken home and the younger guys can see it is more than making the team, but contributing to the tournament properly."

Former Major Leaguer Travis Blackley was humming along into the sixth by retiring eight in a row until a single, double and three-run Botha homer regained the lead for South Africa at 4-3. He left soon after, giving up four runs on six hits, walking one and striking out four over 5 2/3 innings.

The Aussies, though, had his back, tying it up on a one-out double by D'Antonio to chase reliever Carl Michaels from the game. Michaels, after two scoreless innings of relief, gave up back-to-back homers in the fifth and the tying run in the sixth. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits.

Australia went up 3-1 in the fifth with back-to-back homers from Harman and de San Miguel, the team's No. 8 and No. 9 hitters. Ngoepe's homer to left to lead off the game gave South Africa a 1-0 lead.

Ngoepe's leadoff homer

Niall Adler is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.