Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop had a three-run home run in the sixth and finished a triple away from hitting for the cycle to help bring his nation to the brink of a berth in the semifinals with a 6-2 win over Cuba in the first game of the second round on Friday at Tokyo Dome.
"It's a great moment for our country," Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens said. "We have the momentum on our side right now. The guys are playing great. They're scoring first to keep the pressure off the pitching, they play great defense."
The Netherlands will play the winner of the Chinese Taipei-Japan game scheduled later Friday night, on Sunday, and Meulens wasn't concerned about which of the Asian nations his team would face.
"We have to play the better team anyway," he said. "The best team is going to win this game. We have to play good to beat them."
Cuba was left to rue a multitude of missed opportunities, and manager Victor Mesa was less than pleased after the game.
"I don't think they're a very good team, to be honest," Mesa said through a translator when asked for his impression of the Dutch. "I think we could've scored more. I think we should've scored four or five more runs."
Meulens felt his team, which left 14 runners on base, left a few runs in the field as well.
"We hit good today," Meulens said. "We could've scored a lot more runs. We had the bases loaded with no outs (in the seventh) and we didn't score. Line drive, hard hit, right at the third baseman, then a popup and then a ground ball."
Schoop had a productive night in the field at second base, and was 3-for-6 at the plate, driving in four runs with a three-run homer and an RBI double.
"Maybe I just see the ball well, and try to put the ball in play" Schoop said. "I feel comfortable everyday."
Curt Smith hit a solo home run for the Dutch, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons had an RBI single among his two hits, and former Braves all-Star Andruw Jones was 2-for-4 with a walk.
Starter Diegomar Markwell threw six innings of one-run ball, allowing nine hits and a walk, to earn the win.
He's now helped the Kingdom of the Netherlands dispatch two of the world's premier baseball-playing nations during the Classic. Markwell limited Korea to a pair of hits over four scoreless innings in a 5-0 in his team's opening game.
"I'm very happy," Markwell said. "I started off up in the zone, and the Cuban guys were very aggressive. Then in the third inning, I started to adjust."
Markwell had plenty of help in this one, with his defense converting five double plays behind him, four of which were turned by shortstop Simmons and Schoop. Simmons also caught a popup after center fielder Roger Bernadina lost it and rifled to first for a double play that Meulens called "one of the greatest plays I've ever seen."
Picking up the win in Japan may have been extra sweet for Meulens, who won a Japan Series in 1995 with Nippon Professional baseball's Yakult Swallows, who play at Tokyo's Jingu Stadium.
"For me personally it was good to see my friends here in Tokyo and also reminisce about the good old days from winning a championship in Japan," Meulens said. "Hopefully we'll win one again this time."
The loss sends the Cubans into an elimination game against either Chinese Taipei or Japan.
Cuban starter Ismel Jimenez wasn't able to duplicate his solid outing against Brazil in the first round, walking two batters in the first, and allowing two runs on four hits in the second.
Jimenez lasted 1 2/3 innings and gave up a pair of runs on two hits.
Alfredo Despaigne and Yulieski Gourriel each homered for the Cubans in the loss.
"My batting is good compared to the last couple of days," Gourriel said. "I hope I can contribute more in tomorrow's game.
Smith opened the second with a home run to left-center that put the Dutch ahead, 1-0. Kalian Sams followed with a double and took third on Dashenko Ricardo's sacrifice bunt. Simmons drove the runner in with a single up the middle to make the score 2-0.
Despaigne led off the bottom half of the inning with a solo home run to right.
The Cubans had fallen behind, 5-1, by the time Gourriel took reliever Leon Boyd deep to center in the seventh.
Simmons led off the eighth with a single to left, and Schoop drove him in with a double to make the score 6-2.