Dutch looking to take next Classic step
Netherlands to face Venezuela after a wild first round
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
"After the wars that we've been through, I don't think I'll worry about who we tee it up against," said Netherlands manager Rod Delmonico. (Tony Dejak/AP)
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After setting the baseball world on its ear, where does the Netherlands go from here?
Well, it's not Disney World, but it's close enough: Miami.
As the surprise entrant in the second round of the second edition of the World Baseball Classic, the team with the orange caps and "Nederland" across its chests is headed to South Florida to continue what has been a pretty magical ride already.
For the record, the Netherlands will be meeting Venezuela in Saturday's opener of a second-round Pool 2 that includes the United States and Puerto Rico, the team that took first-round Pool D on its home turf with a 5-0 victory over Team Netherlands on Wednesday night.
But in reality, it really doesn't matter who Netherlands is playing next. It knows who it is, and what it has to do.
"We're still David," Netherlands manager Rod Delmonico said. "We got some
rocks in our pocket, we have been hitting the target pretty regularly here, but I don't think there's a team that we're going to go up against from here on that we're better than on paper.
"So our only chance is to outplay them. To play harder, have more passion, execute, play good defense, don't beat yourself mentally."
They did a lot of those things in their two victories over the Dominican Republic's "Goliath" -- the 3-2 victory that kicked off the tourney with a shock last Saturday, and the amazing 11th-inning flip for a 2-1 victory that eliminated an international power and set the Dutch to dancing all over the field at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.
In two relatively tight losses Puerto Rico in Pool D play, including a 3-1 decision Monday, the qualities Delmonico seeks weren't as prevalent.
So as the team heads to Miami, the underdogs are focused on their own business, getting -- or keeping -- it headed in the right direction and making sure this upset special keeps rolling.
"After the wars that we've been through, I don't think I'll worry about who we tee it up against," Delmonico said. "We need a day to travel and kind of get our legs under us and mentally and physically get healthy.
"We'll have a good practice on Friday, try to work out some things we didn't do very well tonight, and then get ready for Saturday. When we have to play on Saturday, we'll be ready to play."
Game 1 against Venezuela is slated for 1 p.m. ET Saturday, and that's another club that packs a Major League punch.
But, as Major League veteran Randall Simon pointed out, the Dutch are already in the exact same place as Venezuela and the other members of Pool 2: They all advanced in the tournament, and they're all 0-0.
"Fortunately, we are going on to the second round in Miami," Simon said. "And we are going to start again, and everything is going to start again. We're going
forward positive and work on our next goal, which is to reach L.A."
Now that's thinking positive, going from underdog to the top of the world.
To get there, the Netherlands certainly will have to improve on the .151 average it displayed in the first round. Eugene Kingsale led the way with five hits, including one of the only three Netherlands had for extra bases, all doubles.
Although some timely hits definitely came through, the Netherlands advanced largely based on its work on the mound, where Sidney Ponson set the tone Saturday, 19-year-old Juan Carlos Sulbaran made his presence known, and Leon Boyd made quite the debut as a closer.
The Netherlands' pitching coach certainly has enjoyed the ride with this group of players representing the land of his birth.
"I've enjoyed this," said Major League great Bert Blyleven. "It's an honor for me to wear the Dutch uniform. Of course I was born there. And to have the opportunity to work with these young men like Pim Walsma, it has really
been a lot of fun. I will cherish this the rest of my life.
"Yesterday's celebration was just as good as the two World Series that I was part of that we won. These guys deserved it."