2023 World Baseball Classic Round 1 recap: Japan, Venezuela steamroll while Dominican Republic, Korea disappoint


Design by Elisabeth Lee

Only 8 teams remain in the 2023 World Baseball Classic after pool play.

Avery Rosas, Sports Editor

The first games of the 2023 World Baseball Classic began on March 7th and lasted until just last night on March 15th, giving baseball fans a full week of meaningful baseball before the season starts. Round 1 of team pools saw 4 different groups playing to qualify for a spot in the quarterfinals; while some teams performed as expected, others surprised, and not always positively. 

(I asked the entire Bulldog Times staff their predictions on who would win the tournament a few weeks ago, and the resulting data will be mentioned within this recap.)

Pool A

Pool A was unfortunately the most boring pool, not only because of the teams in it, (Cuba, Panama, Netherlands, Chinese Taipei and Italy) but also because every team ended up going 2-2, with tiebreaker rules having to determine the 2 teams that advanced, those 2 being Italy and Cuba. Chinese Taipei finished 5th and was relegated, meaning they will have to requalify in Europe next year. Despite the general lack of talent across the pool, many good games were played within the pool including Yu Chang dominating for Chinese Taipei.

Pool B

Japan, Korea, Australia, China and the Czech Republic faced off in a Pool B matchup where Japan went 4-0 to qualify for the first seed, as expected. Not as expected, however, was Korea failing to qualify and Australia taking the second place spot to qualify for quarterfinals. Impressive offensive displays from Korea were not enough to get them past Australia, who surprised everyone by going 3-1 in pool play. The Czech Republic was better than expected, considering their team is full of guys that have normal day jobs and don’t commonly top 89 miles an hour on fastballs. China’s abysmal 0-4 record granted relegation for 2027.

Pool C

Pool C was among the most surprising and exciting to watch throughout the 5 days that they played. The USA, the team that everyone needed to beat, and the team that everyone at the Bulldog Times had selected, had a very concerning display despite qualifying with a 3-1 record. With pitching concerns overshadowing some concerning offense, they’ll have to show that they mean business in the quarterfinals. Mexico dominated throughout most of the tournament with some of the best pitching in the tournament and some explosive offense, also going 3-1 and getting the top seed since they beat the USA for the head-to-head tiebreaker. Colombia showed promise by beating Mexico in their first game, but went 1-3 overall. Great Britain’s first year in the tournament was promising considering the talent they showed, but the lack of pitching put them in fourth place with a 1-3 record. Canada placed 3rd with a 2-2 record.

Pool D

The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Israel, Venezuela and Nicaragua played each other in Miami for what was likely the most concentrated amount of talent in the tournament. Venezuela, although not an underdog, was not expected to have the firepower to beat both DR and PR, which they did; they ended with a spotless 4-0. Puerto Rico, who had never beaten DR in the WBC before, defeated them in the final game of pool play to advance with a 3-1 record. That same Dominican Republic team, which had been expected to win the entire tournament, was incredibly disappointing as they finished 2-2 despite their exorbitant amount of talent. Nicaragua’s first year in the tournament was underwhelming, finishing 0-4 and showing several defensive concerns throughout the tournament.

At the time of publication, Japan had beaten Italy in the quarterfinals round and Cuba had beaten Australia to also advance to the semifinals. Pool C winner Mexico will face Pool D runner-up Puerto Rico at 3:00 PM on March 17th, while Pool C runner-up USA will face Pool D winner Venezuela at 3:00 PM on March 18th. 

Japan’s win over Italy marked a historic achievement in which WBC recognizes Japan as the only team to ever reach the semifinals in all 5 WBC tournaments. The most recent winner, USA, won in 2017 yet has not shown the same amount of dominance so far in 2023. Their opponent in the final game in 2017, Puerto Rico, will try to advance to the semifinals today.