New Zealand denied the CNMI an outright entry to the playoff round of the 2019 Asia Pacific-Middle East Regional Tournament after pulling off an upset, 8-3, yesterday at the Hwaseong Dream Park in Seoul, South Korea.
A six-run top of the sixth inning gave New Zealand its first win in three games and handed the Commonwealth its first loss after prevailing over Vietnam and Hong Kong over the weekend.
Before making six runs in the pivotal top of the sixth, New Zealand was down by 1 after five complete innings, 2-3. The CNMI scored three runs at the bottom of the second, while New Zealand had one each in the first and third. After losing the shaky lead, the Commonwealth players were shut down at the bottom of the sixth and last inning to drop their third match and put them in a must-win situation against Chinese-Taipei tomorrow.
Chinese-Taipei is unbeaten in two games following an 18-0 demolition of Vietnam (0-2). The CNMI needs to stun Chinese-Taipei to finish in the Top 2 and avoid a tiebreak for the second and last playoff berth in Pool B. Hong Kong, which holds an even 1-1 record, will play Chinese-Taipei first today before battling Vietnam tomorrow and may end up tied with the CNMI (with a defeat to Chinese-Taipei) at 2-2 mark if it splits it last two matches. New Zealand will duel winless Vietnam and a victory would also give the Kiwis a 2-2 record, creating a three-way logjam for the No. 2 spot in the team rankings. CNMI team officials have yet to respond to Saipan Tribune’s inquiries on the tiebreak rules.
Meanwhile, defending champion South Korea secured the No. 1 spot in Pool A after hammering the Philippines 12-1. The host country now has a 3-0 record and will go for a sweep today against Thailand. The Philippines fell to a 2-1 mark, but is still in the race for the remaining semis berth, along with China, which also holds a 2-1 slate. The Philippines and China will collide in an important game tomorrow, while the former will first meet Indonesia (0-3) today, and the latter will take on Guam (1-2).