Fort Lauderdale native and Team Italy first baseman Anthony Rizzo secured four tickets to Tuesday's World Baseball Classic game against the Dominican Republic. All other friends and family were on their own.
Italy blitzed the Dominicans for four first-inning runs, but couldn't hold off a stacked lineup in the second round opener at Marlins Park in Miami. The 5-4 loss means Rizzo and Italy will be back on the field Wednesday night in an elimination game against the loser of Tuesday night's Team USA-Puerto Rico meeting.
Rizzo, 23, drew the third of three consecutive first-inning walks off Edinson Volquez and scored on Chris Colabello's three-run homer. That was the first of just four hits for Italy on the afternoon.
With two on and one out in the fifth, the left-handed hitting Rizzo stepped in with a chance to extend Italy's 4-1 lead. Dominican manager Tony Pena summoned left-hander Juan Cedeno, who struck out Rizzo on four sliders.
In the eighth, Rizzo led off representing the tying run. Santiago Casilla jammed him on a 2-1 fastball and induced a soft popup back to the pitcher.
Even if Tuesday's loss is the beginning of the end for Italy and Rizzo, he'll have no regrets about the experience. A Parkland Douglas High School product, Rizzo arguably received better preparation through the WBC for his upcoming season with the Cubs.
"Right off the bat, before I met him I saw a few swings on the Internet and a few of his home runs," Italy hitting coach Mike Piazza said. "I always felt left-handers have prettier swings than right-handers and that classic left-handed swing like Will Clark's is just beautiful.
"I tried to get him [mentally] to relax and believe he's got power to all fields, which he does, and use the whole field to hit…There's a fence [in the opposite field], too. You don't always have to pull the ball to hit a home run or even be productive. You have to open the field up a little bit."
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Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel | Mar 13