Venezuela improves to 3-0, earns quarterfinals berth

March 15th, 2023

MIAMI -- Despite dropping the first three games of the World Baseball Classic, Nicaragua manager Sandor Guido continued to dream that his squad would get its first win.

Unfortunately for Guido, his club ran into a Venezuela squad that appears poised to make a deep run in this year’s tournament. In the end, Venezuela’s talent overpowered Nicaragua’s impressive will to win in a 4-1 victory on Tuesday at loanDepot park.

With the win, Venezuela improved to 3-0 in Pool D play and later in the night clinched a quarterfinals berth when the Dominican Republic beat Israel, 10-0. If Venezuela defeats Israel on Wednesday (noon ET on FS2), it would secure its first undefeated pool play record in World Baseball Classic history.

"We're all really happy," Venezuela manager Omar López said. "I have confidence in each and every one of them because we keep advancing. Everyone has answered the call, and they've done their best to keep performing at this level in this tournament."

Nicaragua jumped out to an early lead as Venezuelan left-hander  struggled to execute pitches. The Nicaraguan side recorded seven hits in the first two frames but was limited to just one run.

Led by two scoreless innings apiece from José Ruiz and Carlos Hernández, Venezuela’s bullpen kept the deficit at just one run, giving the club’s potent offense a chance to break through against scrappy Nicaragua.

"We all just have to be ready," Hernández said. "You just have to trust the manager, and we just have to be ready in the bullpen for any moment because that phone can ring at any moment. You just have to be mentally prepared at all times."

Andrés Giménez got Venezuela on the board with an RBI single in the fourth inning. The next batter, , delivered the biggest hit of the game, a two-run single to cap a three-run fourth.

In the fifth, continued his impressive start to the tournament with an RBI double of his own. After going 2-for-2 on Tuesday, Santander is 5-for-11 with two homers and five RBIs through three games.

"We're looking for good pitches so we can do some damage," Giménez said in Spanish. "Just try and stay calm regardless of the situation, I think that's key, especially for me. I just tried to stay within my plan, trying to help the team, and just get a good pitch to hit."

Tuesday’s game brought an end to Nicaragua’s tournament run. The Nicaraguans were making their first World Baseball Classic appearance this year and drew plenty of praise from their opponents. Because they will finish in last place in Pool D, they’ll be required to qualify for the ‘26 Classic.

The two sides, however, did share a special moment following the game. Nicaragua asked Venezuela if the clubs could go through a handshake line following the game. Once the players got wind of that request, they immediately agreed. Nicaragua's players were in awe of stars such as Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera, while Venezuela came away very impressed with Nicaragua's showing, even if it didn't have the same level of talent as the other teams in the pool.

"We are brothers, Venezuela and Nicaragua," Guido said. "It was something fantastic from them. We wish them all the success in the rest of the tournament."