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New Zealand bounces Thailand with qualifier upset

XIN View Full Game Coverage ZHUANG, Taiwan -- Underdog New Zealand's continuous scoring in every inning, including a big four-run second, helped the Kiwis upset Thailand, 12-2, in a game shortened to eight innings by the mercy rule in the World Baseball Classic qualifier on Friday at Xinzhuang Stadium.

Previously unranked New Zealand's charge was led by second baseman Alan Schoenberger, who fronted the Kiwi batting order. In four at-bats, he chipped in a double and two singles. He also drove in two runs, scored four runs, and stole four bases.

The 23-year-old Schoenberger has five years of experience with various Minor League teams, including Lakewood BlueClaws, the Class A affiliate of the Phillies.

First baseman Boss Moanaroa helped New Zealand wrap up the game in the eighth inning by hitting a solo homer, increasing the team's lead to 10 runs. Moanaroa's home run was also the first homer from any player in the Xinzhuang qualifier.

Early in the game, New Zealand created a lead in the top of first with one run facilitated by a single and a steal from Schoenberger, who scored on a single from Moanaroa.

The Kiwi batters powered up in the top of the second starting with a single on a line drive to center field by left fielder Moko Moanaroa. Followed by a double from Schoenberger, singles from Daniel Lamb-Hunt and Daniel Devonshire, two hit batters and a walk, New Zealand scored four runs in the inning.

Starter Makauley Fox Rolfe, who turned 17 in October and was described by manager Andy Skeels as a "bright young star," was credited with the win. He pitched five innings, giving up only two hits and one run.

"We are thrilled that we got the win today. It was a historic day for New Zealand baseball -- first win in [the World Baseball Classic]." Skeels said. "We did a lot of things well today. We pitched well, we hit, and we scored in every inning."

Skeels currently manages the Giants' Class A Advanced affiliate in San Jose.

New Zealand's victory ended Thailand's journey in the World Baseball Classic qualifier. Ranked 27th in the world, the Thai team gave in to New Zealand partly on abysmal pitching by starter Nattapong Meeboonrod.

Meeboonrod hit three batters and walked two in the three innings he played, rendering eight hits and four earned runs.

Meeboonrod was replaced by Siraphop Nadee, who also had poor control of the ball. Nadeed hit one batter and walked five, surrendering two hits and three earned runs over three innings.

Johnny Damon scored a run and hit two singles in four at-bats. However, his efforts wouldn't be enough for a Thai squad that struggled on defense. Friday's game yielded two fielding errors by third baseman Nattapong Sampahangsit and a throwing error by his substitute, Narin Turapa. Left fielder Nathan Lorentz also recorded a fielding error.

Damon still struck an upbeat note despite the loss and said he will continue to help improve Thai baseball skills.

"The experience was amazing. I am glad I get to come represent my mother's country," Damon said. "My role for the next four years, hopefully Thailand has a chance to get back [to the World Baseball Classic]. My role is to help out as much as possible."

Thai manager Masao Tokunaga also said he still has big hopes for the future.

"My players have trained and fought very hard," Tokunaga said. "We will keep up the spirit and hopefully soon participate in another major tournament to compete against other baseball powerhouses."

New Zealand will face the loser of the Philippines-Chinese Taipei game at 1 a.m. ET on Saturday. Only one of the three teams left will qualify for the World Baseball Classic held in March.