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Italy riding high after climbing 'big mountain'

Team stuns Mexico with 5-run 9th to open WBC '17 play
MLB.com

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Overshadowed in a field that includes Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, Team Italy knows its place in Pool D of the World Baseball Classic. Italia is not the favorite. Just don't call them the underdogs.

On Thursday, Italy scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to edge Mexico, 10-9, and stun the crowd at Estadio de Beisbol Charros de Jalisco in the first game of pool play for both teams. Back in 2013, Italy scored two runs in the top of the ninth against Mexico in a 6-5 come-from-behind win and was the big reason why Mexico did not advance out of the first round in that year's Classic.

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GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Overshadowed in a field that includes Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, Team Italy knows its place in Pool D of the World Baseball Classic. Italia is not the favorite. Just don't call them the underdogs.

On Thursday, Italy scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to edge Mexico, 10-9, and stun the crowd at Estadio de Beisbol Charros de Jalisco in the first game of pool play for both teams. Back in 2013, Italy scored two runs in the top of the ninth against Mexico in a 6-5 come-from-behind win and was the big reason why Mexico did not advance out of the first round in that year's Classic.

View Full Game Coverage

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

"Well, for some reason, any time Italy wins, it's a big surprise," Italy manager Marco Mazzieri said. "It's been like that for eight years now. The only ones that are not surprised, it's these guys, because they're playing to win. They're playing to win every pitch. And sometimes we're able to make it, sometimes we don't make it. But they play to win, and they showed it tonight."

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Video: MEX@ITA: Italy wins on Andreoli's walk-off single

With Mexico ahead, 9-5, Francisco Cervelli hit a double off closer Roberto Osuna. Chris Colabello and Alex Liddi followed with doubles of their own and just like that, Mexico's lead was down to 9-7.

Video: MEX@ITA: Liddi cuts the deficit to two with a double

Then it happened.

Drew Butera reached on a fielding error and the next batter, Drew Maggi, walked after a 10-pitch at-bat. Osuna was immediately replaced by Oliver Perez, but it didn't get any better for Mexico. Brandon Nimmo drove in a run on a single to right field to cut Mexico's lead to one-run, 9-8. Butera and Maggi both scored on a ground ball by John Andreoli to Mexico second baseman Luis Urias to end the game and start Italy's celebration.

"It was a big mountain to climb, but we just took it one pitch at a time, and with the quality of guys that we had, we knew we could grind out a couple at-bats and get something going," Andreoli said. "I think the momentum totally shifted toward us. It was just like I said, pitch by pitch."

Video: MEX@ITA: Andreoli evens the score with a solo shot

It's only one game, but Italy is feeling optimistic. The country enjoyed its best World Baseball Classic finish in '13, advancing to the second round while also defeating Canada along the way. Italy had only one win each in the '06 and '09 tournaments.

"We might not be as talented as other teams, but I think it's really important that we play every pitch, we play every inning, we play every out, and I think no matter what the scoreboard says, it's our responsibility to go out every day and give our best at-bats," Colabello said. "I think to come off the bench and to have a performance like that against one of the best closers in baseball, that's a grind right there. That embodies what we hope to be every day. That's the way we want to play the game."

Video: MEX@ITA: Colabello ties game with solo homer in 4th

As for Mexico, the team has the day off Friday and will resume play Saturday against Puerto Rico in the second game of a doubleheader. Italy will play Venezuela in the matinee.

"I had a 9-5 lead with my closer that's one of the best closers in the Major Leagues," Mexico manager Edgar Gonzalez said. "That's all I can do, and that's what I did. I wouldn't change anything."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

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