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New Zealand, S. Africa to tangle for spot in finale

Winner will face Australia on Sunday for 2017 World Baseball Classic berth
Special to MLB.com

SYDNEY-- Australia (2-0) is one win away from returning to the main draw of the World Baseball Classic, but they will have to wait to face the winner of South Africa and New Zealand.

New Zealand (1-1), which eliminated the Philippines (0-2) with a 17-7 win, will play South Africa on Saturday in another elimination game at 2:30 a.m. ET/6:30 p.m. local time. The winner will face Australia in Sunday's Qualifier championship game at 2 p.m. local time (10 p.m. ET on Saturday). Fans can watch all games live on MLB Network, MLB.com and WorldBaseballClassic.com.

SYDNEY-- Australia (2-0) is one win away from returning to the main draw of the World Baseball Classic, but they will have to wait to face the winner of South Africa and New Zealand.

New Zealand (1-1), which eliminated the Philippines (0-2) with a 17-7 win, will play South Africa on Saturday in another elimination game at 2:30 a.m. ET/6:30 p.m. local time. The winner will face Australia in Sunday's Qualifier championship game at 2 p.m. local time (10 p.m. ET on Saturday). Fans can watch all games live on MLB Network, MLB.com and WorldBaseballClassic.com.

South Africa beat New Zealand, 7-1, on the first day of the Qualifier behind Mariners prospect Dylan Unsworth's eight shutout innings. The right-hander made 89 pitches that day, and he is unavailable for the remainder of the Qualifier due to pitch-count rules, but it will be all hands on deck for the rest of the squad.

Video: RSA@NZL: Unsworth tosses eight shutout innings

"If everything goes well [Saturday], and we can look forward to a game on Sunday, we might start picking up one or two little headaches with our rotation," said South Africa skipper Alan Phillips. "The guys have shown a lot of character, and they've worked hard, so we'll try and cross one hurdle at a time, and that's [Saturday's game] first."

Complete World Baseball Classic coverage

South Africa struck out 11 times against four Australian arms in a 4-1 loss Friday, but it also came up with three-run and four-run innings against the Kiwis on Wednesday.

"As the tournament progresses, I've got no doubt the hitting will start coming through, the quality at-bats will start appearing more and more, so our guys are into the tournament," said Phillips.

New Zealand, meanwhile, is coming off a rout of the Philippines after former Red Sox farmhand Boss Moanaroa put New Zealand on his back by going 4-for-5 with a homer and two doubles and driving in seven runs.

Video: 2/12/16: New Zealand eliminates Philippines

But the Kiwis, too, will have to juggle a pitching staff that has used 11 hurlers while compiling a 6.06 ERA.

"We've got a lot to look at, and obviously we're playing to win every inning, so it doesn't matter who we're playing -- we're not setting up for the next game," said New Zealand manager Chris Woodward.

The Kiwis have smacked eight doubles in two games, and their balanced offense has seen six players drive in runs and eight score at least one run.

"It is a quality we all have -- we all hit from [Nos.] 1-9 [in the batting order]," said Moanaroa.

Saturday's winner has Australia's top arm -- former Major Leaguer Travis Blackley -- waiting for them in Sunday's finale.

SYDNEY QUALIFIER SCHEDULE/RESULTS

Thursday

South Africa 7, New Zealand 1
Australia 11, Philippines 1

Friday

New Zealand 17, Philippines 7
Australia 4, South Africa 1

Saturday

New Zealand (1-1) vs. South Africa (1-1)
6:30 p.m. local, 2:30 a.m. ET
Watch: Live on MLB Network, MLB.com and WorldBaseballClassic.com
ESPN Pac-Rim delayed to 12:30 p.m. local

Sunday

Australia vs. Winner NZL-RSA
2 p.m. local, 10 p.m. ET on Saturday
Watch: Live on MLB Network, MLB.com and WorldBaseballClassic.com
ESPN Pac-Rim delayed to 11 p.m. local

Niall Adler is a contributor to MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

South Africa, Seattle Mariners, New Zealand