Megan Baltzell's two-run home run proved to be the difference in Team USA's 2-1 nail-biter victory over Chinese Tapei on Saturday night in round-robin play of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Women's Baseball World Cup in Gijang, South Korea.The seven-inning game -- played on Sunday afternoon in Korea --
Megan Baltzell's two-run home run proved to be the difference in Team USA's 2-1 nail-biter victory over Chinese Tapei on Saturday night in round-robin play of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Women's Baseball World Cup in Gijang, South Korea.
The seven-inning game -- played on Sunday afternoon in Korea -- featured just eight combined hits from the No. 2-ranked U.S. and No. 6-ranked Chinese Taipei squads in a pitcher's duel between Marti Sementelli and Yu Chen Hsu. Sementelli tossed six innings of one-run ball, scattering four hits while striking out two and walking two.
Team USA was looking to build off a 9-1 victory over Hong Kong on Friday in its opening game. The U.S. advanced a runner to third in each of the first two innings against Chinese Taipei but failed to score.
That changed in the bottom of the third inning. After center fielder Brittany Gomez reached base for the second time, Baltzell pulled a 1-0 pitch deep over the right-field fence for a home run, spurring the U.S. to a 2-0 lead.
Chinese Taipei responded in the following inning. Catcher Shih Yun Lee reached first base on a throwing error and Chia Wen Shen walk. After the runners advanced to second and third on a groundout, designated hitter Pin Hsuan Yu came through with a one-out RBI single to put Chinese Taipei on the board. Sementelli avoided further damage, however, by picking off Yu at first base and then inducing a groundout by Chia Hui Yang that stranded Shen -- the tying run -- at third base.
Chinese Taipei starter Yu Chen Hsu, making her second start in as many days, matched Sementelli pitch for pitch -- with her only real mistake of the day coming on the pitch to Balzell. Hsu was aided by left fielder Ya Zhu Wen, who made dazzling defensive plays in both the fourth and fifth innings to keep Chinese Taipei in the game.
In the end, however, Sementelli was able to hold off a couple of game-tying rally attempts. The right-hander from Burbank, Calif., received some help from her defense in the top of the sixth, when a 4-6-3 double play wiped away a one-out single by Shen.
Sementelli handed the ball to Jade Gortarez to close out the seventh. Gortarez, who started the game at shortstop, wasted little time as she retired Chinese Taipei in order to seal Team USA's second victory.
Team USA will look for a perfect 3-0 record in the opening round with a matchup against No. 3 Australia at 11:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. Australia lost its opening game to Chinese Taipei by a score of 12-4.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.