It's been a whirlwind for Aussie hurler Wynne at Classic

March 11th, 2023

TOKYO -- The 24-year-old right-hander from New South Wales had wrapped up his first season in the Australia Baseball League with the Sydney Blue Sox. So, with the option between a long offseason or continuing to play ball, Coen Wynne went back to his old club team, the Baulkham Hills Baseball Club.

He was on the mound last Sunday when they lost to end their postseason run. On Saturday, he was pitching for Australia in the World Baseball Classic.

After co-captain Tim Atherton had to leave the team for personal reasons, the Australian team called Wynne and had one very important question for him -- How quickly can you be here?

Wynne jumped at the chance, priding himself on always being ready for an opportunity. He arrived in Japan on Thursday, had a practice with his teammates and soon found himself running in through the bullpen doors. Australia may have beaten China, 12-2, but Wynne was brought in when the game was very much up for grabs.

With Australia holding a 5-2 lead in the top of the fourth inning, Team China brought the tying run to the plate. Manager Dave Nilsson then turned to the newest member of the team.

"Coen has only been in Japan two days," Nilsson said. "It was a great effort. Kudos to him. Without a doubt that was his biggest moment so far and to come through like he did, we really needed him to do it. That's a great building block for him."

"When I landed yesterday and got out to practice, [Nilsson] said, 'Just be ready whenever,'" Wynne said. "Any opportunity I get I'm gonna grab it with two hands and not let it go."

Wynne pitching for Baulkham Hills Baseball Club. Photo courtesy Mick Goddard Photography.

A few days prior, Wynne had been texting with the team trying to find information on how to watch the games in Australia. Now he was wearing their jersey.

He hit the first batter he faced to load the bases -- perhaps the result of some early jitters -- but quickly settled down. Wynne struck out the next two batters and went on to pitch 2 2/3 shutout innings, striking out two.

"Completely different worlds going out there," Wynne said when comparing Tokyo Dome to where he was playing last week with his local ballclub. "The stadium is amazing. This is one of the things that's on a bucket list for guys like me. Getting to play here in this stadium with the atmosphere, the thousands of fans, it's really, really cool. It's pretty nerve wracking to start with, but once you settle in, it goes on pretty good."

While club baseball may not be on the level of the ABL or an international tournament like this one, it still plays an extremely vital role in Australian baseball. Team Australia's stars may play to keep in shape over the winter or to work on a specific part of their game. Others do it simply for a love of the game, a desire to spend every available moment out at the field.

"[Club baseball] is where people fall in love with the game and fall in love with the craft," Wynne said. "You make great mates, great teammates."

Australia’s bats, which helped upset Korea 8-7 two days prior, had little issue with China’s beleaguered bullpen. The Angels’ Aaron Whitefield had two hits and showed off his wheels to score three runs, while Royals Minor Leaguer Robbie Glendinning hit his second home run of the tournament with a massive blast to center field. Rixon Wingrove tied Australia’s single-game WBC record with four RBIs in the Aussies’ mercy rule victory.

When asked how the 12-year-old version of him would react to hearing that news, Wingrove joked, "He would have asked why I didn't have five?"

China (0-3) needs a win against Korea on Monday to avoid clinching last place in Pool B, which would require them to play in a qualifier for the 2026 Classic.

"We are going to have that workout tomorrow, and get ready for Monday," manager Dean Treanor said. "But I just want them to take a little breather and get their minds off yesterday and today and get ready for Monday and enjoy Tokyo. I want to enjoy Tokyo. I haven't enjoyed it very much yet."

Australia now marches closer to qualifying for the quarterfinals. The Aussies will next play Japan on Sunday (6 a.m. ET on FS1) while China faces Korea on Monday (6 a.m. ET on FS2).