Australia advances to the World Baseball Classic quarter-finals for the first time

Tokyo (AFP) - Australia stormed to the World Baseball Classic quarter-finals on Monday for the first time in the team’s history, bringing the nation’s extraordinary campaign in the sport to a new level.

The team clinched an 8-3 victory against baseball minnows Czech Republic, securing the second place in Pool B, where Japan finished undefeated.

The group also includes South Korea and China.

In four previous WBC appearances, Australia have never gone past the first round, and ahead of the game, infielder Logan Wade said hopes were riding high.

“To us it means everything,” the 31-year-old said.

“We have been working all these years to get to this point, to be in this position.”

Australia opened the game in style with an Alex Hall home run in the top of the first inning, handing them an early upper hand.

But the Czechs equalised in the bottom of the third with an Eric Sogard single to centre field that allowed Petr Zyma to score.

Australia intensified their offensive in the top of the seventh when Wade fired a hit deep into right field, taking the game to 3-1.

In the top of the eighth, Hall tripled to expand Australia’s lead by two more runs. Robbie Glendinning followed with a single, bringing back Hall to make the game 6-1.

A fight-back by the Czech Republic in the bottom of the eight proved too little, too late, with Australia adding two more runs in the top of the ninth to comfortably finish the game.

Baseball has been played in Australia since the 1850s but it enjoys only a fraction of the popularity of cricket, rugby or Australian Rules football in the sport-loving country.

Australia’s World Baseball Classic squad has mostly been picked from the domestic league and also features 10 players based in the United States, although none are on Major League Baseball rosters.