Italy all but had the game wrapped up. They were cruising. They looked solid and poised for victory. Then it fell apart. Such is the case with baseball. A game isn't over until that final out is recorded. No lead is safe, and Puerto Rico proved that tonight.
Despite trailing for the entire game, Puerto Rico mounted a furious comeback in the bottom of the eighth inning. They held on in the ninth and will advance to play the loser of the United States/Dominican Republic game. For Italy, their impressive and surprising run through the WBC comes to a close. It was a come-from-behind victory by the Dominican team that sunk the Italians in the second round opener as well.
Italy took a 3-0 lead in the top of the fifth. All three runs came at once when Anthony Rizzo doubled with the bases loaded. The Italians wouldn't score again, though. And that would ultimately prove to be their downfall.
Puerto Rico pushed their first run across in the bottom of the sixth. Yadier Molina scored on a fielding error in the inning. It wasn't a great sign of a potential comeback, but the Puerto Rican team was suddenly within just two runs. They would get that and more in the bottom of the eighth.
After a Carlos Beltran walk and a Yadier Molina single started the inning, the Italian team couldn't turn a double play, so they were faced with a runner at second and one run already home. Mike Aviles, who had reached on the fielder's choice when Italy failed to turn the double play, scored on a sacrifice fly to tie the game. A single eventually scored Alex Rios for the go-ahead and winning run in the game.
Italy was not expected to make it as far as they did in the tournament, so they can go home with their heads high. But the truth is, had they been able to hold leads, the Italians could still be playing.
All World Baseball Classic Scores:
Italy 3, Puerto Rico 4