Dutch pitcher Rob Cordermans flirted with a no-hitter yesterday in Rotterdam as the Netherlands gained their first victory of the World Port Tournament 2009. They defeated Japan 8-0, keeping alive their hopes of qualifying for the final on Sunday.
The home nation needed to get off to a good start after losing their opening four games of the event. They did just that by scoring two runs in the first inning off Japan’s starter, Gen Horie, and they added a further five runs over the fifth and sixth innings to firmly take the game away from their rivals. Bryan Engelhardt scampered home on a wild pitch in the eighth inning to increase the lead to 8-0, but the Dutch could have relied on those opening two runs, such was Cordemans’ dominance.
The Netherlands’ ace missed the previous game against Cuba with a neck strain, although there were no signs of any problems yesterday. Manager Rod Delmonico was quick to praise his ace after the game. “He was unbelievable. He throws three pitches for strikes, anytime in the count. The one thing you’ll notice with him is that he changes their swings. Not many get a good swing and that’s the mark of a great pitcher”.
Cordemans pitched seven shutout innings and allowed only two base runners, one via a walk and one on a hit-by-pitch, through the first six and a third. Sadly for the fans in the Neptunus Family Stadium, the no-hit bid would be stopped in less than impressive fashion. Japan’s DH Kyohei Kendoh dribbled a ball down the left-field line so slowly that third baseman Vince Rooi had no chance of getting him out once he had reached the ball.
Speaking to Cordemans after the game, he claimed he was “not really” thinking about the no-hitter and that he was not overly disappointed. “I wasn’t happy I gave that hit up, especially a hit like that, but I wasn’t really thinking about it, so it doesn’t bother me”.
Delmonico was understandably relieved that his team had earned their first win and saw it as a continuation of some good form in earlier games that hadn’t quite translated into victories. The manager claimed the win was “a combination of how he [Cordemans] pitched and our defence. [The batters] used the whole field and I think it’s contagious up and down the dugout. We’re starting to click”.
Although they took a loss against Cuba on Sunday, it marked a turning point for the team. “I really thought it started yesterday [Sunday]”, said Delmonico. “Offensively we were aggressive, we got on base, our quality at-bats were much better yesterday than in the previous three games combined and we carried it into today’s game”. He added that the opposing teams should not be underestimated and that Cuba’s pitchers in particular were a step-up in quality to what the Dutch hitters would face on a regular basis. Delmonico believes his batters are learning how to cope, stating “they’re getting used to the pitching and offensively we’re getting a little better. We’re building, we’re getting better each time out”.
That process bodes well for the Netherlands’ World Cup campaign in September, but it also leaves open the possibility that they could stage a dramatic fightback to win the World Port Tournament. Delmonico wasn’t going to commit to those sentiments just yet. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We need to worry about Wednesday. We’ve got tomorrow off, we can rest some of the guys and just focus on the first inning of our game on Wednesday. Get that one out of the way and then worry about the next one. We’ve just got to take it game-by-game”.
However, it’s clear that Delmonico is pleased with how his team is shaping up. “I’m pleased with what I’ve seen so far the last four days offensively. If we can pitch well and continue to play very good defence like we have, I like our chances”.
And with Cordemans being taken out of the game after just seventy-seven pitches so that he could start again later in the week, those chances have increased that little bit more.
There is just one game in the WPT today. Cuba take on Taiwan, with first pitch scheduled for 18.00 BST.