With two outs at the bottom of the seventh and down 0-3, Team U.S.A clawed itself back into the game.
Kevin Castillo hit a solo home run and Matt Ratliff hit a three-run homer to tie up the game and force an eighth inning against South Africa.
In a game delayed twice by rain, Tyler Dudley hit a single down the third-base line as Erick Ochoa ran to home to give the U.S.A. a 4-3 victory and secure the nation the final pool A spot in the championship round.
“When we got the second out, it felt like the game (was) ours,” said South Africa coach Forthius Dau. “Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way. It was a disappointment for the guys. We’ll have a chat. We’ll bring them back into the game. They must not despair because that’s what we call sports.”
South African pitcher Tidima Kekana was praised by both Dau and the American coach, Denny Bruckert.
“That guy pitched a good ball game,” said Bruckert. “He spotted the ball real well. He made some of our very, very good hitters not look so good.”
The South Africans got on the scoresheet in the second inning when Lindsay Kerchoff reached base on an error by the second baseman. William Thomason singled to get on base as well.
With two outs, Javier Frost hit a three-run homer to give South Africa a 3-0 lead.
The Americans remained persistent.
“The mood was we never felt we wasn’t going to win. That’s why we wanted to stay out there and play,” said Bruckert. “We wanted to play it. Win. lose or draw.”
With the win, the United States finished fourth in pool A, while South Africa was sixth.
The Americans (5-2) face Venezuela (6-1) at 2 p.m. today for their first championship round game. The loser is eliminated from medal contention.
South Africa will refocus as they fight to improve their standing in the placement round.
They face the Czech Republic at 3 p.m. today.
With 12 of his 16-player roster competing as rookies, coach Dau said that this tournament was a learning experience for his team.
“They boys were eager,” said Dau. “You could see they were singing from start to finish. Even during the rain delays, they were busy singing, motivating each other, so everybody was there for that game, was ready for that game.
“They played their hearts out and I applaud them for that. They were confident from the start to the finish.”
Argentina eliminates Dominican Republic from medal contention
With a spot in the championship round on the table, Argentina pulled ahead of the Dominican Republic 11-6 to advance to the next round.
The Dominican Republic jumped to an early two-run lead off a Sergio La Hoz homer. But Argentina tied things up at the bottom of the first.
The third inning was big for Argentina, scoring nine runs to take the lead 11-3.
The Dominican Republic came within five in the fifth inning, 11-6, hanging on to play the sixth and seventh innings.
In the end, they were unable to stage a comeback and Argentina finished third in pool A, while the Dominican Republic finished fifth.
Argentinian catcher Leonardo Latasa, who hit his first home run of the tournament – a grand slam in the third inning, said the win meant a lot to the team in helping them achieve their goal of making it to the championship round.
“It’s pretty important for us,” he said after the game. He went on to describe his big hit.
“One of my partners, Mariano Montero, called me the pitch because he saw something, so I went for that pitch and I hit it. I’m very happy because of that.”
Pitching continued to plague the Dominican Republic, which used four of its five pitchers in the game.
“You gotta keep your head up. The pitching let us down again,” said team manager Frank Perez. “The hitting was there today, but the pitching still let us down.”
Argentina (5-2) now faces Botswana in the championship round, while the Dominican Republic takes on Denmark in the placement pool at 5:30 p.m.
Men’s World Softball Championship standings after pool play
1 Canada * 7 - 0
2 Australia* 5 - 2
2 Argentina* 5 - 2
2 United States* 5 - 2
5 Dominican Republic 3 - 4
6 South Africa 2 - 4
7 Hong Kong 1 - 6
8 India 0 - 7
1 New Zealand* 6 - 1
1 Japan * 6 - 1
1 Venezuela* 6 - 1
4 Botswana* 3 - 4
4 Czech Republic 3 - 4
4 Denmark 3 - 4
7 Great Britain 1 - 6
8 Turkey 0 - 7