Team Australia celebrate after qualifying for the 2023 World Baseball Classic quarterfinals. (Photo: SMP Images)

Team Australia makes history and advances to WBC quarterfinals

Team Australia has qualified for the quarterfinals at the World Baseball Classic for the first time in five attempts, after finishing second in Group B.

Team Australia is moving onto the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic for the first time after finishing second in Pool B at this year's edition of the quadrennial event. The result was confirmed with an 8-3 victory against the Czech Republic on Monday afternoon, with Team Australia set to take on Cuba as its next opponent.

The path to the quarterfinals

Team Australia - ranked 10th in the world - entered the 2023 World Baseball Classic after four previous attendances (2006, 2009, 2013, 2017). The team's best result came in a third-placed Pool B finish (ninth overall) with a 1-2 record in 2017.

Team Australia had, previous to this year's tournament, only won two World Baseball Classic games - a 17-7 win against Mexico in 2009 and a 11-0 win against China in 2017.

In 2023, Team Australia finished the group stage with a 3-1 record, eclipsing the combined win count of each of the four previous tournaments.

Game 1: Australia 8 v Korea 7

Team Australia's first game of the 2023 World Baseball Classic came against Korea, stunning the world number three to win 8-7.

Team Australia opened the scoring in the top of the fourth inning when Logan Wade's sacrifice fly scored Darryl George. The Australians added one more run the next inning when Tim Kennelly homered.

Korea took the lead in the bottom of the fifth with a three-run home run from Euiji Yang and by the end of the sixth inning, South Korea had extended its lead to 4-2 after Jung Hoo Lee scored on a ByungHo Park double.

Robbie Glendinning hit a three-run home run at the top of the seventh that flipped the score again, 5-4 in favour of the Australians.

Robbie Perkins did the same in the eighth inning to extend Team Australia's lead, 8-4.

Korea, however, wouldn't go down without a fight, piling on three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, ending up within one run of tying the game - but Team Australia was able to hold off the threat to record a first-up victory.

Jon Kennedy (0.1 innings pitched, zero hits, zero runs) got the win for Team Australia, while Korea's Won Jung Kim (1.0 innings pitched, one hit, one run, two strikeouts) was recorded with the loss. Josh Guyer (1.0 innings pitched, one hit, zero runs) of Team Australia got the save.

Ulrich Bojarski, Wingrove and Wade had two hits each, while Perkins scored twice for Team Australia. Yang went two for three for Korea, with a run and three RBIs.

Game 2: Team Australia 12 v China 2

Team Australia began the scoring early against China, culminating in a 12-2 victory. It started with a bases-clearing double from Rixon Wingrove in the bottom of the first innings.

The team extended its lead to 5-0 after three innings with Robbie Glendinning scoring on a George single, and George scoring on an Aaron Whitefield single.

China got its two runs of the game at the top of the fourth inning, with Ray Chang scoring on a Luke Wilkins wild pitch, and Jie Cao scoring on a Jinjun Luo single.

A five-run bottom of the fourth inning for Team Australia broke the game open, beginning with a Glendinning two-run home run, and George scoring on a Whitefield double, Whitefield scoring on Wingrove single, and Wingrove scoring on a Logan Wade single.

Team Australia added one more run in the sixth - Whitefield scoring on a Wade RBI - and in the seventh - Tim Kennelly scoring on a George single - which brought upon the WBSC run-ahead rule.

Kyle Glogoski (2.2 innings pitched, one hit, zero runs, five strikeouts) got the win for Team Australia, while Xin Qi (2.1 innings pitched, three hits, five runs, two strikeouts)

For Team Australia with the bats, Whitefield went two for two with two walks, two RBIs, and three runs. George went two for three, while Glendinning went two for four. For China, Cao went two for three with one run scored.

Game 3: Team Australia 1 v Japan 8

Japan superstar Shohei Ohtani hit a three-run home run at the top of the first inning which proved the start of his side's 8-1 result - Team Australia's only loss of the group stage.

A Lars Nootbaar single drove in Takumu Nakano in the second inning, followed by Nootbaar scoring via a Kensuke Kondoh double. Ohtani received a bases-loaded walk in the fourth that scored Yuhei Nakamura, and it was a 7-0 score after five innings when Kazuma Okamoto scored on a Nakamura double.

Team Australia got a consolation run in the bottom of the ninth inning when Alex Hall hit a solo home run to ensure it wasn't a shutout, as the side went down to the world number one.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto (4.0 innings pitched, one hit, zero runs, eight strikeouts) earned the win, while Will Sherriff (0.2 innings pitched, two hits, three runs, one strikeout) got the loss for Team Australia.

For Japan, Nakamura went three for three with a run and an RBI, while Kondoh went two for four with the bat, complete with one run and one RBI. Five players recorded one hit for Team Australia, with Hall's home run the only run for the team.

Game 4: Team Australia 8 v Czech Republic 3

Don't let the scoreline fool you - this game was neck-and-neck for a bulk of it, before Team Australia prevailed 8-3 against the Czech Republic.

Team Australia was the first on the board through an Alex Hall home run over right field, and it wasn't until the bottom of the third inning that the next run would be scored, this time by he Czech Republic.

There would be no additions to the scoreboard for another 3.5 innings in a tight battle between pitchers and batters, plus some incredible fielding efforts from both sides.

But in the top of the seventh, Australia upped the ante and Logan Wade's line drive to right field allowed two teammates to cross home plate.

Czech Republic could not respond and Australia kept coming, as Alex Hall copied Wade's right field line drive plan to bring another two Aussie runners home.

This inning, Czech Republic was able to come back into the game, scoring two runs to bring the score to 6-3 at the top of the ninth.

Australia scored two more runs to none in the last inning, finishing 8-3 up.

The key contributors

Each player on the 30-man roster has an attachment to an Australian Baseball League team, having just come out of the 2022/23 season. However, Team Australia's squad also had two players with Major League Baseball experience, and a further 11 players playing in various tiers of Minor League Baseball last year.

Robbie Glendinning:

The Melbourne Aces midfielder, who is a part of the Kansas City Royals organisation and played much of the 2022 MiLB season with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, has been one of Team Australia's best players during the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

In four pool games, Glendinning had a batting average of .375 with six hits, four runs, and six RBIs, including two home runs and two base on balls.

Alex Hall:

Perth Heat catcher Alex Hall, a Milwaukee Brewers prospect who spent the 2022 MiLB season between Single A and High A - and was called up to the MLB squad for one night - wasn't required to play his natural position on defence, instead being the designated hitter in each of Team Australia's four games of the pool stage.

During his time in the batting lineup, Hall averaged .222 with the bat, coming to life in the latter two games of the pool stage of the tournament. Overall, Hall had four hits - including a double, a triple, and two home runs -, three runs, and five RBIs.

Robbie Perkins:

Team Australia's catcher who played that position in all four pool games, the Perth Heat's Robbie Perkins also had a great impact in the batter's box during this part of the tournament.

Perkins averaged .221, with three hits and three runs - including a home run in Team Australia's opening game against Korea -, along with three RBIs.

Jack O'Loughlin:

The Adelaide Giants have referred to their boy Jack O'Loughlin as the "drought breaker", and it's not hard to see why. Take a look at the stats in this post:

The 23-year-old left-handed pitcher from South Australia, who has plenty of high-level experience within the Detroit Tigers organisation, is one of two pitchers across the whole competition who started more than one game in the first round.

He pitched 4.2 innings across two pool games and earned three strikeouts throughout the tournament. Currently, O'Loughlin has one of the lowest ratios of hits per at bat against him with 0.067 and is in the top three lowest ratios of walks plus hits to innings pitched with .21.

Kyle Glogoski:

Brisbane Bandit right-handed pitcher Kyle Glogoski got the start in Team Australia's opening game of the 2023 World Baseball Classic, and earned the win in his first-ever outing at this tournament.

Against Korea, Glogoski pitched 2.2 innings, giving up one hit for zero runs despite also issuing five walks. During his time on the mound, he struck out five opposition batters.

Tim Kennelly:

Co-captain Tim Kennelly has been an important cog in the Australian machine. Not only does he lead the country's run tally with five, his fielding has been second-to-none, including two impressive catches at right field in the last game against Czech Republic which would be competing against each other for catch of the game.

Captaining the Perth Heat in the ABL, Kennelly can play right field, third base, and catcher, making him a flexible and valuable asset to Team Australia.

The road ahead

Team Australia take on Cuba - who placed first in Pool A after each side finished 2-2 - in the quarterfinal matchup, in the familiar venue, the Tokyo Dome. The last time the two teams played in a World Baseball Classic came in 2017 with a 4-3 win to Cuba following a grand slam that proved decisive.

Steven Kent has been selected as the starting pitcher for Team Australia ahead of the do-or-die contest. Kent has pitched 0.1 innings in one game through the 2023 World Baseball Classic, giving up zero hits, three runs, with three base on balls and one strikeout.

Team Australia take on Cuba at the Tokyo Dome on Wednesday, March 15 from 9pm AEDT. The game will be accessible to watch via ESPN.