It would have been the greatest baseball win in Colombia’s history.
But the Dominican Republic crushed that dream only a few feet from home plate.
A short time later the floodgates opened and the Dominicans were advancing to the second round of the World Baseball Classic following a 10-3 victory in 11 innings at Marlins Park that left Colombia little solace.
“It hurts a lot, of course,” Colombia manager Luis Urueta said. “We were 90 feet away from shocking the world and leaving the Dominicans with their mouths open.”
Less than 24 hours after 37,446 watched the Dominican Republic rally to beat the United States, another boisterous sold-out crowd of 36,952 at Marlins Park showed up for Sunday’s game.
Colombia rallied from a two-run deficit, tying the game at 3 in the eighth on Jorge Alfaro’s solo home run off Fernando Rodney.
In the bottom of the ninth, Colombia had runners on first and third with one out, giving it a chance to walk off against the reigning WBC champions a day after securing its first-ever victory in the event.
Pinch runner Oscar Mercado darted for home plate as soon as Jose Bautista caught first baseman Reynaldo Rodriguez’s fly ball to left field.
Bautista’s throw reached catcher Welington Castillo on a hop but with enough time for Castillo to block the plate and tag out Mercado to send the game to extra innings.
Both teams failed to score in the 10th, leading to an 11th inning where by WBC rules each team started the frame with runners on first and second.
The Dominicans used that advantage to blow the game wide open, scoring seven runs and securing a trip to the second round, where they will open against Puerto Rico at 9 p.m. Tuesday at Petco Park in San Diego.
Fittingly for the Dominican Republic, Castillo started the onslaught with a two-run double that scored Bautista and Carlos Santana — the designated runners to start the inning.
“The poise of that young man, when the ball got to home, it went over the runner, and Welington struggled and held onto the ball,” said Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena, a catcher in his playing days. “I think that was the play [of] the game. And after that, of course, the big hits.”
Several Colombia players ran onto the field to argue the call at the plate by umpire Tripp Gibson III, arguing catcher’s interference as Castillo was positioned on the line as the ball arrived.
Gibson ejected Rodriguez and center fielder Tito Polo after the play as they and other players were escorted back to the dugout by bench coach Edgar Renteria and others.
With no replay review available in the first round of the WBC, Colombia didn’t have any way of trying for a reversal.
Urueta didn’t disagree with the call though.
“For me, he was out,” Urueta said. “I don’t see anything controversial. Maybe the emotions got hold of the players. That’s normal. Maybe there were a few inches from — qualifying over the Dominican Republic and the U.S. would have been a feat. So it was normal for these guys. But for me it was an out.”
After Jonathan Villar walked following Castillo’s go-ahead double, shortstop Jean Segura, who went 3 for 6 with three RBI, put away any doubt with a bases-clearing double to give the Dominicans an 8-3 lead.
Colombia was eliminated later Sunday after the United States beat Canada but knew it would return for the 2021 WBC by virtue of its win over Canada on Saturday.
“So many stars, so many championships, so much experience [on the Dominican team], and these young guys that came and tied the game, and being 90 feet away on the field, wow, there are no words to describe it,” Urueta said. “We won a lot of people’s respect and we’ll go on.”