Baseball: Diamondblacks set for qualifiers

The New Zealand Diamondblacks baseball team is ready to go for tomorrow's first game of the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament against Chinese Taipei in Taiwan.

There were plenty of positive signs for New Zealand manager Andy Skeels to ponder ahead tomorrow's game that will start at 11.30pm (NZT) after the Diamondblacks' warm-up matches in Sydney and Canberra recently.

Baseball New Zealand chief executive Ryan Flynn, said the coaching staff and management team were pleased to be getting the opportunity to see all of the 28-man squad get plenty of playing time.

"It's important to remember that the coaching staff has never seen a single player from this team play in a true baseball game," Flynn said

"These are the first games at this level we've ever played. Three of the four games the Diamonblacks lost were tight until the late innings when coaches began substituting players, running situations, and taking a look at various combinations on the field and on the mound and of course the two wins were very comprehensive."

Flynn said while the teams' three top starting pitchers were given a steady build up to increase their innings pitched leading to the tournament, they came away from Australia with additional positive news about the rest of Diamondblacks pitching staff.

"The coaching staff saw some great things from Jamie Wilson, Andrew Marck, Christian Wise and John Lee, whilst there were some nerves at work with a few of our more inexperienced ballplayers," Flynn added.

Major League Baseball slugger Johnny Damon, who is a two-time World Series winner, will line up for Thailand when they open their campaign against the Philippines tomorrow.

New Zealand, Chinese Taipei, the Philippines and Thailand are all vying for one spot in next year's World Baseball Classic, which will be played in March.


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