New Zealand's historic debut at a World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament ended in predictable defeat overnight as a lack of pitching depth and inability to capitalise once they got runners on base condemned them to a 10-0 loss to their hosts in Chinese-Taipei.
Although an early termination was enforced at the top of the seventh inning at Xinzhuang Stadium in New Taipei City, the contest was evenly poised until the world's No 8-ranked nation indulged in a scoring spree at the bottom of the fifth.
Chinese-Taipei piled on eight runs as a succession of Diamondblacks' pitchers were unable to hem in a hitting line-up that took longer than anticipated to pile on the pressure.
New Zealand had actually out hit the tournament favourites 6-3 until Chinese-Taipei's game changing visit to the plate - an excursion that highlighted the gulf between a baseball powerhouse and a developing nation.
Te Wera Bishop started the top of the fifth with a single - the fourth time a Kiwi lead-off batter made it to first base - and then Moko Moanaroa followed suit with a drive to centre field.
With two on and no outs New Zealand were in prime position to score or possibly tie the ball game, especially after Max Brown's sacrifice bunt advanced Bishop to third but a canny pitching change saw Alan Schoenberger and Daniel Lamb-Hunt strike out.
New Zealand were then forced to sit back and witness how base hits can translate into runs as Chinese-Taipei's sluggers tormented Landon Adelman, Joe Boyce and Wayde Bremner.
The trio followed Lincoln Holdzkom to the mound after the Californian was spelled in the fourth inning before his pitch count reached 50, a tally that means the player must take a compulsory rest.
Had Holdzkom, who was on the verge of retirement before agreeing to join his younger brother John on the roster, continued he would have been unable to pitch against Thailand later today - a game New Zealand must win to have a chance of making the final of the four-nation qualifier.
The elder statesman of the Diamondblacks' 13-strong pitching rotation, 30-year-old Holdzkom gave up three hits, two runs and recorded a solitary strike out but should find the going easier against Thailand who lost 8-2 to the Philippines in the opening day's other fixture.
Chinese-Taipei and the Philippines also play today to determine who progresses directly to the final, where the winner advances to the next phase of qualification for the San Francisco-hosted WBC in March.
- © Fairfax NZ News