Taiwan beat Italy to clinch first Premier12 win

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan's national baseball team easily defeated Team Italy 7-1 at Taichung's Intercontinental Stadium last night to clinch their first victory in the Premier12 tournament.

Right-handed starter Kuo Chun-lin dominated the mound with 10 strikeouts in a seven-inning 95-pitch outing, giving up only one run with two hits and no walk.

"I just followed the instructions of my catcher, and I am glad it turned out well," Kuo said during post-game interview.

Kuo's dominance was supported by an explosive batting display that collected 11 hits, including two homeruns - one by No. 4 slugger Lin Chih-sheng in the third inning and another by Kuo Yen-wen at the ninth.

The win gave Taiwan, competing under the name Chinese Taipei, a 1-1 record in the tournament. The team lost 7-4 to the Netherlands in its opening game Monday.

The home team faces an uphill battle against baseball powerhouse Canada today.

Thanks to the poor command of Italian starter Luca Panerati and a series of errors by the visiting team, Taiwan got out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning.

Lin's solo homerun to right field increased the home team's lead to 3-0 in the third inning.

In the fourth inning, Yang Dai-kang singled to right field and sent back runner Lin Yi-chuan to widen the gap to 4-0, ending Panerati's short-lived start of the day.

Twenty-three-year-old righty starter Kuo, who plays for the Saitama Seibu Lions in Japan, dominated Italy's batters with precision pitches that were a perfect combination of fastballs and breaking balls. The only run he gave up was a solo homer to Alex Sambucci at the bottom of the fifth.

Taiwan added two runs in the seventh with Chen Chun-hsiu's two-RBI single and then notched another with Kuo Yen-wen's solo homerun at the top of the ninth.

Relievers Chen Yu-hsun and Chen Hung-wen finished the work for Kuo without giving another run to close the game.

Taiwan is competing in Group A with Cuba, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Italy and Canada. Group B comprises Japan, the U.S, the Dominican Republic, South Korea, Venezuela and Mexico.

The top four nations from each group at the end of the first round will advance to the quarterfinal knockout stage, after which the tournament will move to Japan's Tokyo Dome for the semifinals and final.