Ticket punched: Team Mexico advances to quarterfinals of World Baseball Classic with win over Team Canada

Alexis Wilson, a catcher for the Mexican League’s Tigres de Quintana Roo, has been an offensive powerhouse for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena recorded five RBI against Team Canada to help secure Mexico’s spot in the World Baseball Classic quarterfinal. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Stellar offensive outings, successful pitching and team chemistry have been the drivers for Team Mexico in group play at the World Baseball Classic. And with Wednesday’s 10-3 victory over Team Canada, manager Benji Gil’s squad bid farewell to Arizona and caught a charter flight to Miami for the WBC quarterfinals..

Team Mexico, a fan favorite throughout Pool C play at Chase Field, was fueled by the loud roars of their fans in the stands at almost every game. That theme didn’t change for Wednesday’s matchup with Team Canada, as the heavily pro-Mexico crowd filled the stands.

“It’s a fiesta every time,” Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Rowdy Tellez said. “They’re a very proud culture. And we love to just be around each other. We’re one giant family. I think anytime we can get around to represent our country, our fans are really going to back us.”

However, it was Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena’s RBI double in the sixth inning Wednesday that sent the fans into a frenzy.

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“I feel very happy,” Arozarena said postgame via an interpreter. “The fans make me happy every time they clap for me, every time they chant my name and everything I do. I try to do it at 100% in the field and that they feel represented by me. It makes me play 100% of my capacity.”

Arozarena went on to have five RBI in the victory, and the outfielder, who was clutch when Tampa Bay made a playoff run in 2020, will need to remain one of the key offensive parts if Mexico wants to continue its run in the tournament. In the knockout quarterfinals, Mexico takes on Puerto Rico Friday night at loanDepot Park in Miami.

“I’m very grateful because they gave me the opportunity and they trusted me to help them. And thank God with the work that I’ve been doing today I’ve been able to help them and help them win games,” Arozarena said. “And I’m very happy with the job that I’m doing and the jobs of all my teammates – we are in an excellent physical state, mentally we’re good. We won today. And we were able to advance to the next round.”

Houston Astros pitcher Jose Urquidy went four innings for Mexico, allowing two earned runs and striking out five. He said that pitching in three World Series (2019, 2021, 2022) with the Astros helped him mentally prepare for playing on the international stage.

“It helped me a lot. These types of scenarios that I had today, it’s the same. There’s a lot of tension. There’s a lot of adrenaline,” Urquidy said after beating Canada. “So that World Series that I had, that I played, it’s very similar to what we had today. So, yes, they have helped me 100% to be in this situation.”

Gil attributed his team’s success throughout the tournament so far to everyone being on the same page, but surprise outstanding performances by Washington Nationals first baseman Joey Meneses and Tigres de Quintana Roo catcher Alexis Wilson propelled Mexico’s offense above all else.

Wilson was slated to be bullpen catcher for Team Mexico at the start of the WBC before starting in place of Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes when Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Taijuan Walker made his start against Great Britain.

The catcher came up clutch against the Brits, driving in both runs in the nine slot of the lineup. The 26-year-old possesses the highest batting average on the team (.667) and highest on-base percentage (.667).

“We’ve been working hard for this moment for this opportunity that I’ve been given,” Wilson said through an interpreter after the matchup against Great Britain. “Also the trust from Benji (Gil), and I’ve always had it since I had it in winter. It was very important for me since I’m playing with that trust. It has a lot of benefits for us. And just work today and try to fit in with the other boys.”

Jose Urquidy, who has appeared in three World Series games for the Houston Astros, brings his experience of pitching on the big stage to the World Baseball Classic. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Jose Urquidy, who has appeared in three World Series games for the Houston Astros, brings his experience of pitching on the big stage to the World Baseball Classic. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

For Meneses, it was a long road to the major leagues, but when the outfielder had the “bat flip heard around the world,” it was clear he meant business for Team Mexico. That mentality won’t stop at group play.

Meneses’ leads the squad in hits and home runs heading into the first quarterfinals in 14 years for Team Mexico.

Next stop for Gil’s squad is a date with Team Puerto Rico, which has been dominant throughout Pool D play in Miami. However, with a knee injury sidelining New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz after celebrating Wednesday’s win against Team Dominican Republic, time will only tell how the team will fare without him.

Gil says for now, Team Mexico is taking it “day by day” and is focused on Puerto Rico before they can begin to focus on their potential semi final opponent in Team Japan.

“We’ll begin to dig in a little bit of information into the Japanese team who might be our rival in the semifinals, just because we’ll begin to dig in without looking past whoever we’re playing just because there’s a little bit less information on them,” Gil said. “So it won’t be because we’re looking past anybody. We’re taking it step by step, day by day, opponent by opponent.”

Lauren Hertz LOHR-in hertz (she/her)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Lauren Hertz expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in film and media production. Hertz has interned with PBS NewsHour West, AZCentral Sports and CBS New York.